by Pete Mazzaccaro

It’s really, really cold as I write this. It’s the morning many of us were greeted by temperatures of 1 and 2 degrees. Staying out for more than five minutes would probably earn you a case of frostbite.

It’s been funny to read the comments of some I know on Facebook, who thought it would be so cold they’d have to cancel school, as if we don’t live in a time of heated public buildings and cars that start up easy, even in frigid weather.

That’s what counts as a major problem for many of us, that we might get really cold one or two days.

News reports today were full of the ominous term “polar vortex,” an ominous pseudo scientific phrase that sounds like it might have had an origin in some Star Trek episode. It has all the requisite implications of impending doom that we get so much from news – especially news of the weather.

But the cold will lift, and news will get back to what has become a pretty interesting and somewhat turbulent time in American politics. From a debate over gay marriage rights in the state of Utah, to how well or poor are the early days of the Affordable Health Care Act. These are serious issues that offer implications far larger than what size coat will I have to wear today.

The most interesting of these policy debates for me is the proposal to boost the minimum wage, a debate that has predictably divided our government along party lines. Democrats, led by President Obama, favor a nearly $3 an hour increase in the current federal minimum of $7.25 to $10.10 an hour. Republicans claim that any government-mandated wage program will “kill jobs.”

Pennsylvania’s minimum wage is also $7.25, with state arguments over increases falling along the very same party rationales.

Both sides have studies to back their positions. There are studies that have shown higher mandated wages lead to less hiring by small and large businesses. And there are studies that show the opposite.

The problem proponents of raising the minimum wage identify is that the minimum wage has lost its effectiveness over time as it has not risen at the same rate as the costs of living. What originally worked as a way to stave off poverty no longer works.

Despite what other studies might disagree about, most agree that a higher wage will in fact reduce poverty. According to Mike Konczal, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, who analyzed a number of papers by economists studying the issue in a recent article for the Washington Post’s Wonkblog, “A higher minimum wage will lead to a significant boost in incomes for the worst off in the bottom 30th percent of income, while having no impact on the median household.”

If Congress can agree that reducing poverty is a worthy goal, the path forward seems clear.

What will happen? Popular support seems to be on the side of a higher minimum wage. A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll showed popular approval of raising the minimum wage is 63 percent. Many in government, however, have shown themselves to be fairly well insulated against acting on the basis of popular opinion.

The idea is this: A minimum wage increase will not affect many middle class people, but it will absolutely make life better for the very poor, and it will not require government spending, just a government kick in the pants to businesses that continue to pay their employees the bare minimum.

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  • Mr_Underhill

    Minimum wage increases simply increase the prices of goods and services and reduce the number of jobs and hours for less-skilled workers. You cannot trick the hand of economics as to how much an individual’s time/work is worth. That is something that only the individual and the company know and agree to. Anything else just drives up costs….but this is good for leftists who then say we need to raise the wage again the next year. ECON 101. It does nothing good for anyone but leftist politicians who prey on human emotions. The people left out in the cold here are, in fact, the ones that need minimum jobs the most!

    • Mike

      You beat me to it. Pete, I suggest you take Economics 101 before you
      write another ill-advised article showing your ignorance in the subject.
      Once again, just like that awful column on ‘affordable education for
      all,’ you show you’re totally out of touch with reality and just
      repeating the liberal mantra. Reality doesn’t work this way and you just end up with unintended consequences that leaves everyone worse off.

  • ekaneti

    Minimum wage increase WILL help the poor so long as they still have jobs to go to.

    • Mr. Obvious

      Minimum wage increases reduce the number of jobs that poor, unskilled workers have available to them – if the government makes companies pay unskilled workers artificially higher wages, they’ll simply hire less people or even shut down if they’re unable to pass through the higher costs to consumers, who likely won’t pay more for goods that unskilled workers are making in the first place. These jobs aren’t supposed to be careers, they’re supposed to be a ground-level way to enter the workforce and then you work your way up, using the idea of making more money as an incentive to work harder or smarter. That’s how America worked for centuries until liberals destroyed that dynamic.

      • gnu_republic

        So what happens to the workers who have been employed for awhile, received a merit raise, and are now back making the same hourly rate as a fresh employee who starts at the “new” minimum?
        Would they receive a commensurate raise, as well…just to be fair?
        And how about the people above them? Will they get a pay-bump, too?

        Can you see where this is going, Pete…do you get it, yet?

        My God, why do people with NO apparent experience operating a for-profit business feel comfortable preaching economic theory to the rest of us?

  • moovova

    Once we get the minimum wage boosted to a common sense “livable wage” level, then we need to concentrate on incorporating other internationally accepted work features. Think how much more productive we could be if we had an afternoon siesta similar to Mexico, Spain or Italy. Businesses should also be required to shut down for one of the summer months for vacation, as France does.

