Representative Michele Bachmann has been blasted and mocked for being gaffe-prone.
A little search on Google reveals dozens of 'top 10 Michele Bachmann crazy quotes' type of webpages. One of the most popular items on these lists is the following quote she made in 2005:
Literally, if we took away the minimum wage-if conceivably it was gone-we could potentially virtually wipe out unemployment completely because we would be able to offer jobs at whatever level.
This, however, is not a gaffe at all.
Theoretically, Bachman is 100 percent right because full employment is just a matter of the labor supply and demand curve meeting at the equilibrium price.
For example, if the economy is suffering, a company might not be able to afford its workers at $25 per hour. But how about $20? Or $15? Or $10? How about just $1?
At some point, it'll make sense for the company to employ people. As for the laborers, $1 is better than the $0 offered by unemployment, so they'll take $1 job.
Of course, the real world is different from the theoretical world. Not many people would take the $1 per hour job and not many companies would offer it because of factors like pride, the availability of welfare programs, and the hassles of paperwork associated with employment.
However, there is little question that lowering the minimum wage low will lead to more jobs*; the only question is how many and the only concern is how much they pay (i.e. if it's enough to feed a family).
But if the raw number of jobs is the issue, as the context of Bachmann's quote suggests, she is largely correct.
Below are what several economists had to say about the minimum wage law.
Matthew B. Kibbe, FreedomWorks:
If the government coercively raises the price of some good (such as labor) above its market value, the demand for that good will fall, and some of the supply will become disemployed. Unfortunately, in the case of minimum wages, the disemployed goods are human beings.
Paul Samuelson, Father of Modern Economics:
What good does it do a [person] to know that an employer must pay him $2 an hour if the fact that he must be paid that amount is what keeps him from getting a job?
Benjamin Powell, the Independent Institute:
We all know that if the government raised the minimum wage by $20 an hour, many employees would be laid off... Yet people kid themselves when they believe smaller increases won't harm employment.
David R. Henderson, Hoover Institution:
The focused support for the minimum wage comes mainly from labor unions, all of whose members earn more than the minimum. This isn't benevolence at work but greed. Union leaders understand that the minimum wage prices out their low-wage competition: It acts like an internal tariff.
*Proponents of the minimum wage law do cite a much-disputed study by David Card and Alan Krueger, which claims that an increase of minimum wage in New Jersey actually increased employment in the New Jersey fast food restaurants compared to the neighboring state of Pennsylvania.