Kerry’s call Friday for increasing the federal minimum wage to $7 brought to mind last week’s Pew Hispanic Center’s report, which found that nearly three in 10 new jobs have gone to non-citizens. Conservatives have always objected to minimum wage hikes, raising the specter of widespread unemployment of low-skill workers who aren’t productive enough to make it worth paying them the higher wage. But many of the same opponents of the minimum wage also tell us that we need to have immigrants because the economy is creating low-wage jobs that Americans don’t want. The logic is circular — we mustn’t eliminate low-skill jobs by raising the minimum wage, but we have to import foreign labor to fill the low-wage jobs that the economy is creating.
How about this instead: A tight immigration system, with muscular enforcement and low levels of legal admissions, that would allow the market to raise the de facto minimum wage. This is something Democrats and Republicans should both be able to embrace — but won’t.