From a distance, Minnesota’s Democrat governor Mark Dayton may seem like a rabidly ideological operator. His legislative agenda has included such gems as creating a new statewide bureaucracy to police students’ thoughts (even as the state struggles with one of the worst achievement gaps in the nation), the forced unionization of home-based daycare entrepreneurs who are now regarded as employees of the state, and devastating business to business taxes which have driven companies elsewhere.
However, the truth about Mark Dayton is decisively more pathetic. He’s not really ideological. Rather, he seeks the approval and adulation of those who are. A trust fund baby who shelters his wealth in neighboring South Dakota, Dayton’s life-long pursuit of public service has been more of a hobby than a philosophically-driven passion. He collects offices as one might stamps or insects. Before using his ex-wife’s money to buy the 2010 primary out from under the Democrat’s endorsed candidate, Dayton served a term a piece as Minnesota’s state auditor and its U.S. senator. Governor was just another feather to add to his cap.
Dayton’s hobbyist approach to governing can be discerned from his frequently expressed regrets regarding laws he has signed, typically when he discovers that they contain something he didn’t know about, or that they adversely affect a favored constituency. During a debate over medical marijuana earlier this year, Dayton was so conflicted between his nanny-state instincts and his heartfelt desire to help people that he advised one mother to buy marijuana illegally on the street! (He later denied doing so even in the face of corroborating witnesses.)[audio:http://www.hipcast.com/export/Pc2c0923df249f29f16049a04e2ec9ad2ZVl/RnxuY2F3VQ.mp3]
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The latest example of this oops-I-signed-it-again governing comes after a minimum wage hike passed earlier this year. It phases the minimum wage from its current $6.15 to a whopping $9.50 by 2016.
Raising the minimum wage remains a perennial point on the political left’s agenda which elected Democrats are expected to support. Dayton no doubt swelled with pride upon signing the legislation. But he may have recently entertained second thoughts.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports:
According to the Rochester Post Bulletin, the DFL governor said that his restaurant-owning sons made the case that tipped employees should be treated differently than other hourly employees.
“I understand my sons’ frustration with the tip credit issue. They make a very articulate case,” Dayton said in a meeting with the newspaper’s editorial board last week, according to a report.
A tip credit would enable employers to pay less than the minimum wage when employees can expect to make up the difference in tips. It’s an idea which by many accounts scuttled the campaign of Dayton’s 2010 Republican opponent Tom Emmer. Independent expenditures, funded in no small part by contributions from Dayton’s ex-wife Alida Rockefeller Messinger, hammered Emmer for suggesting that Minnesota offer business owners a tip credit. (That’s a fact which the Star Tribune neglects to mention in their coverage, by the way.)
Ayn Rand once wrote, “You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality.” Mark Dayton and his ideological allies avoid reality with most of their prescriptions. Increasing the minimum wage has consequences, whether anticipated by those hiking it or not, just as walking off a cliff means falling whether the cliff’s presence was known or not. The image of Dayton’s sons approaching him hat in hand asking for relief from his minimum wage law demonstrates the reality which Dayton chose to avoid when he signed his wage law. Business, and by direct extension employment and economic security, rely on accurate price signals.
Naturally, political considerations prevailed over intrusive reality. The Tribune later updated their story with an official statement from Dayton’s spokesman claiming the governor “does not support or advocate any changes to [the wage] law at this time.” Perhaps he explained to his sons that raising their employees’ wages will magically increase their productivity.