14 August 2006

On the minimum wage (4)

A necessary digression

In this post, I am going to take some time to respond to a comment by one “mortalez.”


You concluded your comment with, “Is it any wonder why conservatives are viewed as heartless?” People may very well consider conservatives to be ‘heartless’ but that doesn't make them so. It is very easy for liberals to view conservatives as ‘heartless’: they simply define ‘heartless’ as ‘not agreeing with liberals about what are the solutions to the problems.’ If the argument I make is true, then it is irrlevant that I am ‘heartless.’ Both propositions can be true: (1) that, “Minimum wage legislation is a poor policy for reasons, a, b, c, and d;” and (2) James Frank Solís is ‘heartless.’ My being heartless has absolutely no bearing on any economic problem.

If on the other hand my argument is false, then it is again irrelevant that I am ‘heartless.’ The propositions can both be true: (1) that, “It is false that minimum wage legislation is poor policy for reasons a, b, c, and d”; and (2) James Frank Solís is ‘heartless.’ To respond to an argument by asserting that the arguer is ‘heartless’ is to engage in logically fallacious reasoning. Is it any wonder then that liberals are viewed as irrational and therefore not to be taken seriously? You may very well call conservatives ‘heartless,’ but you do so only by ignoring a distinction between charity and the operation of a labor market. I have written on this elsewhere, and won't recap it here.

But to demonstrate that I can give better than I get, bust da move, homey:

mortalez writes: I find it interesting when most republicans speak against minimum wage they state the obvious, that most americans dont earn minimum wage.

Solís responds: First, what has ‘republican’ to do with anything. For all you know I'm Libertarian. But I digress. That is one--and only one--of the things we state. We don't state the obvious and leave it at that. I am up to three rather lengthy posts on this subject. I have gone way beyond “Most Americans don't earn minimum wage.” I find it interesting that you don't respond to much--if anything--else in my three-part argument. In fact, you don't even get around to scratching the surface of what I've written. It is also interesting that you completely ignore my citation of demographic facts regarding who makes minimum wage, as well as my identification of a certain inconsistency on the part of liberals when it comes to arguments about minimum wage and inheritance tax legislation.

mortalez writes: What you fail to forget is when you raise minimum wage wages across the board go up, it happened last time and it will happen the next time.

Solís responds: I think you meant, “What you forget” (as opposed to “What you fail to forget….”) Not only did I not forget, my friend, I went beyond wages and asserted that over time, in adjusting for the increased labor costs, EVERYTHING goes up, which (in addition to inflation, which I also mentioned) causes a loss in the benefit of that new, increased wage, requiring yet another increase in that wage. In fact, I wrote : “This problem will affect anyone who has minimum wage employees; and as employers increase prices to offset the cost of the hike, the benefit will disappear. And when it does, there will be more demands to increase the minimum wage yet again...and again...and again; and so on. And when the wage is increased yet again employers will be faced with the problem the solution to which "caused" the need for the increase in the first place” (emphases mine). See? I really didn't forget.

mortalez writes: The question I have is what is so wrong with someone who actually works earning enough to live on?

Solís responds: Strawman! Hello? No one is arguing that there is something wrong with people who work making enough to live on. Why don’t you go ahead and try to respond to the arguments I actually made?

For another thing, you don't really want them to earn just “enough to live on.” You want them to earn enought to live well on. People can live on $10,712.00 per year. Of course, they can't get married, have children, two cars, a house, and savings accounts, college education funds for the kids, three TV sets (one of them a wide screen job) and a big fat retirement nest egg. But they can live on $10,712.00. Of course, if they did get married and both worked full time at minimum wage they'd earn $21,424.00. Surely that's enough to live on, right? Oh, but you probably want them to make enough not just to ‘live’ on, but also to make sure that they don't lose a job due to car trouble. You probably also want them to earn enough such that there will be no difficulty involved if there should be a divorce--all at their employer's expense of course. More to the point, however, is exactly one of the things I just wrote, in my third post on this, I believe. (I don't memorize my own stuff.) What I wrote was something like this: The fact that you really, really, really need it, doesn't mean that your employer has it. The vast majority of Americans are not employed by big, fat greedy multi-national corporations; they are employed by small business, another entity hurt by minimum wage legislation. (I suppose you could account for this fact by having a graduated minimum wage: the bigger the company, the higher its minimum wage. But that really won't accomplish your goal of having everyone who actually works earning ‘enough to live on,’ will it?)

mortalez writes: Many conservatives will say that min-wage is just a starting point, that one should use that job to learn skills and move up, but there are 2 flaws to this arguement.

Solís responds: This really isn't an argument that we make; it's a single proposition. And we assert this about the minimum wage because that is what the minimum is supposed to be, a starting point.

mortalez writes: 1. even if one tried this his/her odds are against them, to many things can go wrong, someone is more likely to loose his/her jobbecause of car trouble being unable to save money to move up andbecome a better employee.

Solís responds: This is not a flaw in the non-argument. Neither does it constitute any sort of demonstration of the faslity of the assertion that “Min-wage is just a starting point.” Both propositions can be true: (1) “The minimum wage is just a starting point;” and (2) “The odds are against minimum wage workers.” First, the minimum wage, no matter how high you libs succeed in raising it will (by definition!) still be a starting point, so it's difficult to see how you think it helps anyone beat ‘the odds.’ Second, since you've raised the issue of odds, you must have some statistics to back up your claim, right? Next time you visit, just share those statistics with me. My readers and I are eager to see them. Third, I just don't see how someone has to save money in order to move up in his job. I didn't move up in my jobs by saving any money. Finally, nothing you've said here defeats my argument that, “Just because you need it doesn't mean your employer has it.”

mortalez writes: 2. this way of thinking fails to concider that many people are starting over be it divorce, outsourcing, or just a screwed upeconomy.(like any number of people who live in factory towns in which
their father and grandfather worked in the same factory).

