4/9/13 Minimum Wage, Part Four
Some years ago, I read an article where an individual said that Republicans lacked the “moral courage” to raise the minimum wage. Partisanship aside, when has it ever taken “moral courage” to pander to the economic ignorance of the electorate?
Where is the “moral courage” in passing laws that require others, in this case employers, but not you, to make sacrifices? It’s so easy to be morally superior with someone else’s payroll.
Economic fundamentals aside, where is the morality in blaming poverty on employers, which is an implicit, if unrecognized, assumption of minimum wage laws?
Where is the morality in a law that takes away the freedom of individuals to sell their labor for less than what is considered “minimum” by moral busybodies? Who are you to tell me I can’t take a job as a night watchman, or any other job, for $5.00 an hour?
Where is the morality in a law that has unquestionably proven to cause higher unemployment for unskilled and inexperienced workers, especially black teenagers? Is this any way to treat the poorest among us, to deny them opportunity for the sake of a “moral courage” that is really just pretense and ignorance?
At what point does a wage rate become “moral?” Is $20 an hour more “moral” than $10 an hour? If a $20 per hour minimum wage were adopted tomorrow, it would quickly become apparent that it isn’t the employer who really pays wages. Also, those who advocated $20 per hour would quickly get to discuss, face to face, the extent of their moral superiority with unemployed people whose old jobs paid less than $20 per hour.
Real moral courage, in the context of minimum wage laws, would be to abolish them, something we’ll never see. Politicians are too afraid of the “moral outrage” they would face from their economically unenlightened constituents.
Perhaps “unenlightened” is the wrong description. A better one comes from the economist Walter Williams, who had this to say in his May 26, 2010 column, “Minimum Wage Cruelty: Update.”
“Poor people are not poor because of low wages. For the most part, they’re poor because of low productivity, and wages are connected to productivity. Congress can easily mandate higher wages, but they cannot mandate higher worker productivity or that employers hire a particular worker in the first place. The late Sen. Ted Kennedy, echoing the vision of many, said in his support of higher minimum wages, ‘I believe that anyone who works 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, should not live in poverty in the richest country in the world.’ It’s breathtakingly stupid to think of minimum wages as an anti-poverty tool. If it were, poverty in such places as Haiti, Ethiopia and Bangladesh could be instantly eliminated simply by proposing that these country’s legislators mandate a higher minimum wage.”
Let me rephrase that: People, and their elected representatives, who think that minimum wage laws are a way to fight poverty are BREATHTAKINGLY STUPID.
Personally, I’d give the man in the street the benefit of the doubt, because most of us don’t spend a lot of time thinking about economics, let alone minimum wage laws. The same doesn’t apply to most of our elected representatives, who, on the subject of minimum wages, can best be described as breathtakingly stupid moral cowards.
Other than that, I have no opinion on the topic. (;~ )