We’ll be hearing about VP Cheney’s hunting accident for the next week, so go ahead and knock yourselves out finding it. Every late-night talk show and Comedy Channel program will squeeze the story dry, too.
Major social issues swing in popularity, not like Satchmo but like a pendulum. Right now, “poverty” appears to be “in.” Studies of living wages and attempts to raise the federal minimum wage are increasing. Voters in Arizona, Michigan, Montana, Nevada and Ohio may find ballot measures this November that would raise their state’s minimum wage.
One would guess that those not earning a living wage would be easy to spot — they’re the dead people. But the living wage is not about living, but about living in comfort. The TV sets and DVD players and cell phones are a given in modern life, and for many below this new poverty line, so is a car and its insurance. And a four buck latte at Starbucks. These are the luxuries we expect and demand — and somehow usually get. And then there are those troublesome “necessities,” like health insurance. You know: the “things we can’t afford.”
The living wage is the new-and-improved “poverty line,” the theoretical wage that would allow a worker to live in middle-class comfort, paying the bills and accepting no special subsidies.
The minimum wage, on the other hand, is a legal barrier to trade in labor. It’s not theoretical at all. It’s the law. It prevents employers from hiring at wage rates below the minimum set. Though we like to think of it as “raising wages,” it is, in point of actual fact, a prohibition to hire at some rates. As such it decreases employment.
And in long-term effects, higher minimum wage laws do indeed lead to less employment. Even many living-wage advocates have been forced to admit this uncomfortable fact. As a study for the Public Policy Institute of California recently concluded, “[T]he beneficial distributional effects of living wage laws most likely do not arise from gains for the lowest-wage workers and least-skilled individuals, because they bear the brunt of the employment losses.”
The best that can be said for the minimum wage is that, for a few people “on the margin” (ie., actually earning only a minimum wage) and who retain their jobs after a minimum wage hike, they benefit. At whose expense? Those who lose their jobs.
Burt Prelustsky explains his Long night’s journey into day and how he became a Republican.
Meanwhile, Gore Decries Treatment of Arabs Post 9-11, telling his friends the Saudis that the U.S. government committed “terrible abuses” against Arabs.
I wish Al would move to Saudi Arabia to study global warming.