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Why Justin Bieber Should Want a Higher Minimum Wage

David Callahan

Apparently Justin Bieber has nothing to do with the new Los Angeles billboard that uses his image and name to oppose raising the minimum wage, on the grounds that such a hike would keep the teenage unemployment rate high. 

Rather, Rick Berman -- the Washington lobbyist who works for the restaurant industry -- simply bought rights to a Bieber photo and created a billboard which strongly implies that Bieber thinks raising the minimum wage would hurt teenagers. Or so reports Huffington Post

That makes sense. It's hard to imagine that a pop star who made $55 million last year would come out against a pay hike for workers who make $7.25 an hour -- which comes out to $15,080 for year-round full-time workers who take no vacation days. 

One of those workers would have to work 3,647 years at the minimum wage to make as much money as Bieber made last year. 

What's really offensive about the Bieber ad is that it exploits the high youth unemployment rate to oppose a pay raise that would actually help young people. 

Why? Because low-wage workers would have more money to spend if the minimum wage went up, which would create more consumer demand, more economic activity, and more jobs overall. 

Right now, the big restaurant chains that Rick Berman represents and which employ a good share of America's minimum wage workers, are enjoying near-record high profits. As I wrote here, the CEO of Yum! Brands -- David Novak -- made $55 million last year while presiding over a fast-food empire that includes KFC and Taco Bell, employing over a half million low-wage workers. Yum! Brands' shareholders have also done remarkably well, receiving billions in payouts. 

When a company like Yum! Brands siphons so much profit upward to management and shareholders, as opposed to spreading it around to its workers, that is bad for the economy. Give a worker at Taco Bell a raise and she'll spend it tomorrow, perhaps on a Justin Bieber album. Give David Novak another few million and he'll stick it in his stock portfolio, which does something for the economy, but not much.

Sharing prosperity is just fair to workers, it's good for anyone who owns a business and has spent the past five years praying for stronger consumer demand. 

Tickets for Justin Bieber's summer tour are now on sale, with the priciest ones costing over $800. If Bieber wants teens to have that kind of money, he should be the first person calling for a higher minimum wage.