Ideology Over Evidence in the “Fight for $15”

Democratic Socialist candidate for Congress Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a rising star on the left, supports nearly doubling the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. In a visit to her previous employer, she demonstrated why this policy is such a bad idea.

The Coffee Shop has been a cornerstone of NYC pop culture for almost 30 years, but recently announced that rising costs and minimum wage mandates were too burdensome to stay in business. This week, Ocasio-Cortez stopped by The Coffee Shop to reflect on her experiences there, and remind her Twitter followers that she is “a normal, working person who chose to run for office, because I believe we can have a better future.”

The Coffee Shop’s 150 employees are now facing an uncertain future, not a better one. As the owner explained, he was forced to close: “The times have changed in our industry … The rents are very high, and now the minimum wage is going up, and we have a huge number of employees.”

This experience isn’t rare to New York, and neither is Ocasio-Cortez’s ignorance on the topic. Appearing on the Daily Show, Ocasio-Cortez cited a study by economists at Berkeley while attempting to frame Seattle’s $15 minimum wage experience as a success story. In reality, the Berkeley study was a political stunt. After a city-commissioned independent study from the University of Washington found that Seattle’s minimum wage hikes led to decreases in hours and employment for low-wage workers, Seattle’s Mayor (an ardent supporter of minimum wage hikes) worked with the Berkeley professors to produce “results” that would better support his political goals.  

Pursuing public office to advance an agenda is not new. Unfortunately, politicians pushing ideology without evidence isn’t either. As the Employment Policies Institute’s Michael Saltsman told the Free Beacon, “It’s fine to mourn the impending closure of your former employer—it’s better to understand the misguided minimum-wage mandates that contributed to that closure.”