You’ve got to hand it to progressives. So assured are they that their policy prescriptions are ultimately for the best that they routinely demonstrate utter disregard for consistency or the consequences of disseminating untruths. Everything is fair game, so long as it advances their preferred agenda. Such was the brazen course taken by liberals in their pursuit of a “living wage,” e.g. a dramatic increase in state and federal minimum wages.
In the effort to create an issue on which the party could campaign in 2014, Democrats settled on hiking the minimum wage. For many of its advocates, this policy preference was the result of a noble desire to provide support for the less fortunate amid the lingering effects of the 2008 financial downturn. Good intentions have always inoculated the left against criticisms of the consequences of their policy preferences.
If the New York Times editorial board ever wonders why their editorials have so little influence these days, they might consider this. An editorial designed to affect public policy should consist of four parts: 1) Here’s the problem, 2) Here’s the solution, 3) Here’s what the other side says, 4) Here’s why they’re wrong. A New York Times editorial, however, consists of only three parts: 1) Here’s the problem, 2) Here’s the liberal doctrine on the problem, 3) Only greedy, stupid, evil (choose one or more) people and interests oppose it.
Consider their recent editorial on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to raise the state minimum wage to $15.00 per hour. It starts off, “The lowest-wage workers in New York could soon get a much-needed raise — if the stingy Republicans who control the State Senate don’t block it.” The Republicans, of course, are being stingy with other people’s money, which is, at the least, refreshing, as generosity with other people’s money is the political norm on both left and right. It goes on:
Bob Beckel, the liberal voice on Fox News Channel’s extremely successful The Five, likes to go off on rants regarding Wal-Mart. On Friday he was in rare form, damning the world’s largest retailer (and this country’s largest employer) for having caused more rival businesses to close than any other in history, and for buying most of its merchandise abroad. On other occasions he has complained that Wal-Mart doesn’t pay its employees a “living wage.”
Beckel’s first claim is probably true and the second certainly is. The third claim, however, is economic sophistry.
President Obama has recently said that the trend of growing inequality is “certainly my highest priority.” He might be interested to know that it’s not the highest priority for the people he was voted to represent.
Not even close.
Which of the following two factors would have the greatest impact on the economy: Raising the wages of less than a million Americans from slightly below the poverty line to slightly above it or putting half a million poor people out of work? The answer to that question may be the deciding factor in determining whether Congress accedes to President Obama’s demand to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.15 from the current figure of $7.50. But then again, it may not. Raising the minimum wage is a popular idea. The president’s catch phrase, that Congress should “give America a raise,” polled well before and after it was used in the State of the Union address. Every discussion of the proposal hinges on conservatives pointing out the potential harm to the economy and to employment in the government intervening in the market in this manner only to have their arguments dismissed by liberals who simply say that economic principles must bow to the public desire to give low wage workers more money.
But now that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has issued a report about the potential impact of the president’s minimum wage hike proposal, it’s no longer possible to ignore the fact that a lot more harm than good will be done if Congress is foolish enough to pass such a bill. The CBO report is being reported as having “mixed results,” and that is true. The report says the wage hike will boost the income of 16.5 million Americans. That is not news. You don’t need an economics degree to understand that giving people more money means they will have more money. However, the increase would be enough to push some 900,000 over the poverty line. That’s the good news for the president in the report. Less helpful to his cause is the fact that it also says that an estimated 500,000 Americans will loose their jobs, just as conservatives have been arguing all along.
There was plenty of big talk in the 2014 State of the Union address. President Obama exhorted Americans to accept his baseless claim that the economy is reviving and urged them to believe his jarringly upbeat view of the nation’s future. He tried to sound assertive as he vowed to use executive orders to get his way if Congress didn’t give him what he wanted. He touted ObamaCare. And he closed with an inspiring story of a wounded Army Ranger. But there’s no mistaking that this was a speech given by a president mired in second-term doldrums. There were not only a total of zero new ideas; almost everything in it was recycled from past addresses including a grimly risible vow to close the terrorist prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba that he has kept open throughout his presidency even though he’s been promising to close it since 2008.
Although everything in this message was poll-tested and designed to be popular, this State of the Union (SOTU) did nothing but reinforce the impression that the president is mechanically going through the motions. The press had been prepped to believe the president would come out swinging tonight, defying Congress and vowing to seize the reins of government into his own hands. But what the country heard instead was confirmation of what many had already suspected after a disastrous 2013 for the president: he has passed over the historic bridge from celebrated re-election to the status of an irrelevant lame-duck.
One of the highlights of President Obama’s State of the Union speech tonight is his announcement of an executive order raising the minimum wage for those working for contractors doing business with the federal government. The measure is a political trifecta for the president: he gets to bypass Congress, play to the populist grandstand, and inject some life into a moribund presidency with three years left before it officially expires. Tonight’s event and the speaking tour on which the president embarks tomorrow is designed to send the less-than-credible message that he is very much in charge of the government, has the political juice to beat the Republicans while raising his poor favorability ratings, thus reassuring himself, if no one else, that he is no lame duck.
The union that the president will claim tonight is still strong, though it is not a dictatorship. While the commander in chief has the power to make foreign policy and wage war and—thanks to the courts—can impose environmental regulations, the Constitution set up impassable obstacles to prevent a president from ruling without the consent of Congress. The notion that Obama can govern by executive order is just as much an illusion as the idea that imposing higher minimum wages will improve the economy and create more jobs rather than lose them.