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Can the minimum wage get me fired up? Yes, yes it can

by Joe Bodell on February 15, 2013 · 3 comments

Doing news segments on campaigns and hot issues always gets me fired up. Although the segment is invariably too short (nudge to producers!), it’s always a fun opportunity to get into it with both the anchors and acquaintances from across the political divide over really important stuff.

Tonight on Fox9 it was the minimum wage increase proposed by President Obama in Tuesday’s State of the Union address (I’ll post a link to the segment video when it’s available). Standard fare, really — put more money in people’s pockets to drive consumer spending, demand, and ultimately job creation vs. the tired old Republican talking points about small businesses not being able to cope with the added expense of wage increases.

And they are tired old talking points. I’m not saying it’s not a prisoner’s dilemma — the selfish solution (keep my business’s costs low so it can survive!) makes for a more stable bottom line in the short term, while the unselfish solution (we all pay our workers a bit more so they can afford to buy our stuff!) requires more faith in other business owners than the average Republican is used to having. But raising the minimum wage to keep up with inflation is still the right moral, economic, and political thing to do.

The unfortunate thing about going on Fox9 isn’t the station — from the anchors to the producers to the front desk staff, they’re a friendly, professional bunch — but the viewers. Like this…gentleman who dinged me on Twitter after the segment:

Inland Printer ‏@inlandprinter
@JoeBodell Minimum wage of $9 per hour? Sir, you have absolutely no idea what is happening in this country, let alone your own state.

@JoeBodell Please call Chuck Dueber in Waconia, MN. This past Monday he closed the last nine Dueber’s stores. Two years ago there were 28.

@JoeBodell Do you have any idea what it costs to pay Workers’ Compensation in order for a worker to run a machine? It’s based on their pay!

@JoeBodell Employers already match the 7.65% FICA taken out of paychecks. You want employers to pay $9 an hour? Do you own a business?

I responded just once to say that I bet Mr. Dueber wishes there were more disposable income in the economy so folks could afford to buy his goods. But the last one really rankled me. Give someone a bullhorn and assurances that they’ll never be held accountable for what they say on the internet, and boy do they turn into a jackass. No idea what is happening in this country? I know the economy is recovering from the worst economic crisis in seventy years without a manpower-driven war to help it along, and we need all hands on deck to support American families first. Let alone my own state? I’m a parent with two and a half kids. I have a mortgage. I get to work on crumbling infrastructure, and it makes me sad when my local school administrators tell parents they just can’t depend on funding from the State of Minnesota anymore.

No idea what’s going on in my state? I have a pretty good idea of what’s going on in my state, thank you very much, and in my country too. The ways I think we can keep things on the right track are simply backed up by evidence instead of bread-and-circuses supply-side pixie dust.

Like I said, even an issue like the minimum wage can get me fired up.

give2attain February 15, 2013 at 10:36 pm

Joe,
Who exactly do you think will pay this higher wage?  Who do you think will be most injured by it?

I agree that Dueber’s had much bigger problems than their employee cost, and I think it is silly to raise that issue.  Since this would go country wide, I am pretty sure that most companies will be able to very quickly raise their prices to cover the additional cost.  Or they will automate more jobs since they can justify the additional capital costs. Or they will send some more work over seas.

So let’s see, by mandating a higher minimum wage than the market justifies, we will increase the expenses that are paid by many of the people you strive to help. And we encourage and cost justify the elimination of many of these very low skill entry jobs.

Be careful what you wish for, you may get it.

decembersue February 16, 2013 at 3:41 am

what I think we’ve discovered, over many years of trial and error, in many states, is that those are not the sort of businesses that keep a community prosperous. It isn’t always that the employer is mean-spirited; often they simply fall into a business model that requires wages at a certain level, and don’t have the imagination or resources to get out of that model.

Regardless, moving to a higher-wage economy, in which everyone has a bit more of the pie, will always involve winners and losers. The GOP trick is to make people focus on the losers as much as possible and ignore the greater good of society.

give2attain February 16, 2013 at 7:04 am

Please elaborate regarding the “greater good”.

We raise wages for the least qualified, thus increasing costs for all.  And since we are doing it at the Federal level, that means this will drive the same wage whether one lives in a high cost city or a low cost rural town.

Also, it will compress the wages at the lower end, unless you believe that it will shift the pay scale up for everyone.  Which I guess it could since the higher costs of goods may drive that reaction.

I am okay either way, yet it seems like a dog chasing it’s tail.

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