What is your default position — government or yourself?
Our nation is experiencing the slowest and weakest “recovery” from a recession ever. Typically, once the worst effects, such as inflation and unemployment, are wrung out, economic activity resumes a pace similar to or greater than before.
But we stagger on with persistently high unemployment (more than 10 percent in the High Desert and Inland Empire, just below that level in California) while those who are employed are fortunate if they hold a part-time job, and many others have simply stopped looking. The unemployment rate would be even higher were it not for those who have taken themselves out of the picture.
What to do? To me, the obvious answer is the same one that has benefited America in the past, and that is for government to relax its heavy hand and let entrepreneurs do what they do best, which is to provide goods or services at an affordable price and therefore generate millions of jobs.
But that is not the default position of the advocates of Big Government. No, they epitomize insanity, which is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. When “stimulus,” bailouts, corporate takeovers and health care subsidies fail to do the trick, they draw the conclusion that we need more, not less, of the same “remedies!”
Rather than rethink the policies that burden business and therefore lose jobs for millions, the Big Government folks fall back on other, equally ineffective, policies, most notably minimum wage laws. Why, if businesses are not paying high enough wages to “buy back the product,” as Walter Reuther used to say, make them pay higher wages!
When business is slow and jobs are scarce, it hardly makes sense to make corporations squeeze out more money from what fools believe is an endless supply of it. Like McScrooge Duck, who sits on a pile of cash hidden from the hands of his needy employees, business people are invariably caricatured, when they are not slandered, by ignorant people.
California’s crackpot legislature and Gov. Moonbeam Brown have given us a law that will require all businesses to pay up to $10 an hour within three years. In their view of economics, it’s not fair for workers to be paid less than a “living wage.” But this is bad policy and wrong on several levels.
To force businesses to raise wages which are struggling just for enough customers to stay afloat, is to ensure that they will give their existing employees fewer hours or lay them off altogether. Most employers head small businesses and therefore lack vast monetary resources. When unions dominate an industry, the frequent result is disaster, as with the automobile companies. The effect of a minimum wage is the same.
But the effect of the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare) has been to accelerate the number of part-time employees because of its requirement that full-time employees must be afforded health insurance in companies with 50 or more employees working at least 30 hours a week. And how is that working out? Just ask any local employees where you shop if they work 40 or even 30 hours a week and most will tell you that they do not.
Certainly, part-time work does not make for a “living wage” or enable any employee to “buy back the product.” ObamaCare has massively contributed to making us a nation of part-time employees while its apologists try to “solve” the problem by making the same businesses burdened with higher health care costs also pay higher wages.
All minimum wage laws reach their highest level only after a few years have passed because their advocates know that there are real costs involved, meanwhile hoping that business will pick up enough later so that when the highest level kicks in the higher costs can be “absorbed.” Sure.
This is also a moral issue. We are so accustomed to forcing businesses to spend money that we overlook the fact that minimum wage laws take money out of one citizen’s pocket and place it in another’s. This is called “social justice.” Actually, it is theft.
Ronald Reagan once said that the nine most terrifying words in the English language are:
“I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” Government officials who say they want to help the little guy are in fact blocking his path to economic improvement, including the guy who now runs a business after working his way up.
Richard Reeb taught political science, philosophy and journalism at Barstow College from 1970 to 2003. He is the author of "Take Journalism Seriously: 'Objectivity' as a Partisan Cause" (University Press of America, 1999). He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org