In this week's print edition of The Stranger we break the news about a new poll that finds 68 percent support for raising Seattle's minimum wage to $15 an hour. It's kinda stunning. But of course there is more to the poll than I had room to cover in print, so if you want additional details, I have uploaded a PDF of the EMC Research polling memo.
There is a lot to unpack in this poll, but apart from the surprising strength of support for a $15 minimum wage in Seattle, I think one of the more fascinating aspects is the way that a majority of voters agree that such a measure would both hurt and help local businesses. Fifty-one percent of respondents agree that "increasing the minimum wage will hurt local small, minority owned, and family owned businesses," yet an astounding 71 percent also agree that "a higher minimum wage helps local businesses because more workers making more means they will have money to spend." That overlap represents a pretty nuanced take on the issue. But it also represents an embrace of the demand-side economic arguments that Kshama Sawant, Working Washington, and others have been relentlessly pushing over the past year or so.
It's been the supply-siders who have dominated the economic debate since the Reagan years—the key to priming the economy and creating more jobs, we've been told, is to cut taxes and costly regulations on businesses. It is this trickle-down dogma that opponents fall back on when they warn that a higher minimum wage would inevitably cost jobs, thus hurting exactly the people it is intended to help. But Seattle voters clearly aren't buying it.
Could it be that in the minimum wage debate we have finally found a wedge issue that effectively undermines the conservative economic doctrine that has dominated policy debates for the past thirty-some years? If so, then the corporatists might be better served by quickly conceding on the minimum wage, than by prolonging a debate that sparks an economic reawakening that could threaten their entire economic agenda.