Thursday, April 19, 2007

An old lesson still unlearned 

The most depressing thing to me about the minimum wage bill that the Minnesota Senate passed yesterday is that the lessons of their harm are so well known. (Readers of this blog have seen a whole stream of lessons.) Here we are surrounded (except for Wisconsin) by states that have a minimum wage equal to the Federal rate. We are already above that at $6.15, but the Senate believes that fairness requires raising that rate to $7.75. Why? Stay ahead of Iowa?

Here's where state minimum wage laws are
State Wages
MinnesotaDFL $7.75
Connecticut $ 7.65
Washington $ 7.63
Massachusetts $ 7.50
Oregon $ 7.50
RI $ 7.40
Vermont $ 7.26
Hawaii $ 7.25
Iowa 08 $ 7.15
Alaska $ 7.15
NJ $ 7.15
NY $ 7.15
DC $ 7.00
Michigan $ 6.95
Maine $ 6.75
California $ 6.75
Illinois $ 6.50
Florida $ 6.40
Arkansas $ 6.25
Iowa 07 $ 6.20
Delaware $ 6.15
Maryland $ 6.15
Minnesota $ 6.15
WV $ 5.86
Wisconsin $ 5.70

Does this make sense? Should we really put the state's least skilled, least educated, least experienced workers at this disadvantage to our neighbors. Walter Williams observes,
...if higher minimum wages could cure poverty, we could easily end worldwide poverty simply by telling poor nations to legislate higher minimum wages.

...In research for my book "South Africa's War Against Capitalism" (1989), I found that during South Africa's apartheid era, racist unions, who'd never admit blacks, were the major supporters of higher minimum wages for blacks.

Gert Beetge, secretary of South Africa's avowedly racist Building Worker's Union, in response to contractors hiring black workers, said, "There is no job reservation left in the building industry, and in the circumstances I support the rate-for-the-job [minimum wages] as the second best way of protecting our white artisans." Racists recognized the discriminatory effects of mandated minimum wages.

I doubt the MN DFL is racist in its desire to push up the minimum wage, but its effects on teenage blacks will be negative.

Again, if the state wants to help the poor, at least be honest and take it from taxpayers. Maybe you could call them "wealth impact fees." But at least then it'd be a more honest looting.

Footnote: During Senate debate Wednesday, Senator Vandeveer decided to test a theory and offered to raise the minimum wage to $10.75 for this year and $11.75 the next year. This lost on a 10-48 vote. We credit Senators Chaudhary, Higgins, Marty, Moua, Prettner Solon, Torres Ray and Wiger for voting for the higher rate. If they believe raising minimum wages helps reduce poverty, they were right to vote for as high a minimum as possible. What's the matter with the rest of them?

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