Thursday, April 05, 2007

Living Wage Follies

Buncombe could benefit from living wage policies

By Isaac Coleman and Mark Siler
April 5, 2007

[...] At $6.15, North Carolina’s minimum wage is $3.21 less than it was in 1968 when the value of the minimum wage, adjusted for inflation, was $9.36. We increasingly live in a country where having a job does not mean basic needs are met. According to the 2005 Hunger and Homelessness Survey carried out by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, 40 percent of adults requesting emergency food assistance and 15 percent of the homeless were employed. In response to these trends, The Asheville Buncombe Living Wage Campaign has been working for more than a year to find creative responses to our growing problem of wage disparity.[more...]

Of 80 randomly selected individuals who benefited from their ordinance, 58 percent reported an improvement in their housing, 37 percent used the extra income to improve their education, 87.5 percent were better able to reduce their debt and pay their bills, 55 percent were better able to save money.
So the proponents polled the direct beneficiaries and discover that they benefited. Brilliant.
We believe that there is a large pool of consumers, both residents and tourists, who would chose to support living wage businesses if they were identified. This, in turn, would help cover this increased cost to employers.
That would be called the free market, my comrades. If the market sees a value, it will respond by supporting that value. The result is profit. Profit is what makes a business enterprise worthwhile.

The smokescreen of limiting the program to government employees and government contractors is transparent incrementalism.

What the impotent writers are ultimately proposing is using government coercion to interfere in the marketplace and force business-owners and entrepreneurs to directly benefit a limited and diminishing target population of the undeserving at the expense of producers who are providing actual value to society; that is, at their own expense, at the expense of customers who bear the burden of cost-shifting, and at the expense of unskilled workers who will be squeezed out by the artificially-rising cost of doing business.

These writers want the government to do what they are unwilling to do and indeed cannot do themselves: Surmount burdensome, over-regulatory government and prosper in ways that raise wages. They propose a government solution to a government-created problem. Pure genius.

Their goal is really self-serving. It is to pat themselves and their elitist political buddies on the back -- negative consequences to the poor and unskilled common folks be dammed.