As  James Pethokoukis points out on The American, nobody really seriously thinks that Mitt Romney doesn’t care about the very poor (though that won’t stop the words from coming back to haunt him).

On the other hand, Pethokoukis writes, Romney probably was saying what he thought when he recently stated that he supports automatic increases in the federal minimum wage to keep up with inflation. This is far more distressing than his "very poor" gaffe.

Romney needs to put Walter E. Williams’ Race and Economics on his reading list immediately. I’m not conflating minimum wage jobs and race, but the book has a great deal of useful information on the ill effects of minimum wage laws on jobs.

A high minimum wage, Williams has repeatedly argued, always makes for high unemployment among the less skilled laborers. Williams argues further that it is better to have a job for $7.50 an hour than no job at all. Moreover, Williams notes, people who get a minimum wage job and work hard will eventually get a better job.

It may seem hard-hearted to be against raising the minimum wage, but it seems less so if you think about all the people who won’t have jobs at all because of these raises. Pethokoukis quotes from a 2006 review of the literature on the minimum wage:

 …  the oft-stated assertion that recent research fails to support the traditional view that the minimum wage reduces the employment of low-wage workers is clearly incorrect.

A sizable majority of the studies surveyed in this monograph give a relatively consistent (although not always statistically significant) indication of negative employment effects of minimum wages.

In addition, among the papers we view as providing the most credible evidence, almost all point to negative employment effects, both for the United States as well as for many other countries.

As for the notion that is is somehow fair to increase the minimum wage, Kevin Hassett is quoted:

It is true that those folks who are on the minimum wage and don’t lose their job have higher earnings. But the trade-off is morally ambiguous at best. Should we enact a policy that gives 10 people an extra $40 a week, but whacks the 11th guy? Shouldn’t the terrible disruption to the lives of those who are fired be more of a concern to us than the extra money for those who are not?

The post goes on discuss the value of the earned income tax credit as opposed to the minimum wage. I’m not going there because my understanding of the earned income tax credit is—well—about as informed as Romney appears to be about the effects of the minimum wage.

Romney is more of a technocrat than a politician motivated by ideology. Still, he had better bone up on the minimum wage—statements such as his on that important issue only make the Republican base wonder if he really understands their issues.