It is not always easy to obtain objective information when it comes to a politically charged issue such as raising the federal minimum wage. Proponents and critics alike tend to bolster their positions by publishing the opinions of economists who share their political bent. Does raising it have a measurable effect on the rest of the economy, including the issue of inflation? Yes. Can a rise in the inflation rate be attributed directly to a rise in the minimum wage? Not necessarily. Both sides of the debate do present persuasive arguments, but these arguments may be based on skewed or purely theoretical assumptions.
There is a relationship between setting the new minimum wage and inflation, but it's more of a cart before the horse situation. Many proponents of a raised federal minimum wage support the idea of matching the new base wage to the current rate of inflation, a process known as indexing. By doing this, proponents believe the wage-earner's real spending power will also be increased. When a wage hike does not keep up with inflation, which has been the case in recent years, the workers' paychecks may get a little larger but inflated prices of goods and services actually reduce the spending power of that raise.
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So we know that inflation can have a detrimental effect on the real spending power, but does a raised minimum wage cause inflation? Yes and no. From an economic standpoint, inflation can be caused by any number of new or increased costs of production, including an increase in workers' wages. If a company must increase the amount it pays its workers by several dollars, there is obviously a new expense that must either be absorbed by the company as the cost of using human labor or passed on to customers in the form of higher prices.
Economists call this phenomenon cost-push inflation. An increase in the federal minimum wage did create an increase in production costs, which subsequently resulted in an inflated price for consumers. But critics of the cost-push inflation argument suggest that companies can always adjust their workforce to compensate for a mandated increase. It isn't always necessary for companies to push the expenses of a higher-paid workforce onto consumers. Raising the minimum wage can create a temporary or artificial bump in the inflation rate, but so can increases in corporate taxes or a shortage of raw materials.
In short, many proponents of a raise ascribe to the philosophy that a rising tide lifts all boats. Whenever minimum wage workers receive a boost in their take-home pay, higher-paid workers also tend to receive similar pay hikes. The rate of inflation is influenced by so many economic factors that blaming one element appears to be very short-sighted.