Monday, March 07, 2005

Santorum's Minimum Wage Proposal

Rick Santorum may qualify as an Evil Man in my books. His newest proposal is one aimed at destroying any possible increase in the federal minimum wage:

Under a plan proposed by Rick Santorum, the minimum wage would go up in two bumps over 18 months, ultimately reaching $6.25 an hour. That's a dollar an hour less than the Kennedy plan -- we're quick with math here -- but that's not the worst of it. Santorum's plan would also exempt from the minimum wage, and a whole host of other federal labor laws, any employer with revenues under $1 million; allow some employers to offset minimum wage salaries with tips workers receive; and rob many workers of overtime pay by instituting federal "flex-time" rules. Thus, workers would receive a smaller increase under Santorum's plan, fewer of them would be protected by the federal minimum wage laws at all, and whatever gains some workers made through a minimum wage increase would be lost to offsets from tips or cutbacks in their overtime pay.

There is something deeply distasteful in a rich man's plans for destroying any pay increases for the really poor. To make it less distasteful, let's start paying the politicians with tips! Only those that do what we like get money from now on, and we send it in as tips which can then be used to reduce their regular wages.

The wingnuts don't like minimum wages, despite the Bible being very strong on the need to take care of the poor and on ethical behavior in business. This is one of those bipolar aspects of the wingnut values that I never understand. It has something to do with the idea that any two people should be allowed to enter a contract freely on anything whatsoever, and that no third person should interfere. Except in the bedroom, of course.

But in reality when an individual makes a contract with McDonald's, say, there is not much evenness or fairness to begin with, and the consequences for the two are entirely different. The wingnuts pretend that a server in a restaurant is as powerful as the IBM or any other large firm, and that the two have equal opportunities if the contract doesn't please them.

This is all rubbish, of course. The minimum wage is needed for many reasons that have to do with ethics and justice, but it is also needed as a counterforce against the oligopolistic nature of most labor markets. These markets are not the kinds of free markets that the wingnuts dream about, with very few exceptions.

As the article I link to points out, the Santorum proposal will not win because no proposal to raise the minimum wage will pass in this wingnut Congress. Such proposals would eat into the profits of those who are buying the current democracy we have.