It looks like the New York State Assembly majority Democrats are introducing or have introduced a bill raising the state's minimum wage to $8.50, the same as the federal minimum wage. And they've evidently done so on ethical or humanitarian grounds rather than entering the netherworld of macroeconomic best practices. Nonetheless the blood is already being shed.
Not surprisingly the state's largest business organization, the New York State Business Council, and the state's largest farm organization, the New York State Farm Bureau, are none too happy about the Assembly's actions. Here's what they collectively say:
I simply cannot see this competitive disadvantage ever manifesting. Look, it didn't happen in either New Jersey or Connecticut or Vermont or Massachusetts when each state raised its respective minimum wage to a level greater than New York's. Did the Business Council go out and rent space in-advance of the torrent of corporate relocation into New York when these states jacked up their rates? Of course not. And as we speak, the state of Connecticut is in the process of raising its minimum wage again to $9.75 per hour--34% higher than New York's current rate, and 14% higher than New York's proposed rate. In anticipation, are Connecticut businesses packing their bags and heading west to New York? Of course not. Expecting such an exodus is near-absurd.
The fact is that New Jersey and Connecticut companies did not flee from their respective states' higher mandated wages; and as such, companies in New York should not be expected to flee their state for the exact same reasons--especially when the neighboring states have higher rates. To believe so is simply nonsensical.
The Business Council also says that they have studies supporting their case. They probably do. Everybody's got 'em, by the truckload, and laminated too. But empirical facts on the ground are always better. Especially when the empiricism takes place in one's own backyard.
This really leads me to wonder if the smart people at the Business Council--and they really are sharp people--sincerely believe what they're selling. Nor am I'm not sure why, but it seems like they're setting up a zero-sum game where one doesn't need exist. Unless they see it as political zero-sum. But I just can't see that either.
As for the state's farmers, they say this:
Yet, curiously enough, New York's farmers do not turn down price supports. These are also something that the market does not dictate that we typically call a stealth money tree. (And sheesh...if you're talking about absolutely shredding basic economic doctrine for easy cash you just can't do much better than price supports.)
Last, but certainly not least, another group out of Rochester called Unshackle Upstate adds this:
What's interesting about this last group is that it infuses the debate with a petuantly mercenary Upstate bias. They. Are. Entitled. So. Screw. You. The irony here is that groups like Unshackle excoriate elected officials when a so-called Downstate bias--imaginary or real--is detected in policy making. And unfortunately they've become about as analytical and constructive as Pavlov's dog. Especially so while they're convincing themselves that The State--Downstate particularly--rather than lousy ideas, obdurate political leaders, and weirdo perspective--which this group personifies writ large--lay at the base of their economic flatline.
All of which is a real shame because there's an awful lot of bright and ambitious people in Western New York--whom I highly doubt have an unhealthy obsession with the speaker of the state assembly in their business plan. So if any of you folks are reading this, steer clear of these Unshackle mooks. Because you can take this to the bank: Tom Golisano is playing you like a violin to settle some personal political scores. Think I'm kidding about any of this, just look at what happened--is happening--in the Albany and Hudson Valley areas without guys like Golisano, Carl Paladino and Chris Collins around to poison the well. These guys have never seen a promising project--including themselves--that they couldn't wreck through self-interested stupidity. And no, I really don't believe I embellish here.
But back on the bill, as they say, I'm genuinely unsure if opponents to the bill can really perceive the near-gallactic economic difference between Manhattan and say, Rochester; and what it takes to get by in both places. Nor am I sure whether this is benign ignorance or willful oversight. But I'm pretty sure that most good-faith opponents would hold a diametrically alternative view on minimum wage after walking a mile in say, the shoes of some just-squeezing-by Brooklyn family whose crowded, cold and crappy apartment on Eastern Parkway is running them twice the monthly mortgage payment of the average Rochester homeowner. Then throw in food, day care, transportation costs...you do the math. It's not pretty. And if this recitation of reality is Downstate bias, so be it--I guess.
And if you doubt any of this, just try it sometime.
I like to think that such a change in perspective on the issue is likely once the facts are known. Just as it's pretty self-evident to everyone other than Unshackle Upstate, that there's far, far more struggling Brooklyn-types than there are such Rochester-types who may not need the wage boost nearly as acutely. In fact, the Downstate/Upstate numbers here are ridiculously lopsided.
So I guess the question for The People is this: Should a highly-speculative cost theorized by a petulant and self-interesed minority determine the demonstrable benefit of a far, far greater majority?
But like most things in politics it will probably all boil down to unvarnished, fundamental concept. Who's got the better one, and who doesn't. Sheldon Silver, the principal sponsor of the wage legislation puts it this way:
Is it just me, or does this rationale strike anybody else as some kind of butchered Zen koan? Or put another way, if anybody reading this has any idea what this guy's talking about--and why because of that the minimum wage should not be raised--please drop a comment. In the meantime I think I'll stick with 'Nobody working full-time should be poor.'
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