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Stephen Herrington

Stephen Herrington

Posted: October 7, 2010 12:48 PM

There comes a time, every few years actually, when government has to be the mommy of all the little greedy business boys and girls and make them take their medicine. Among the medications that business most dislikes the taste of is the Minimum Wage. Because business dislikes it, the GOP dislikes it, joined at the hip as they are to business.

Joe Miller, the crackpot Tea Party loon that won the GOP nomination for Senate from Alaska recently said, in public, that he thought the minimum wage to be unconstitutional. Bear in mind that the entire GOP hates the minimum wage. They stalled increases in it for the entire Bush Administration. Even more mainstream GOP candidates like Dino Rossi, Senate candidate in Washington State, have argued to lower it, although on less obviously irrational grounds than its constitutionality. Both Joe Miller and Dino are irretrievably wrong.

Rossi argues that Minimum wage is bad for business, raises costs and so raises prices. Rossi, apparently, flunked ECON 101. The cornerstone of economics is that productivity increases create wealth. Where that wealth ends up is critical to an economy. If productivity increases are shared between labor and business, the economy grows. If not, the economy is damaged by either of inflation or deflation. Trickle down economics is, by its nature, deflationary. Wages that are too high relative to value added are inflationary. Ideally these forces balance in the free market. But as libertarians are fond of pointing out, there is not such thing as a free market, never has been.

Business is the main offender in preventing a free labor market. Unions arose because of the inherent advantage that business has in setting wage scales. Unions and management can balance each other out over time and a certain amount of head knocking. But labor and management are more often than not in imbalance, wages growing more slowly with reference to productivity gains. Minimum wage is a measure by government to redress imbalance and so reduce the head knocking outcomes. That is its purpose, a sane government making sane choices about ameliorating the conflict between two natural enemies so that the conflict doesn't spill out into the streets with torches and pitchforks. When politicians are invested in having one or the other of the sides win, the intent of minimum wages as law is corrupted. It is not intended to create winners and losers, it is intended to maintain order.

So while Dino Rossi is intent on corrupting a system that has worked for 75 years to mediate the inherent conflict of labor and industry, the neophyte politician Joe Miller, and others of the current crazy crop of Tea Party candidates, is decrying it as unconstitutional. Miller is among the Tenth Amendment idiots, no clearer in vision and no more honest in intent than were the idiots who forced the Tenth's inclusion in the Bill of Rights in the first place. The Tenth is meaningless.

The Tenth Amendment endeavors, in club blunt words, to limit the power of the federal government to what was written in 1791 including the Tenth itself, seemingly negating all the effort of enacting the additional amendments. Government, both federal and state, should have saved their time if a pustule in the stream of competence such as is the Tea Party can succeed in convincing the public that all law post to the Tenth is illegal and unconstitutional.

The Tenth Amendment is a joke and was seen so when adopted solely to mollify the South that feared emancipation even then. The Southern States sought to freeze the argument over slavery with the Tenth. They might have succeeded had it not been for the simple logic that the venerable document that formed the nation was left unfinished for sake of the expediency of placating the slavers. The Tenthers then seem to be arguing that a Constitution that denies the personhood of tens of percents of the population is just fine with them, even though the prime tenant of the Declaration is that all men are created equal, self evidently. Not so self evident to the King or to the Tea Party it seems.

The Tenth states, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." It does not say that laws derived under and consistent with the Articles of the Constitution cannot be enacted over and above the original writing or that States, and certainly not individual citizens, obtain a power from it to overrule federal law or amendments duly adopted by two thirds of the states. The authority for making law over and above the words in the original Constitution is based in implied powers and is among the earliest arguments in Constitutional law. Implied powers are derived from the general welfare and necessary and proper clauses of the Preamble. Under the Tea Party interpretation that the Tenth limits the federal government in imposition of post ratification law, the Tenth is, logically, self nullifying. There can be no power to amend the Constitution that is asserted by a denial of its power to amend itself. It could just as easily be amended to say "we were just kidding with the Tenth". What defines law is a recognition of what best serves all or at least most of us, it is that we all agree on the enlightened and progressive thought that is the Preamble on which the Constitution and all law that follows is based. Anything that does not meet this measure is simply not sustainable as law.

No court in the land that has more than a trained ape in the seat of justice will uphold a challenge to Minimum Wage as it passes the test of promoting the general welfare. You would have to believe in Trickle Down economics to believe that it would not, and no one any longer believes in Trickle Down, if they ever did. Joe Miller is out on a Constitutional limb that won't support a down feather, and is an attorney. All you can conclude is that he is the most intellectually dishonest cracker to run for the Senate since "Tail Gunner" Joe McCarthy.

In 1968 the Minimum Wage was $1.80 per hour. On that hourly wage, in 40 hours a week, you could support a family of four with a stay at home mom in most of the country. The CPI has drifted around and the politic climate has change since then, and now the minimum wage will support about two thirds of one person. You have double up in housing and transportation to get by on it now. Don't add children or you will need food stamps and Medicaid, things invented to fight wage deflation.

The reason Minimum Wage won't support a person is that Republicans have been winning their war on Minimum Wage and Democrats have been tepid to chilly in defending it. The moderate Democrats seem to have bought into the idea that a growing economy and a free markets obviate the need for it. In this they are wrong, but not as wrong as are Republicans.

The drift away from support for Minimum Wage has been ill advised on several levels.

There is no free market for wages without government support. Business and corporations exert incessant pressure to lower wages and benefits with massive advantages. Against that pressure the only recourse without government involvement is labor unions. The National Labor Relations Board was created to balance the playing field. Unions have been eviscerated starting with Reagan's appointments to the NLRB of anti-union hard liners. Union busting became its own industry and wages have been in decline ever since. The fair market for labor, created by the New Deal Wagner Act, was destroyed by Republican governments. Minimum Wage, as an act of Congress, is now the main tool in balancing the benefits of economic growth, and without it, the economy is hostage to the willful misapprehensions of wage and economy dynamics of business and the Republicans.

Now, attacks on the minimum wage are the final resort of business to maintain profitability in markets put into decline by their own anti-labor agenda. Should they succeed in eliminating the minimum wage, there is no bottom for wages in America short of parity with the $2 a day scales of the third world. Business still fails to comprehend that a world filled with subsistence consumers will not power profits of any kind, not even with slaves as laborers.

It is an insanity of the gravest kind that business does not recognize the fate to which their aspirations lead. A world of impoverished people will not produce rich people. The already rich don't care. But those that follow, their own children and the working class of the world, should care, for they inherit the consequences of their parents and their parents employer's insatiable greed.

Assault on the minimum wage is not only an assault on the working class, it's an assault on the economy of the Untied States of America and all but an arrogant few who's futures do not depend on that economy. In the parlance of total warfare, it's the ultimate act of war. So, it's more than medicine for the greedy business boys and girls, it's really badly needed life saving medicine that they are marshaling armies of lobbyists and Tea Party zombies to resist. It's manifestly stupid to support them for not wanting to take the medicine.