Solís responds: And your way of thinking does not explain how, just because this is true, an employer magically has the money to pay a higher wage just because the employee needs it. I went through the numbers, mortalez, explaining just how minimum wage increases actually put out of work many of the people it is intended to help. What about that? You didn't respond to that. You simply repeated typical liberal platitudes about life's lottery (i.e., “the odds”), social problems such as divorce--the vississitudes of life. You don't explain how those platitudes show that my take on what the numbers show is false. Now, can you do that or not? Tell me you have more than irrelevant (even if true!) platitudes. All you did today was respond to arguments that I didn't even make and thoroughly disregard the arguments that I did make. Tell me that you can do more than throw platitudes at straw men. All those people on minimum wage are counting on you. Their futures are in your hands. Good Sir Knight, I pray you: do more than tilt at windmills on their behalf.

Finally, let me add just this bit more in response to your “heartless” garbage. I am not a rich Republican; neither I am a rich conservative. I have paid the price for, and lived in accordance with, the principles I espouse here, my friend.

I went to college with the idea of going to law school. Due to good financial planning as a young man in the Army ( I did not come from a wealthy family*), I had all the money needed for undergrad education and about 3/4 of the money I needed for law school. While I was still an undergrad I had an opportunity to score some money in a real estate investment. The numbers indicated moderately low risk and a probability of high return, a return which would net me a much, much more than the money I needed for law school. As you pointed out, “things happen.” One of those ‘things’ happened to me. I lost the money I invested.

Due to the unlawful actions of another, the investment went sour. Not only did I lose part of the money for law school in the deal, but what I didn't lose in the deal went to extricate myself--and my family, of course--from certain legal difficulties, difficulties I found myself in due, as I said, to the actions of another. From having 3/4 of the money for law school, I ended up with just enough to finish my bachelor's degree. I didn't even have enough to stick around after college and add a teaching certification to my BA. So my first job out of college was in a furniture repair and refinishing shop, hardly the job for a rich Republican (but I suppose even a ‘heartless’ conservative could pull it off).

My next job after the furniture shop was not exactly a step up. I had to move my family to Colorado. Once in Colorado I needed to get a job right away and, like most people who are just trying to support a family, I took the first job I could get: I worked (gulp, sound of vomiting) as a telemarketer for a whopping $6.25 per hour (in 1994)--not exactly the sort of wage one associates with rich Republicans, is it? During this time, I was just able to rent a cramped apartment in a part of the city I certainly thought I'd never have to live in since my (poor!) childhood, put food on the table and pay the bills. I had no health insurance for my family (i.e., a wife and a nine year old daughter). I had family members who were angry with me for not applying for federal government aid and mocked me for adhering to my ‘[expletive deleted] principles.’ A friend of mine called me a fool for paying taxes and not reaping the benefits thereof, despite my reminding him that I objected to having paid those taxes in the first place.

My next job was a real giant leap up the ladder, let me tell you: restaurant manager. Light years away from law school; and you sure as heck don't need a BA to run a restaurant. But by now the money was a little better, good enough that, with some (non-government) grants and some scholarships, I was able to get a graduate level education. I don't yet have the Ph.D that I'd like; and I still sometimes think that I'd like to go to law school. And there are still times when I think about that so-called friend whose illegal activity has cost me dearly for 14 years now--and created hardship for my family--and think that I wish I could sue him. Unfortunately he's even worse off than I am: I still have my wife; he doesn't have his. And he doesn't have anything to sue for. Still, when I look at how my wife and daughter have fared because of him, if my chest were a cannon I sometimes think I'd fire my heart out upon him (that's from Moby Dick, by the way). At least if I'd still been single, I would have been the only one stung by him. My wife for a long time had to work harder than her health really permitted.)

What I espouse here isn't a matter of convenience for me or my family: I've had to put my money where my keyboard is. This isn't theory for me, fella. It's real life. I know exactly what it's like to live as if you really believe in market principles. I don't espouse these principles because they don’t apply to me or because they make for an easy life. They don't. Life is difficult. But that was never my employers' fault. They were not (and are not) responsible for the fact that ‘things happened’ to me; and I never demanded that they pay me what I needed due to circumstances beyond their control. What I have said previously as a general principle, let me give particular application to: the fact that I needed it, didn't mean they had it; the fact that I needed it didn't create in them an obligation to pay it. I took what I could get, and did the best with it that I could. I have lived out, my friend, exactly what I believe. And as far as I am concerned, I have the moral authority both to have and to assert my economic philosophy. And I acquired this moral authority the old fashioned way: I earned it from Hard Knox U.

Heartless? You don't know who you're taking to, bub.
At base, your thinking seems to be rooted in the idea that government's job is to remove the difficulties from our lives. Life, you seem to think, ought to be free of difficulty. Can you provide any justification for that belief? Or is it an article of faith for you?
* My maternal great-great-grandparents were poor farmers in Minnesota. My great-great grandfather supplemented his income by serving as the town marshall in Northfield. My great-grandfather spent his whole working life in a condensed milk factory in Nothfield. My maternal grandfather was a secretary for a railroad company. My paternal grandfather was a poor farmer in the Texas valley. Poverty isn’t a set of numbers for me. For a part of my life it has been reality.


About Me

James Frank Solís
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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