Vail Daily column: A simple, telling question
April 3, 2014
Here's a quick test for whether you lean more Republican or Democrat: Should the minimum wage be raised?
Answer carefully. The question is a tap root into political belief as it relates to your heart, your mind and, of course, the role of government.
Partisans and nonpartisans alike are for everyone doing well, living good lives and making good livings.
The mischief just lies in how best to get there.
The Democrats tend to cast this discussion in terms of everyone's right to a "liveable wage" and government's responsibility to set things right.
The problem is that adding costs has a direct connection to rising prices. Lifting the minimum wage becomes a short-term solution that all too-quickly gets eaten up in higher expenses for living.
That "liveable" wage no longer is so liveable. Now what? Raise minimum wage again?
The problem is that doesn't seem to work for very long.
Republicans will tend to decry the effect on jobs, show the business world's empty pockets and declare that artificially raising the minimum wage will wreak havoc on an always fragile economy.
Businesses won't be able to hire as many or promote the best employees and too many will wind up closing because they can't afford to stay in business.
HYPERBOLE ON BOTH SIDES
Of course, that's exaggerated, too. These are Republicans and Democrats we're talking about, right? Everything now is all hyperbole, hot smoke and run to your favorite news outlet to tell you the facts as you want to hear them.
Small and larger businesses close all the time in the best of economies. It's a tough world. The affordability of labor argument's ultimate baseline goes back to the Civil War. The South claimed it had to have slave labor.
Government is the hallmark of civilization. Government strangles civilization. Both statements are absolutely true, as we well know. Another point is that a government's harm or benefit depends on who is doing the governing. And what a complicated mess that is at every level.
Government is no more all powerful than it is all wise. Recessions may ease or worsen with government actions, but they still visit, along with the occasional bubble. Then we have the "politics" aspect that makes what already is difficult nearly impossible for all the jockeying for influence and power.
Still, we have to decide.
Raise the minimum wage or trust market forces to settle the question?
After all, we each choose to go for this job over that, to study or play, work harder or enjoy free time more, to work for ourselves or others, and so on.
Out of that stew come CEOs and day laborers. Ski Patrol is hiring, if you are skilled enough. The pay is low, but what a job.
It's even a little more than minimum. I'm pretty sure if they can't find the right people to fill the jobs, the pay will go up.
Ski Patrol's bosses' bosses make a lot more, maybe as much as the whole unit's payroll. Essentially, the same calculations are at play between supply and demand.
What's fair? What leads to the best collective result? To identify as Republican or Democrat in this case especially seems to distill to your root ethics.
Are you more about liberty or leveling the playing field? The logical arguments out there with respect to minimum wage strike me as equally compelling. And so we each have to dig a little deeper for where we come down on the topic.
I find myself going more to personal responsibility and opportunity to choose what jobs I pursue, with their attendant consequences. I tended to work a little harder for a little less than some others in roles that engaged me, and wound up here.
I might have done better and might have done worse. But I had the tiller. That does inform my views about a lot of things, including minimum wage.
Whether to raise it is a deceptively simple question and so telling about us.
Editor and Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-748-2920.
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