We have a new hot-button political issue to talk about these days and it’s none other than the minimum wage. By and large Democrats are for a minimum wage hike and Republicans are starkly against it. Either way it’s hard to deny that the plight of the low-wage worker is a very real problem on one level or another. All one has to do is learn that some mega-corporations – that shall remain nameless – are asking customers and even employees to subsidize the income of other employees and then you’ll realize just how bad the situation is. Ultimately, it’s the greater good versus the bottom line; a stimulated economy versus corporate profits.
Conventional wisdom would tell you that since the majority of Republicans are against an increase in the minimum wage it would stand to reason that the richest of the rich are against it, too. It would be reasonable to assume so and often that is, in fact, the case. However, there are a few who just cannot help but surprise you. Here at the Liberal Conservative I’ve already previously mentioned one by the name of William Gross. But, I’m here to tell you about another one. Ron Unz.
Unz is the publisher behind the libertarian magazine, The American Conservative, and he’s also a theoretical physicist in the making. In fairness, he’s also against bilingual education; but, let’s focus on the positives for now.
On Tuesday, November 26 Unz submitted paperwork to the California government for what ABC News calls a “…aggressive minimum wage hike…” to be added to the ballot. The hike would bring the state minimum wage to $12/hr by 2016. And when you get down to it, it actually makes sense for a fiscal conservative – a real fiscal conservative – to support an increase in the minimum wage. Such an increase could lead to a sizable cut-down on corporate welfare that comes as a direct result of full-time employees requiring food stamps and welfare to get by. The only real negative? We’d have to pay a few extra cents for our favorite disgusting fast food.
ABC News interviewed Mr. Unz about his pro-wage increase movement and his belief that conservatives should join the cause. He had some rather interesting things to say:
The initiative is targeted for the November 2014 ballot. If it passed early in 2015, the minimum wage in California will go up to $10 an hour; early in 2016 it would be raised to $12 an hour. In other words, the initiative in a couple of stages would raise the minimum wage of all California workers to $12 an hour.
ABC mentions at this point that California legislators have already approved legislation that would – bit by bit – raise the wage to $10/hr by 2016. Mr. Unz is just pushing for a bit more; $10/hr by 2015 and the aforementioned jump to $12/hr in 2016.
On his conservatism Mr. Unz said:
I generally consider myself more of a conservative. I come from a scientific background. So I try to sort of look at things on a case-by-case basis and take whatever position seems to make the most sense to me. Many times those positions are conservative, but sometimes they’re not. If people want to call me a conservative that’s fine, and if people claim I’m not a true conservative, that’s also fine.
It’s almost as if he’s me…
Still, considering his conservatism and libertarian stance one cannot help but wonder what exactly is behind his view on the minimum wage:
One aspect of the minimum wage rise, which I think is underappreciated, is [that] it would function as a massive stimulus package, a government stimulus package. If the minimum wage nationwide were raised to $12 an hour, probably between $150 billion and $175 billion a year would go into the pockets of the lower-wage families that spend every dollar they earn. It would cause a tremendous boost in economic demand.
Another important factor: One of the strange things in our society right now is that we have all these low-wage workers who are getting $7.50, $8 or $9 an hour, and because they earn such small wages, the government subsidizes them with billions or tens of billions of dollars of social welfare spending that comes from the taxpayer.
It’s a classic example of businesses’ privatizing the benefits of their workers while socializing the costs, thus forcing the taxpayers to supplement the salary of their own employees.
Here’s where Mr. Unz and Liberals differ. It is generally a Liberal belief that a higher minimum wage would do damage to the support programs and financial safety nets like welfare and food stamps. I, for one, cannot help but agree with Unz’s counter-argument:
I’m not really a liberal, so I have no problem undercutting those programs… Seems to me the average worker would prefer to have much higher wages so that they don’t get food stamps… And remember, many of them are actually Republican voters. They’re the sort of conservative lower-middle-class base of the Republican Party… Over 40 percent of all white Southerners would see a wage increase under a $12-an-hour minimum wage. And the average increase would be $4,500 a year. I think you’d see a lot of enthusiasm that would cross party and ideological lines.
In other words, a higher minimum wage would make social safety nets significantly less important. How many Wal-Mart or McDonald’s employees would be able to drop their food stamps coverage if they could afford food on their own? I’m guessing quite a few.
Edited by SS