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National Editorial & Columnists

Who wants poverty? Quinn seeks gain from wage plan

But increased minimum wage has drawbacks

Illinois’ unemployment rate is 8.7 percent, one of the highest in the 50 states. Apparently not happy with that, Gov. Pat Quinn is doing what he can to make employment even harder to obtain for those people at the low end of the economic scale.

Quinn announced last week that he wants to increase the state’s minimum wage from $8.25 to $10 an hour.

Economics aside, it’s the smart move. This is an issue driven not by rational discussion but by emotion.

“No one should work 40 hours a week and live in poverty,” said Quinn.

That’s an argument that packs a punch. Who wants others to live in poverty? Not us, say the people of Illinois.

The counter-arguments are far more technical and do not pull on people’s heartstrings.

But it’s a fact that some employers, staggering under the burden of a sour economy, will have to lay off some employees to pay others more.

It’s a fact that higher payroll costs provide greater incentives for larger employers of lower-wage employees, like fast food chains, to invest in labor-saving devices.

It’s a fact that many minimum-wage workers have few job skills and need the work experience to help them move up the economic ladder.

It’s a fact that many minimum-wage jobs are filled by upper- and middle-class teens who use the cash for spending money.

But it’s also a fact that embracing a higher minimum wage allows Quinn to play Santa Claus – at others’ expense.

It’s no coincidence a gubernatorial election is just around the corner. The governor needs sound bites to demonstrate his compassion. He needs an issue to castigate those who disagree.

He needs the minimum wage issue far more than Illinois needs a hike in the minimum wage.

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