Wages, ignorance & hubris

Wages, ignorance & hubris

“Progressives” are lamenting that there won’t be a massive hike in Pennsylvania’s minimum wage with the advent of the new state budget on July 1.

“I was incredibly disappointed that the increase in the minimum wage was taken out of the budget,” Rep. Patty Kim, the prime sponsor of the House bill to raise the wage, told The Patriot-News.

“This should have been a non-negotiable item (for the governor) and it is a terrible message we’re sending out to workers in Pennsylvania,” the Harrisburg Democrat said.

But in actuality, and in a most perverse dichotomy, Kim and fellow liberals are mourning that the cost of doing business for businesses across the commonwealth won’t be jacked up, that thousands of entry-level jobs won’t disappear and that the hours for some of those holding those jobs won’t be reduced.

Talk about “a terrible message.”

The Wolf administration sought to raise the state-set wage floor from $7.25 an hour to, first, $12 hourly and, later, to $15 an hour. Legislative Republicans, as they should have, balked, even at some reported (but unspecified) compromise deal.

Wages should rise, as House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster County, reminds, “organically.” That means wages should be based on worker productivity, not set by government fiat.

Many Pennsylvania liberals argued that raising the minimum wage would take an untold number of low-paid workers off the public assistance rolls. By eliminating jobs and putting workers with no pay on the state dole?

Others argued that raising the wage floor by state diktat would generate $50 million in annual tax revenues for state coffers. That, according to a May analysis by the state’s Independent Fiscal Office (IFO).

After all, it’s all about “The State,” isn’t it?

But never mind, as the Patriot-News also dutifully reported (and as Republicans highlighted), a projection from the same IFO that raising the minimum wage would result in a net loss of 34,000 jobs.

What’s “progressive” about denying 34,000 people the chance to step onto that first rung of the employment ladder, a critical step that enables people to learn how to work?

The Patriot-News reports there could be further negotiations later this year to raise the Keystone State’s minimum wage. But, it adds, if no middle ground is reached soon, “that could leave this issue back in the cauldron of partisan politics.”

But that pot would be stirred not by those who have the temerity to understand fundamental economics but by those imbued with the economics ignorance so indigenous to “social justice” hubris.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).