The simple fact is this – As soon as a machine is invented that can do the job of a worker, it is just a matter of time before that worker is replaced by that machine. The national minimum wage is now 25% lower than it was when Lyndon Johnson was president, adjusted for inflation, but tens of millions of Americans have lost their jobs since then anyway due to automation. Consider automobile assembly plants. 50 years ago, when Lyndon Johnson was president, the floor of an auto assembly plant needed hundreds of workers in order to function. Today, auto assembly plants have hundreds of robotic arms making cars with just a handful of workers. Was this because of increases in the minimum wage? No. Auto factory workers were never paid minimum wage. They always made more than that. All my life I have heard politicians say that raising the minimum wage would lead to millions of people losing their jobs, but that has never actually happened. However, this time, maybe it will. California is raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, phased in over several years. I am confident that expensive French restaurants in Silicon Valley will be able to absorb this cost, but what about businesses in the Central Valley? Cities in the Central Valley like Stockton and Modesto were poor before the financial meltdown of 2008, and they never recovered from that. Frankly, I am very skeptical that small businesses in the Central Valley will be able to pay $15 an hour and stay in business. We will see.
The bottom line is this – regardless of whether the minimum wage goes up or not, businesses will continue to replace workers with machines as soon as those machines are invented and are practical. This is has been going on continuously ever since James Watt invented the steam engine in 1775, which kicked off the Industrial Revolution, and the Industrial Revolution had nothing to do with minimum wage laws. They didn’t have minimum wage laws in the 18th Century.