Wednesday, June 6, 2012

More dross about the minimum wage

The Rev. Dr. Martin Rafanan wrote in the Post-Dispatch that there is a moral imperative to raise the minimum wage in Missouri from $7.25 to $8.25.  According to him, "Raising the minimum wage is one of the most important actions we can take to improve pay for workers in this state and to ensure that those who hold down a full-time job are not forced to go home to a shelter at the end of the day."  He acknowledges that some people don't think it is such a good idea, but he dismisses these people because as simply trying to find the easy way out.
Still, some people oppose raising the minimum wage. These critics often insist that, because the economy functions according to its own laws and sets prices according to the natural balance of supply and demand, there is little we can do to directly improve the pay of low-wage workers. In fact, they say, policies like the minimum wage will result only in fewer jobs for low-wage workers by requiring employers to pay them more than their labor is worth.
I am not surprised to hear arguments like this. One of the easiest ways to back out of our duties to others is to pretend that there is nothing we can do in the first place. But the truth of the matter is clear: Unless we raise the minimum wage, workers in this state will continue to struggle to make ends meet, and we will continue to share in the responsibility for their hardship.
Really?? Research finding that the minimum wage results in higher unemployment for the poor and minorities does so only because the researchers want to back out of their duties?!

No one who is opposed to the minimum wage pretends that "there is little we can do to directly improve the pay of low-wage workers." How about education? If you want people to make more money, then make them more valuable as workers. What about the support among economist to replace the minimum wage with something like a negative income tax so that people get the income support they need without throwing the poorest out of their jobs?

The truth of the matter is clear, but not to you, Rev. Dr. Rafanan: Too many people have been deluded into thinking that government can wave a magic wand to make the laws of supply and demand go away. It is always the worse off among us who are harmed by this delusion. Public policy in this country would be improved if people did not to let their economic ignorance turn into moral ignorance.