The New York Times editorial page, known for its heavy liberal slant, once pushed a traditionally conservative proposal: Eliminate the minimum wage.
In a 1987 editorial unearthed by Mark Perry, an economics professor at the University of Michigan-Flint and circulated by the conservative American Enterprise Institute, the Grey Lady argued that the “minimum wage is an idea whose time has passed.”
“Raising the minimum wage by a substantial amount would price working poor people out of the job market,” the editorial reads. “A far better way to help them would be to subsidize their wages or - better yet - help them acquire the skills needed to earn more on their own.”
That position, more often heard these days from the likes of Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul, is a far cry from the NYT’s 2013 take on the minimum wage. In an editorial earlier this week, the paper praised President Barack Obama’s proposal in his State of the Union address to raise the minimum wage to $9.
Of the speech, the NYT wrote: “Mr. Obama called for a series of steps that would provide enormous benefit for the middle class and for those hoping to enter it: universal public preschool in every state, a tax code that encourages manufacturing, a higher minimum wage and vital repairs to infrastructure.”
Adding later that raising the minimum wage “would lift many families out of poverty.”
The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 an hour. In addition to raising it, Obama’s proposal would index it to inflation so it would rise with the cost of living. Obama and advocates of low-wage workers argue that the move would make the minimum wage closer to a living wage. But Obama’s plan will likely face opposition from business groups, who have argued in the past that minimum wage increases force small businesses to make cuts -- including in hiring.
In 1987, when the NYT urged policy makers to "put this hoary debate behind us," the minimum wage was $3.35 an hour.