Culture

Minnesota Lawmakers Mock Poor with 'Minimum Wage Challenge'

Recently, I wrote of a Harvard/CUNY study, conducted by advocates of a single-payer healthcare system, which claims that over 17,000 people will die unless states expand Medicaid. The study rests upon a deeply cynical and inaccurate view of humanity inherent to the Left which regards people as helpless as houseplants.

Now, a group of state lawmakers in Minnesota have announced a political stunt demonstrating that same insulting view of humanity. ThinkProgress reports:

Five state lawmakers in Minnesota have decided to take on the “Minimum Wage Challenge” and live off of a typical budget for a worker who makes the federal minimum wage of $7.25.

The state has one of the lowest minimum wages in the country at $6.15 an hour, which means it gets trumped by the federal wage. A worker who puts in 40 hours a week at that level will earn just $290 before taxes. The challenge limits the lawmakers to $5 a day for food and $9 for transportation.

I am reminded of my high school health class, where it was expected students would learn the hardships of parenthood by carting around a bag of sugar taped to a Cabbage Patch Kids doll. This seems no less puerile.

Rep. Frank Hornstein (D) told CBS Minnesota that it made him take more notice of his costs. “An orange juice was $1.79. That’s not something that I would normally notice,” he said after getting breakfast from McDonald’s Dollar Menu. “Making the decision to take the bus today versus taking the car will save me a little money for dinner. For food,” he added.

Hornstein ought to recognize that the same process of rational judgment which prompts him to consider the price of orange juice while on his restricted budget would also apply when considering obligations like rent, marriage, and parenthood.

Gee, if I make minimum wage, maybe I shouldn’t rent a two-bedroom apartment. Maybe I should aspire to better means before taking on new costs.

That’s what this stunt fails to take into account: the aspiration of the working poor. If I suddenly found myself living on minimum wage, I’d get a better job or a second and third one. But to do so would break the rules of the silly game these legislators are playing, a game which handicaps its players as the Democratic worldview handicaps its constituents.

Produce more value to earn more money? The notion transcends the leftist paradigm.

The above video clip featuring Dirty Jobs’ Mike Rowe nails the fatal flaw of the “Minimum Wage Challenge.” His final insight:

The idea that everybody who’s poor, and everybody who’s in the middle, and everyone who’s wealthy stays there their whole life – that I don’t believe. I think there’s a lot of moving back and forth. And I think it’s dangerous to say this group is always going to be in this spot.

A lot of people have worked for minimum wage. Few people stay there. Everyone who works for a low wage does so of their own accord absent coercion, judging the wage worth more than their time. The only way to enhance the worth of their time is to enhance the utility and scarcity of their skill. Low-wage jobs make such development possible.

If these five Minnesota lawmakers really want to understand the plight of the people they intend to help, and insist on doing so by engaging in some theatrical stunt, they ought to try living with no income whatsoever. Perhaps that would help them understand the effect of their desired hike in the minimum wage: fewer low wage jobs for those who need them to survive, and less opportunity to enhance skill and increase value.