Minimum Wage Hike Helps Congress, Hurts America
By: Greg C. Reeson
Prior to departing Washington for a 5-week recess, the House of Representatives passed a bill authorizing an increase in the minimum wage for the first time since 1996. The bill, which was supported by 230 Representatives, is typical of election year politics that do more to benefit our lawmakers than the American people.
Raising the minimum wage from $5.15 per hour, the current rate, to $7.25 over the next three years will do little, if anything, to help low-income workers. An increase in labor costs that is unrelated to market forces will encourage small businesses to let go of unnecessary workers, cut back on shift lengths, and delay any plans for new hires. Many of the larger corporations, such as Wal-Mart and McDonalds, already pay starting wages that exceed the federal minimum.
Increasing the minimum wage is often hyped as necessary to help those at the bottom of the economic ladder climb above the poverty line. In reality, though, a national standard is not necessary for wage rates to grow. According to Heritage Foundation research, average earnings in America have risen steadily since 1996, without a corresponding increase in the federal minimum wage amount.
In addition, if there is to be a minimum wage, and I donï¿½t think there should, it should be raised and lowered at the state level in accordance with labor market conditions. In fact, an increasing number of states have raised minimum wage rates to levels that exceed the federal amount. And, as the Heritage Foundation points out, nearly a majority of Americans now live in areas with a minimum wage that is higher than the federally imposed rate.
Members of both parties continually take up the issues they believe will garner them the most votes at the polling booths. Rather than pursue those matters that are truly in the public interest, our Senators and Representatives consistently chart courses that serve their own interests. Americans have little faith in their elected representatives because the public at large knows that the primary concern of any member of Congress is his or her own reelection.
It is this quest for continued power and prestige in Washington that causes the members of Congress to engage in the reckless waste of scarce federal tax revenues by sending home billions of dollars annually in the form of special pork-barrel projects. In Fiscal Year 2006 alone, these ventures cost American taxpayers $29 billion.
It is this quest for continued power and prestige in Washington that causes the members of Congress to resist ethics regulations and to seek ways to prevent the FBI from conducting lawful searches of Congressional offices during investigations of criminal activity, as if our elected officials are not subject to the same laws as the ordinary citizens they supposedly serve.
It is this quest for continued power and prestige in Washington that causes the American people to diligently work for Congressional term limits by taking action at the local and state levels, even as they are vehemently opposed by the men and women they elected to represent them.
And it is this quest for continued power and prestige in Washington that causes the members of the House of Representatives to vote for a bill authorizing an increase in the federal minimum wage, even as they suspect it will meet its demise in the Senate. The objective, though, was not really to raise the minimum wage. The objective was to make the American people believe that their representatives in the House were on their side. And that is why Representative Mike Castle of Delaware was quoted as saying ï¿½we need to move forward with it just for political reasons.ï¿½
Greg Reeson is a freelance writer living in Fort Lee, VA. His columns have appeared in The New Media Journal, The Land of the Free, The Veteranï¿½s Voice, The Washington Times, The American Daily, The American Chronicle, Associated Content, GOPUSA and Opinion Editorials.com.