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The Surprising Support of Small Business Owners for Hiking the Minimum Wage

David Callahan

We've heard it again and again for decades: Raising the minimum wage is bad for small businesses, raising their labor costs and lowering the number of people businesses hire overall. These arguments are front and center again now, as Democrats in Washington push to raise the federal minimum wage and similar proposals are advanced in various states.

It turns out, though, that many small business owners themselves don't believe this line. That's the finding of a Gallup poll of such folks released last week. The survey found that 47 percent of small business owners surveyed approved of a proposal to hike the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour. Half of small business owners disapproved of the proposal.
In other words, small business owners are neatly divided on the minimum wage issue.
Digging deeper, the poll asked other questions that reveal a multifaceted view of how raising the minimum wage would actually affect business. Sixty percent of respondents said such a hike would hurt small business owners, but most didn't think it would change their own businesses:
While small-business owners foresee a minimum wage increase harming most small business, when looking at possible ramifications of a higher minimum wage, such as reduced workforces or workers' benefits, majorities of small-business owners do not anticipate making such changes. 
Interestingly, the poll didn't ask small business owners one of the most obvious questions: Namely, whether higher wages for workers would mean lower profits for themselves. That's a central issue here. And it's probably going to be the case that most small business owners don't want to be forced to more generously share the wealth with workers -- and fear of exactly that could be the main reason for opposition to a higher minimum wage. 
But greed is not a strong reason to keep the minimum wage near today's historic low. On the contrary, as we've argued here often, a better sharing of profits with workers -- including by small business owners -- would benefit the economy overall and reduce reliance on public safety net programs.