Saturday, October 25, 2014

What Chris Christie Doesn't Get About the Minimum Wage

So, Chris Christie is "tired" of hearing about the minimum wage. Well, let me tell you, Governor, what I'm tired of hearing about. I'm tired of hearing about the sorry, old, ridiculous argument, one that you and your party still cling to, that somehow minimum wage jobs are just for entry-level workers like students or retirees looking to supplement their social security or pensions. The Governor of New Jersey explained his thoughts on the topic:

"I don't think there's a mother or father sitting around a kitchen table tonight in America who are saying, 'You know honey, if my son or daughter could just make a higher minimum wage, my God, all our dreams would be realized.  Is that what parents aspire to for their children?"

Here's what Christie and Republicans still don't get. The minimum wage used to be for entry-level workers back when people like Christie and me were, well, entry-level workers. The sad truth is that nowadays, for many workers, minimum wage isn't just a starting point, it has become the final destination; one that many of them can't escape from.

Go into any Walmart or McDonald's and while you may see a number of young people, you will also see quite a few older people, many of them in their 30s, 40s and even some in their 50s. In fact, some of those parents that Christie referenced who "aspire" better things for their children are working at those places making minimum wage or perhaps a tad bit more. For them, the elevator has gone as far as it is going to go. Sadly, they've reached the glass ceiling. Those "dreams" Christie alluded to have turned into nightmares.

Depressed wages have been a drag on the U.S. economy for years. But the news isn't all glum. Almost without exception studies show that states with higher minimum wages have healthier economies. Far from hurting businesses, these higher wages have had the impact of helping them. Why? Because people who have more money in their pockets tend to spend more of it. And conversely, when they don't have enough, they stop spending altogether. California is an excellent example of a state that raised its minimum wage and saw almost immediate dividends. If you want to see the opposite end of the spectrum, take a trip to Kansas or Wisconsin where wages have been below the national average for quite some time.

It's all fine and dandy to talk about wanting higher-paying jobs for people, but as any first-year economics student will tell you, there are only so many higher-paying jobs available. The market place just doesn't magically create them, no matter how much you slash taxes, something Sam Brownback is discovering the hard way. Like it or not, someone has to work in a department store or fast-food restaurant. Are these people simply supposed to suck it up and live in a constant state of squalor just because people like Chris Christie are tired of hearing about them? Or worse, face the prospect that the minimum wage might be eliminated altogether, as many Republicans support doing, so that the few crumbs these people manage to gather will be entirely stripped from them?

How wonderful, isn't it, that people like Chris Christie can express how tired they are of hearing about the minimum wage. They have that luxury. But to those who struggle along working two or three jobs just to put enough food on the table, they don't have the luxury of merely talking about the minimum wage like it's some abstract statistic.  They live each and every day on the edge.  Success for them is measured in how many pennies, nickles and dimes they can save to make ends meet. In many ways these people are far more responsible than most of the people we know or are likely to run into. They have to be; they have zero margin for error.

So the next time some idiot pontificates on the minimum wage and how exhausting it is to keep hearing about it, ask them this simple question: Would you trade places with someone making minimum wage? If the answer isn't an immediate "yes," tell him or her to shut their pie hole. Which, now that I think about it, reminds me, people on minimum wage can't even afford pie.

1 comment:

Prof. Walter Jameson said...


Sir:

The strongest arguments a Progressive can make are those in the area of economics. Hands down, they win every time. The conservative-Republican argument on this particular issue has been discredited so many times, it's a wonder they continue to make it. It's especially surprising that one from the Northeast would make it. And, on top of that, the quoted segment from Mr. Christie shows just how clueless he is on the issue. It's embarrassing, really; I've come to expect much better from him.

I have a feeling, though, that if Mr. Christie decides to run for the presidency in 2016, and is fortunate enough to obtain his party's nomination (not likely), he will have a rather different perspective on this issue. He is not an ideologue; he knows facts from theory. All that the conservative-Republicans have on this is a discredited theory and some sparse anecdotal "evidence". Progressives and progressive-Democrats have voluminous data and FACTS. It's not even close.

Thank you for the opportunity to respond.