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Phil-osophically Speaking

Minimum Wage = Minimum Opportunity

In President Obama’s “State of the Union Address” he mentioned jobs 47 times. Recently, we’ve heard Governor Cuomo harping about jobs for the Empire State. But if it’s all about jobs, why endorse the raising of the minimum wage, which has resulted in more than a half century of ignominious discreditation. This measure is often greeted with the sound of trumpets; I would much prefer to write a dirge, for the minimum wage is a job destroyer not a job creator.

The minimum wage is a classic example of the indissoluble bond between pet prejudices and public policy; a bias that has become intolerably wearisome. Mandarins duped by the sophistry that because a rose smells better than a cabbage it would also make a better soup. Such moral asseverations are the sanctum sanctorum of the political and cultural dilettantti; a creedal hosanna to give obeisance to that which they know next to nothing about. The minimum wage law is one of those secular, holy doctrines where emotions overrule facts and sound bites supplant understanding.

I am, among others, a discoverer of the most depressing irony of the age: the predilection of the poor and jobless to unquestioningly support elected officials advocating policies that diminish their chances for success and economic independence. It has a rather cruel Rousseauean slant: “Even the poor may be born free but are in chains everywhere.” After WWII, black teenage unemployment was 9 percent. When the Federal Government, in 1961, began propping that wage ever upward, the unemployment rate for black teenagers soon began to hover, and has mostly remained, at or near 40 percent. 

It’s pitiful. The government first fails to provide adequate public education for minorities, the very vehicle of upward mobility, then by derailing education vouchers the Washington bureaucracy denies that community from sending their children to attend parochial and private schools that their own children are attending. Finally, these do-gooders administer the coup de grace by making it prohibitive for many businesses to hire low-skilled workers. One is reminded of Henry Ford who once quipped, “Any man who thinks he can be happy and prosperous by letting the government take care of him, better take a closer look at the American Indian.”  

A simple and direct question: Who has been the most reliable proponent for the minimum wage, who has testified in favor of it more frequently than any other group? It is certainly not the poor and the jobless. It’s the Federation of American Labor, the AFL-CIO, whose members’ wages far exceed the minimum wage but are nonetheless covetous of this legislation. Their reason is not born out of compassion, or a sense of justice. They realize that a higher minimum wage eliminates competition and inflates their own compensation.

No doubt workers who are employed will also benefit from the proposed raising of the minimum wage from $7.25 -$9, providing they remain employed at the new rate. But the nearly 40 percent of black teenagers and others looking for work will suffer; their pay will add up to one big, fat zero.  The president could say what he wants, and he usually does, but the overwhelming number of academic studies show that setting an artificial floor (meaning not dictated by the market) will have a negative impact on the employment of low skilled workers, depriving them not only of a job but the discipline and experience that comes from the habit of working. If raising the minimum wage is so beneficial why stop at $9 —- why not $10 or $15. The logic, once put in practice, ultimately undermines itself. 

The truth is that most families in poverty don’t have anyone working and most minimum wage workers are not the primary earners. Nearly 40 percent live with their families or with one of their relatives. In fact, the average family income of a household with a minimum wage earner is $47,023, about twice the defined income of what constitutes poverty. Moreover, when jobless rates are high the minimum wage is naturally lower; a simple function of supply and demand. So we have high minimum wages causing unemployment among low skilled workers, which in turn suppresses the minimum wage. A vicious csycle indeed.

History is the most prescient of seers. Look what happened in July, 2007, when the minimum wage was incrementally hiked to $7.25 from $5.15, the last increase coming two and a half years ago. Not surprisingly, the jobless rate spiked, especially for black teenagers who are most in need of these jobs. The chief economist of the National Federation of Independent Business Owners concluded that after the last increase in July of 2009, 600,000 jobs vanished over the next six months. None of the newly unemployed were from the AFL-CIO. Even if they subtly rationalize it as helping the working poor, you can’t tell me that the Administration’s economists are ignorant about the data and you can’t tell me it’s not political.

Raising the minimum wage is a way of rewarding the unions who pay back their benefactors very profitably each election day. Like rent control apartments (the kind the late Ed Koch lived in when he was N.Y.C. mayor) the minimum wage also curries favor with the poor on the false pretense that the law is helping them make ends meet. The subtleties of rent control, as well as the minimum wage, are obscure and unobvious to the masses, which is why Republicans will almost certainly feel compelled, as they have in the past, to march in step to avoid being labeled as out of touch, heartless and even racist. 

A small employer takes a risk when he hires a low-skilled worker; we should be making it easier, not harder, for them to hire more of these workers and get them in the habit of working rather than leaving them on the mean streets of our inner cities. As the old adage says, the best social program is a job. The minimum wage winks and flirts with its suitors; but like most coquettes, its charms are always a tease, never a commitment. As things presently are, the promise of jobs for low-skilled works has just become that much harder.  


News

The summer wind—a constant and welcome companion for the members of the Herricks Leisure Club as they cope with the soaring temps and heightened humidity, will gave way to fall in the coming weeks.

 

As the sultry days waft into cooling eves, members reminisce about the waning weeks of the club’s spring experience.

 

The May 22 meeting boasted a patriotic flair in anticipation of Memorial Day.  Stars and stripes decorated the dais as the board congratulated Director Frances Kivatisky on being honored as a Senior Citizen of the Year the previous day. Roses and accolades were presented by Vice President Jo Jozef who chaired this extraordinary Harbor Links event.

The tax levy for the 2014-15 school year was set at the Aug. 14 meeting of the Herricks Board of Education, and district residents may be surprised that it’s coming in a bit lower than the amount voters had previously approved.

 

Assistant Superintendent for Business Helen Costigan initially revealed the Herricks’ tax levy for the coming school year was a 1.73 percent increase. However, she noted that a surplus in the budget could allow the district to establish a lower levy than previously anticipated. The board adopted the new levy, 1.3 percent or $93,325,352.


Sports

Students at Charles Water Karate & Fitness, located at 122 Hillside Ave. in Williston Park, recently participated in a talent show at the school. This was a great way to not only show their talent but to go out of their every day comfort zone and perform in front of an audience. 

 

Charles Water’s Karate & Fitness is a full-time, professional martial arts school, with classes for children, adults and teenagers. 

The New Hyde Park Firecats defeated Huntington’s HBC Sudden Impact in a shootout in the Girls-Under-13 State Open Cup final recently. After tying 1-1 in regulation, New Hyde Park advanced from the shootout, 3-1. 

 

New Hyde Park’s Izzy Glennon beat three defenders and chipped the HBC keeper to equalize after HBC’s Ryan Conway scored in the first half. 


Calendar

Age In Place - August 20

Sweetwater Concert - August 21

Check Your Medications - August 22


Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
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Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com