As of July 1, "Minimum wage workers in Nevada will be getting a raise under new requirements announced by the state labor commissioner," The Associated Press reported this week, repeating a half-truth that's proved as hard to kill over the past 70 years as the mythical Hydra.
Beginning July 1, Nevada Labor Commissioner Michael Tanchek says the minimum wage paid to workers who also receive qualified health benefits from their employer will increase 70 cents an hour to $7.25 per hour; the minimum hourly wage for workers who don't have employer-paid insurance will rise to $8.25.
(Such annual adjustments are required by a constitutional amendment OK'd by Nevada voters in 2006.)
But to be accurate, the report should read: "Effective July 1, those will be the minimum wages which can legally be paid to low-skilled workers whose labor is judged by current or prospective employers to be worth that much. Those whose labor is not worth that much will have their wages reduced to zero."
Economist Thomas Sowell has long been at pains to point out that regardless of law, the real minimum wage is always zero, and zero is what some people will receive if they fail to find jobs when they try to enter the work force, or lose the jobs they already have, because employers simply don't find their unskilled labor to be worth the required "minimum."
Mind you, the minimum wage is no longer the only disincentive to giving aspiring workers their first jobs. These days, employers have to worry about lots of other government mandates, current and looming.
But the minimum wage is the granddaddy. And an increase is just what we don't need as Nevada struggles to recover from this bruising recession. We warned when this issue was before voters that automatic triggers would be economically unwise and destructive -- and they've been precisely that.