About Those Economists Who Support Cuomo’s $15 Wage Proposal

Governor Cuomo’s $15 minimum wage proposal has been criticized by a diverse group of legislators, small businesses, nonprofits, and newspaper editorial pages, all of whom have pointed out the obvious: A $15 wage mandate will have serious consequences.

But recently, a group of 79 economists came to Cuomo’s defense, declaring their support for a $15 minimum wage and claiming that it will be “good for the health and sustainability of the overall state economy.”

The list of signers – organized by the labor union-backed Fiscal Policy Institute – aims to provide some much-needed credibility to an argument backed by rhetoric rather than economic reality. But this begs the question, how credible is the list itself?

Upon closer inspection, its flaws bear a striking resemblance to the list of 600 “experts” the White House paraded in support of their $10.10 proposal in 2014. Many of the signers have affiliations, research interests and political views that fall considerably outside of the mainstream.

For instance, almost a third of the signers are affiliated with labor unions and union-supported organizations. Among the names on the list are also several members of the Union for Radical Political Economics – an organization promoting schools of economic thought (e.g. neo-Marxism) that are far outside the mainstream. One of the signers – Paul Zarembka of SUNY Bufflo – is even a well-known advocate for “9-11 truth.”

The moral of the story is this: You can cherry-pick “experts” who will sign on in support of any number of policies, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. In this case, these 79 economists’ opinions are at odds with the consensus of 72 percent of U.S. based labor economists and the majority of empirical research on a higher wage.