Friday, December 15, 2006

Walz co-sponsors minimum wage bill -- Who'd a thunk it?

Posted by Craig Westover | 9:45 AM |  

Okay, the guy’s a rookie, so I’ll cut him some slack for drinking the kool-aid and trying to sound like a congressman, but not for foolishness he espouses. From a press release –
Congressman-elect Tim Walz announced today that legislation to raise the federal minimum wage will be the first bill he co-sponsors as a member of Congress. The minimum wage has remained stagnant at $5.15 per hour since 1997. Walz will co-sponsor legislation that increases the minimum wage to $7.25 over a period of approximately two years.
His first misconception, he's making a difference that matters.
“People who work eight hours a day, 52 weeks a year to make less than $11,000 have been ignored for nearly a decade,” Walz said. “These Americans need a raise—and all Americans need to know that new US Representatives they elected don’t just talk about making a difference—we ARE making a difference.”
The same people making minimum wage a decade ago are not making minimum wage today. The bottom quarter of wage earners is a fluid group – people move in an out. Granted, some people don’t, but wouldn’t it be better to identify and target those people are help them rather than some universal program with unintended consequences? Of course, that kind of targeting is better done by civil society and private charity than government, and giving up the vote buying potential of largess is something politicians are not apt to do. Witness:
“I received a great deal of support during my campaign from Minnesota’s working families,” said Walz, whose candidacy was endorsed by nearly twenty unions ranging from the AFL-CIO to the United Transportation Union. “I am proud to co-sponsor this legislation, but I will be even more proud to see it signed into law. America’s working families know this raise is long overdue.”

“Tim Walz stood up for working families throughout his campaign,” said Minnesota AFL-CIO President Ray Waldron. “The people of the First District elected him because he knows what working people need--affordable healthcare, retirement security, freedom to choose a union and most urgently, an increase in the federal minimum wage.”
(Just an additional note – if freedom to choose a union is important, why isn’t freedom to choose not to join a union as a condition of employment in a union shop?)
Raising the federal minimum wage to $7.25 an hour would directly benefit 6.6 million workers nationally, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Since the last time the minimum wage was increased, Congress has raised its own pay by $31,600. During his campaign, Walz vowed not to accept a congressional pay raise until the minimum wage was increased.
Well, I guess that points up the urgency of raising the minimum wage.
Walz, who will take the oath of office January, 4, 2007 said, “I expect to pass this legislation within the first 100 hours of voting in the 110th Congress. I’m humbled by the enormity of the impact this legislation will have on Americans and I’m honored to co-sponsor this legislation on behalf of the people of Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District.
Actually, I kinda like Tim Walz as far as Democrats go. But this is the kind of voting with the party nonsense that Mark Kennedy was accused of. Walz hasn’t proven himself good enough yet to be humble, especially over something with the trivial impact of the minimum wage.

Have we done enough for a family making $11,000 to raise its annual income to around $15,000? Seems like Democrats are declaring, “mission accomplished” a little early. For people that really need a boost in income, the minimum wage does very little. For young people (already with the highest unemployment rate) needing entry-level job opportunities, the minimum wage reduces those opportunities as employers cut back to compensate for higher cost (but not nearly as dramaticly as conservatives worry).

So what should we do? I heard an interesting proposal the other day from a dismal scientist that makes sense. Politically, the minimum wage is a big deal -- one of those arguments that takes on great significance because the consequences are so insignificant. Economically, the minimum wage is much ado about little. It has more negative effects than positive, but in the grand scheme of bureaucratic incompetence, not enough to get worked up about. If $7.25 is the right number today, let’s index it for inflation for the next 10 years and be done with it. My bet – Democrats won’t do that; they won’t be willing to give up the political clout that goes with dispensing government largess.