George F. Will, a syndicated columnist for the Washington
Post, rejects the federal government mandating a raise in the minimum wage.
Why? Because the market is better than Uncle Sam at setting the price of
commodities such as human labor, he writes.
For Will, the plan of the new Democratic majority now in
charge of Congress to increase the federal minimum wage is a measure of the
party�s blind faith in FDR�s New Deal legislation. That created some
worker-friendly laws. U.S. labor unions and the working class generally did
better for a time.
For Will, the Democrats� nostalgia for that period is out of
step with the modern era. For starters, he is correct to write that wage
earners are a commodity bought and sold in the marketplace. He also proves that
a broken clock tells accurate time twice a day.
The federal minimum wage is a national piece of a global
economy, which Will sidesteps. Let us go where he does not concerning
government, the market and wages.
Misnamed free-trade pacts put the vast majority of U.S.
wage-earners in direct market competition with lower-paid workers in the
developing world. The North American Free Trade Agreement is a case in point.
It took effect under Democratic President William Jefferson Clinton.
NAFTA is an example of Uncle Sam intervening in the global
and national marketplace. And this intervention has adjusted wage levels of
most U.S. workers downward, with a mandated increase in the federal minimum
wage a response to such a trend. To wit, a new poll by the Pew Research Center
for the People & the Press �found that Americans expressed far more doubts
about trade than saw it as advantageous.� Main Street knows what time it is,
At the same time, trade pacts protect some highly paid U.S.
workers, such as syndicated columnists like Will. Thus he does not need to fret
about a journalist from a developing country happily applying for his job at a
much lower wage. Will�s protected wages thanks to government intervention are
nice work if you can get it.
Thus he writes: �the minimum wage should be the same
everywhere: $0. Labor is a commodity; governments make messes when they decree
Well, turnabout is fair play, right? Try this thought
experiment. Reject a mandated increase in the federal minimum wage to $7.25 an
hour from $5.15.
Meanwhile, make Will and other high-paid U.S. workers, such
as medical doctors, compete with lower-paid journalists and physicians from
developing nations for paid employment in the USA. Maybe then Will�s blind
faith in the marketplace would change if/when his employer becomes the Wal-Mart
Post or some such named low-price and low-wage paper.
Such an outcome is possible. Daily newspapers are losing ad
revenue and readers. Meanwhile private equity firms flush with cash are
potential buyers for these papers, and as such would have the power vested in
them as owners to reduce an unclear number of American journalists to the status
of workers laboring for hourly pay that hovers near the federal minimum wage,
of which $7.25 an hour sure beats the current rate of $5.15.
Sandronsky is a member of Sacramento Area Peace Action and a co-editor of Because People Matter, Sacramento's
progressive paper. He can be reached at: email@example.com.