NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 28, 2004

The New York Times used to be unambiguous in its condemnation of the minimum wage as misdirected, inefficient and harmful to most of those it was supposed to help, says Bruce Bartlett.


  • An August 17, 1977, editorial stated, "The basic effect of an increase in the minimum wage would be to intensify the cruel competition among the poor for scarce jobs." For this reason, it said, "Minimum wage legislation has no place in a strategy to eliminate poverty."
  • A January 14, 1987, editorial entitled, "The Right Minimum Wage: $0.00" stated: "The idea of using a minimum wage to overcome poverty is old, honorable and fundamentally flawed. It's time to put this hoary debate behind us, and find a better way to improve the lives of people who work very hard for very little."
  • An April 5, 1996, editorial conceded that a proposed 90-cent increase in the minimum wage would wipe out 100,000 jobs. It said that Republican critics of the minimum wage as a "crude" antipoverty tool were right.

By 1999, however, the nation's newspaper of record had completely reversed itself, says Bartlett. In a September 14 editorial, it endorsed a sharp increase in the minimum wage, arguing that it would have no impact whatsoever on unemployment. "For millions of workers, a higher minimum wage means a better shot at self-sufficiency," it stated.

So what gives with the minimum wage? Why was it bad for 60 years and now has suddenly become good? Inquiring minds want to know, says Bartlett.

Source: Bruce Bartlett, "The New York Times and the Minimum Wage," July 28, 2004, National Center for Policy Analysis.


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