Assuming that a minimum wage set by government is justified, there’s a good argument for raising it — keeping pace with inflation, which the national minimum wage hasn’t done. But that doesn’t seem to be the argument being made by many advocates of raising the minimum wage, including members of Congress from Connecticut.
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy says he supports raising the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10 because the “living wage” in Connecticut is $10.68 for a single person and $20.07 for a couple raising a child.
Meeting with unemployed people at a job-training office in New Haven the other day, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, supported this argument. But the circumstances of the people she met, as reported by the New Haven Independent, did not. Their testimony showed that their problem really isn’t the minimum wage at all.
Murphy asks, “Could you live on $8.25 an hour?” — Connecticut’s minimum wage. But that rhetorical question is misleading, since most people earning minimum wage are not fully supporting themselves. Many are young people still living with parents or at college and holding low-skilled, entry-level jobs.
The better question is why one’s earnings should be determined by one’s consumption or one’s desire to consume. That could never happen, since then there would be a lot more consumption than production and soon there would be nothing left to consume.
At that meeting in New Haven DeLauro heard from people who had really messed up their lives.
One was unemployed, unskilled, and single but pregnant anyway. With a minimum wage of $8.25 per hour, she asked, how would she be able to feed her child? If DeLauro asked why that challenge had not occurred to the woman before she became pregnant, the Independent did not report it.
The story of a young former fast-food shop employee was similar. She was living at home and got pregnant as well, and while she wanted to return to work, she couldn’t figure out how she could cover rent, utilities, and child care.
A 37-year-old woman related that she has been unemployed for seven years, served prison time for credit-card fraud, had a child three years ago with her husband, also unemployed, and can’t find a job because employers are put off by her criminal record.
Such stories are pathetic and the unborn children involved will be innocent and will have to be cared for one way or another, if necessary at government expense, but in the age of free contraception and abortion these stories are most of all catastrophically stupid. And when a member of Congress cannot acknowledge the individual irresponsibility that is hobbling society even when it is repeatedly thrown in her face and cannot wonder aloud about what might be facilitating it, it’s not likely to be reduced any time soon.
Of course as people are beginning to sense, the national economy and Connecticut’s economy are not recovering, most economic data from government is at best mere spin and more likely deliberately misleading, and the good jobs that have disappeared are being replaced mostly by low-skill, low-wage jobs. This is another big problem that can’t be acknowledged officially.
But that’s the way things are and people will have to adjust to it. Theodore Roosevelt said the first duty of a citizen is to be able and willing to pull his own weight, and even the liberal social science lately has concluded that most poverty could be eliminated if people simply followed the old conventions — be conscientious about their education, learn marketable skills necessary for self-sufficiency, establish that self-sufficiency, and refrain from having children until gaining the security of marriage. But nearly half the children being born in the country now are born outside marriage.
Raising the minimum wage may be good or bad policy but it will never cure irresponsibility and stupidity.
Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.