    Another thing that bothers me…why am I required to actually work while on the clock? I could get so much more done if I could just clock in, go to the employee’s lounge and play with an employer-provided XBox…then clock out after 8 hours.

    And, what’s with that 8 hour thing? Who made themselves god of the time clock and said 8 hours is what employees have to work to be considered full time? I mean really…that’s just so INVASIVE! Why can’t we work 7 hours and get paid for 8. Or, work 6 hours even. There’s not that big of a difference. The employer shouldn’t care about a few measly hours.

    And THEN…after we get those minor little changes to our work schedule, we’re gonna have to think about boosting the minimum wage again.

    Sheesh, this gets so tiring. I need a break.

  • Cromulent

    What a crock. A minimum wage increase means more low skilled workers will get fired.

  • Temujin

    If $10.10 is good, why not raise the minimum wage to $50 or even $100 per hour? Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

    • jenna

      This is just a repeat of Rush talk. You pay by increasing the cost of a burger from $2.00 to $2.25 or you pay by more people on the government dole ( food stamps, Section 8, etc.), subsidizing private companies. You have chosen.

  • JT

    Laughable…., minimum wage is against free markets and causes economic unrest. Nothing is for free except in the minds of these leftist journalists,

  • hinckleybuzzard

    Wages are a lot higher now than in 1960 but the poverty rate is about the same. So much for that theory. And a little off message but, since idiot boy here brought it up, “polar vortex ” has a distinct scientific meaning. It the context (“climate change”) that is pseudo scientific.

  • PMazz

    Here’s some reading for the armchair economists here. It’s by an economist at Amherst:

    Even economist David Neumark, who is opposed to the minimum wage, concludes that poverty would be reduced by an increase:

    Good to see some debate here.

    • Mike

      Maybe I’m wrong, but I have a strong feeling some of the ‘armchair economists’ that have commented here in dissent here have a better notion of wealth creation or poverty reduction than two academics…particularly one from Amherst – not exactly a bastion of pro-capitalism. Economists, most of whom are of a liberal orientation and/or are avowed Keynesian, haven’t ever created real economic value and don’t operate in reality and their silly theories have made society all for the worse since the “War on Poverty” started 50 years ago. I’ll say it one more time – I don’t care how smart people think they are, society can’t ‘fool’ a fluid economy by creating value where there is no value-add (i.e., indiscriminate wage increases for low value-added work)…at the end of the day all it is is redistribution.

      • gnu_republic

        “Armchair economists” is a condescending expression, Pete – you probably wouldn’t want to stack your
        credentials up against the formal education or practical
        experience of some of the folks who’ve commented on this
        not-unsurprisingly air-headed editorial.

        • PMazz

          More condescending than air headed? Ha Ha. Yeah. I didn’t intend it as an insult. I’m an armchair economist, too. I’m interested but by no means an expert. I’m guessing a majority of those who commented here are in the same boat.

          I’m not terribly interested in any ideas that are inherently liberal or conservative and I think anyone who says A minimum wage will save the poor is as delusional as those who believe that Democratic Party politics are only aimed at “killing jobs” and redistributing wealth. Both parties are pretty equally entrenched in capitalism. The knee-jerk Obama is a socialist nonsense I read here that passes for fair criticism here is pretty silly and doesn’t approach a well thought out counter argument.

          Perhaps the minimum wage increase is just that — a cynical populist appeal, which it just might be. It is poling high, after all. But that doesn’t mean that academic consensus (or something approaching it) that it would help reduce poverty is wrong. .

          The bottom line is, I’m interested in a solution, not more of the same. I don’t think a solution is tax cuts. And I don’t think it’s necessarily just government spending, either. I get the distaste many have for programs that often do throw good money after bad.

          But please, let’s stick to arguing about ideas not silly and useless attacks on those who express them.

          • Mr_Underhill

            minimum wage hijes ARE more of the same. FAIL. It’s not good money after bad anymore in a country that is broke. It’s throwing printed money after bad.

  • David

    The sky is falling, the sky is falling. Typical comments that raising the minimum wage will lead to a destruction of jobs. Actually no. It will take companies like McDonalds that make billions of dollars of revenue and lead them to make a smaller billions of dollars of revenue.

    • Jim

      Your ability to see the ‘big picture’ is uncanny. Ah, yes – If only those evil profit-seeking companies whose stock is owned by millions of middle class Americans’ retirement accounts would intentionally make lower profits, we’d all be so much better off. All those working shareholders with 401k’s and personal investments in retail stocks would totally understand. In fact, I think David might just find himself CEO of Mickey D’s with radical, bold (yet “compassionate”!) ideas like this – add him to the proxy ballot!

  • jenna

    When did CH residents and watchers become so angry as reflected in the comments? Are they capable of commenting without attempts at insult and anger?