Reps. Dusty Johnson, Mark Takano Dispute Who Would Benefit Most From Minimum Wage Spike

Watch the full interview on ASP.

When it comes to who would benefit most from a minimum wage spike, Representatives Dusty Johnson and Mark Takano disagree.

In a discussion led by civic engagement organization A Starting Point, the two lawmakers debated whether it's teenagers across the nation, like Johnson suggested, or low-income older adults, like Takano, a Democrat from California, argued, who would be affected by a hike.

"The reality is this is a lot about young people," Johnson said.

Johnson, a Republican from South Dakota, used his 15-year-old son Max as an example, saying that despite the fact that Max makes a little over $10 an hour as a tour guide, "I don't feel like he's being exploited. We are grateful for that professional opportunity that he's got."

But Takano said the conversation about raising minimum wage "is not about teenagers and teenagers' jobs."

"This is also about low-income South Dakotans being able to get a raise that they need to live on," Takano said.

The California Democrat pointed out that in Johnson's home state, an increase would benefit a quarter of people 55 years of age and older.

"We're talking about real people who are living in poverty," Takano said. "We know that 27 million Americans would get a raise, $333 billion over 10 years would accrue to these Americans, 1 million people would be lifted out of poverty."

"And in Dusty's home state of South Dakota, 30 percent of South Dakotans would get a raise," he added.

$15 Min Wage
An activist wears a "Fight For $15" T-shirt during a news conference prior to a vote on the Raise the Wage Act July 18, 2019 at the U.S. Capitol. Representatives Dusty Johnson and Mark Takano debated over who would benefit most from a minimum wage increase during a discussion led by civic engagement organization A Starting Point. Alex Wong/Getty

Johnson said while he agrees with Takano that minimum wage should be raised, the $15 that most Democrats have pushed for is too high and would hurt Americans economically rather than help them.

"The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says that 1.4 million American jobs would be lost," Johnson said.

"A majority of people making minimum wage are 24 years old or younger—many of them are teenagers and I don't want Max to lose his job, but it's not just about reducing the number of jobs, it's also about reducing wages," he added.

The congressman cited a study commissioned by Seattle when the city was ramping up its minimum wage, which found that the take-home pay for the poorest residents in Seattle decreased.

"I would dispute the whole notion of take-home pay going down," Takano countered. "We certainly know that the Congressional Budget Office analysis showing that there would be job loss is certainly suspect," pointing to a number of reports that indicated otherwise. The Democrat said take-home pay could also have decreased because workers could quit their second jobs now that they made a higher pay with just a single employer.

"In many parts of the country, California included, most recently Florida, in the last election of 2020, raised its own minimum wage to $15 an hour," Takano said. "One fair wage for the entire country—we're talking about what the floor should be, that's what the minimum wage is—it should be that. We haven't addressed the minimum wage in over 10 years and it stayed this ridiculously low at $7.25. Now is the time to raise the wage."

Johnson argued that because not all states have the same cost of living, a "one size fits all approach" of a $15 minimum wage would not be the right solution, but acknowledged that raising the federal minimum wage from its current rate would unify the country.