Monday, December 11, 2006

Monday Rant: Minimum Wage

It has been a very interesting blogging day today. I have not really gotten into a debate at my old haunt for a very long time, but today was a tad slow in the office and I had some time. The other blog I post to was under a lockdown (damn trolls) so I was at the older place for most of the day. I know blogging at work is bad, but I got everything done that I had to get done today plus some bonus work I did to help the office staff out so it is not that bad really.

The main debate of the day was over minimum wage increases and whether the Federal government really can/should pass laws in regards to this. It was sparked by an article about the 6.5 million people earning minimum wage in America today. That is quite sad and it is impossible to live off $5.15 an hour, but is this really something we want the government involved in? Is this something the government really has the right to have a say in?

It is impossible to say that I oppose a national minimum wage without sounding like some cold hearted Neocon prick, but you must take my word I am not any of those things. My problem is that I am trapped in a literal reading of the constitution combined with a black and white view of the meaning of words. By that I mean the Constitution says what it says and the words used mean what they mean. There is no subjective interpretation to it.

“Congress shall pass no law” for example means just that: that no law shall be passed by Congress in regards to that subject. It means a law supporting it cannot be passed nor can a law suppressing it; it is a Congress free zone. There is noting grey about that nor is there anything grey about the Tenth Amendment when it says “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved for the States respectively, or to the people.”

Nowhere does the Constitution give Congress the power to enact a national minimum wage that I can see. It does give Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce in Article One, Section Eight, but does that really apply here? Are wages paid in Georgia traveling to those in Alabama?

Those at my old haunt have argued that it does and that it is the responsibility of the Federal government to ensure a minimum standard of living for all citizens. This is a very valid argument and they are correct in theory, but the Constitution has yet to give the Congress this power. I would support an amendment to give them this power, but I would still oppose a national minimum wage. The government already assumes too much power over personal matters for me to turn my head because they accidentally over-reach and try to do some good.

There is also the case that I am a “Free Market” kind of guy. I assume the business owners know what they can best afford to pay their employees and stay in business. They realize they must pay their people a decent wage or else risk losing their staff to a competitor. Forcing an employer to pay more than they can afford to pay will only serve to put the employer out of business. Before people start saying that has never happened, I can tell you it has because it did to me when the minimum was raised to $5.15.

I was working in a pizza delivery place when the hike was passed. I worked day shift as a cook with one driver and we worked from 9-6. Business was slow, but lunch was viewed more as a service for the loyal customers we had. It did not generate enough business to pay for itself, but dinner and late night brought in enough to justify the expense of opening for the day, until we became more of an expense. Having to pay us more on top of paying the electric, gas, insurance for us, social security, and the myriad of other hidden expenses became more than diner could support. Yes, that tiny little bump made a huge difference to me. He closed down for lunch and did not need me any longer. Yay for the raise, huh?

This could very well be the one in a million case, but since it is a personal experience it colors my view on the subject. I could be so wrong on this that even Bush knows I am wrong, but I cannot help it. I cannot support a minimum wage increase because I have been the victim of it and I fear such a large increase will only multiply the chances of similar stories happening.

I babbled longer on this then I intended so I must end the rant here and let the other subject take up its own thread. I am curious about what you think about this though because I want to know if I am off base on this. I can only learn from other’s personal experiences so please tell.


Serena Joy said...

I've never sat down and looked at the Constitution to see what it says in that particular regard. Thus, I wasn't aware of the restrictions 'til I read your post on it.

So ... perhaps the government shouldn't be involved in employer/employee relations and pay rates. BUT ... there are a lot of employers that would never pay more than minimum unless forced to by law. Their thinking might well be, "If John Doe doesn't want this job at this pay rate, there are a dozen other Joe Blows who'll take it."

I don't know what the answer is. People can't maintain a decent standard of living on minimum wage, I know that.

Kanrei said...

Everyone should read it at least once. It is the instruction manual for this nation. Any time you wonder if "they" can do something, the answer is right there. Best document ever written IMHO.

RexZeitgiest said...

I think the marketplace sets the 'value' on an hour of labor. If that labor is worth $25 to the company, you get paid $25, if that labor is worth $7.20, thats what you get.

This is not a socialist country where free enterpirse is stifled and wage limits are set on employees, if an employeer is forced to pay more for that hour of labor then the 'value' of that hour is leesened and less jobs can be created.

And lets face it, an adult working for minimum wage in America is doing so of their own free will, anyone can try and improve their jobs skills and improve their hourly wage by increasing their value to a given company.

P.S. Thats what you get for hanging out at your 'old haunt', (just kidding) and I will not lockdown the PWZ again. I did so, because R8 has lost all right to post there again. But after tonight, it doesn't matter.