In a recent edition of the union newsletter The Stand, liberal commentator John Burbank wrote that we live in two Americas; that things are good for the 21%, by his count, and not so good for the rest of us. This view was prompted by a visit to Philadelphia, where he said in some areas he saw “not much hope and a lot of poverty.”
What Burbank calls the “downturn and diminishment of America” is the result, he says, of “changes in public law.” Burbank hails from the far left, so he may have forgotten that in Washington State, Democrats have signed every budget for 29 years, held five successive governorships, longer than in any other state, and dominated the state legislature for a generation.
Nationally, our country has had a Democratic president whose party, when he entered office, controlled both bodies of Congress and in short order enacted his massive stimulus bill and the sweeping Affordable Care Act. By the way, the city that prompted his “downturn and diminishment” comment has long been governed, like Detroit, by Democrats.
So, if we have experienced a decline, in Burbank’s view, because of changes in public law, then don’t Democrats and their policies bear much of the responsibility?
More to the point, however, is that Burbank says forcing a labor market minimum wage price of $15.00 an hour, as proposed by the union-sponsored ballot Proposition 1 in SeaTac, would show respect to working people and begin to cure America’s ills.
Actually, since the Proposition appears to be passing, we’ll soon see if a mandated super-high minimum wage will stifle job creation, drive hospitality businesses out of SeaTac and, most importantly, hurt people on the lower rungs of economic scale who are trying to stay employed. We will find out the answer to the question of how does it show respect to price a low-skilled or entry-level neighbor out of a job? How does it show respect to force some employers out of the city, or perhaps out of business completely?
Burbank says that airline passengers, on average, have higher incomes than airport workers, the implication being that this situation is unfair and we need a law to change it.
That’s the the kind of muddled thinking that drives so many flawed policy ideas on the left.
First, this is an apple-to-oranges comparison. Why some people accept an airport job, on one hand, or buy an airline ticket on the other, are two completely different decisions made for very different reasons. Second, Burbank overlooks the fact that deregulation and market competition have narrowed, not widened, the gap between airport workers and air travelers.
Think of the disparity between airport workers and airline travelers in, say, 1960, when air travel was much less common than it is today. Back then a plane ticket was out of reach of even most middle-class families. Today, thanks to improved technology and a thriving competitive market, average Americans, including many airport employees, have access to affordable air travel.
Burbank say he wants SeaTac to be a place that resonates with liberty and justice for all. But forcing a $15.00 an hour price control on jobs reduces liberty. Burbank wants the law to impose an arbitrary barrier making it illegal for an airport worker to voluntarily accept a job for $14.95 an hour, even if that would be best for her family. That’s not liberty or justice. It’s simply taking away people’s freedom and economic opportunities, and it’s not fair.
The most unfair part of Proposition 1 is that the union executives who are sponsoring it, at the Service Employee International Union, have exempted themselves from its provisions. You heard right. The super-high minimum wage would not apply to unionized businesses. That would allow union executives to negotiate a separate deal and give some companies an advantage over competitors who have to follow the law.
The best way to promote liberty and justice is through policies that allow people to be free to follow their dreams based on decisions they make for themselves. The best way for workers to earn a raise is through on-the-job experience and by acquiring better skills, neither of which would be available to workers who can’t get hired because of a super-high $15.00 minimum wage.
Reasonable people see that economic growth and opportunity for all does not come from narrow-minded utopians like John Burbank who want to “spread the wealth around” by using government power to impose their ideological views on the rest of us.