Friday, May 2, 2014

minimum wage (again)

Some people advocate it out of self-interests. Many people advocate it out of ignorance, because they lack policy imagination. From the C-J last week, we have an op-ed that shows both.

Here is the letter to the editor that I submitted in reply. It's been more than a week now and they didn't answer my follow-up email, so I'm assuming it won't get published there. I'd guess that it carries too much of a wallop for their tastes.

On Thursday, Richard Trumka and Cletus Kiley wrote an op-ed advocating an increase in the minimum wage (after a similar increase from 2007-2009). Trumka writes from a union perspective and Kiley claims a Catholic perspective. I'm not a Catholic, so maybe I'm missing something. But why is it a Catholic thing to advocate a poorly-targeted solution? A higher minimum wage is always trumpeted as something to help heads of household, but only a small fraction of those earning the minimum wage are in that position.

Since when is it a Catholic thing to help some vulnerable people by hurting other vulnerable people? Those who keep their jobs will benefit. But by increasing the price of lower-skilled workers by 40%, firms will reduce workers and/or hours, decreasing employment and training opportunities for those who need them most.

Since when is it a Catholic thing to ignore much better policy opportunities? For example, we could expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, which subsidizes only the low-paid workers who are heads of household. Then, you help only the ones who need it, without harming any of them. Or my favorite: the federal payroll taxes on income (FICA) take 15.3% of every dollar earned by the working poor. I'd think that a Catholic (and champions of the working poor) would work feverishly to eliminate regressive and repressive taxation.

I certainly understand why unions would want to increase the price of some of their competitors. But I can't imagine why a Catholic would prescribe such a tired, lame policy. Maybe Kiley is a poser trying to drive people out of the Catholic Church?


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