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Minimum Wage Hits $9.50 in Santa Fe

by Christopher Chantrill
January 22, 2006 at 2:33 pm

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THIS MONTH, in the liberal bastion of Santa Fe, New Mexico, they are raising the minimum wage in the city to $9.50 per hour. The measure applies to all businesses with 25 or more employees.

The driving force behind this decision was Acorn, the “national community organization,” as Jon Gertner describes it in The New York Times Magazine for January 15, 2006.

Acorn has discovered that the way to win on the minimum wage issue is to cast it not as an economic issue but as a moral issue. When Santa Fe’s City Council got a round table of nine residents to “settle the specifics of the proposed living-wage law” they found that “What really got the other side was when we said, ‘It’s just immoral to pay people $5.15, they can’t live on that.” On February 26, 2003, the council voted to “set a wage floor at $8.50 an hour,” increasing to $9.50 in January 2006 and $10.50 in 2008 for businesses employing 25 or more people.

So liberals believe in legislating morality after all. They just draw the line at other people legislating morality.

Jen Kern isn’t just any old activist for Acorn. In a 2002 Christian Science Monitor article she’s identified as “executive director of the Living Wage Resource Center for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN).”

“ACORN is a grassroots political organization that grew out of George Wiley’s National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO),” according to www.discoverthenetwork.org. “Today it claims 175,000 dues-paying member families, and more than 850 chapters in 70 U.S. cities.” It runs schools to teach children its philosophy of class warfare. Its finances are rather murky, but it is believed to get a lot of money from labor unions to fund Jan Kern’s living wage program. In return, it usually manages to exempt union members from the minimum wage laws that it sponsors, and in 1995 sued in California to have its own employees exempted from California’s minimum wage laws. And, of course, in the 2004 election cycle ACORN’s “get-out-the-vote activists turned up at the center of numerous reports of voter fraud, especially in the swing states of Ohio, Colorado, Missouri Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Minnesota.”

The problem with minimum-wage laws, as ACORN lawyers argued in their brief in California state courts, is that “the more that ACORN must pay each individual outreach worker, . . . the fewer outreach workers it will be able to hire.” Economists have done a pretty thorough job analyzing the phenomenon too, and they agree with ACORN. Writes Thomas Sowell, economist:

[M]inimum wage laws in countries around the world protect higher-paid workers from the competition of lower paid workers... the net economic effect of minimum wage laws is to make less skilled, less experienced, or otherwise less desired workers more expensive -- thereby pricing many of them out of jobs.

When Jen Kern gets Santa Fe to raise the minimum wage up to $9.50 and soon to $10.80 she is getting the city to saw off the bottom rungs of the employment ladder. Marginal, entry-level workers that aren’t worth $9.50 an hour for an employer to train—well they just won’t be able to find a job, not in liberal Santa Fe. Maybe they can take the bus to the red state of Texas and get a job there.

Let us relate this issue to Lee Harris and his analysis of the world-historical conflict between the productive western team and the “eternal gang of ruthless men” in his Civilization and Its Enemies.

For two hundred years the United States has offered a means for people, usually peasants, to escape from under the knout of their local gang of landowners to the world of trust and teamwork in the city, the promised land where a man need not shelter in dependency and clientage under a powerful lord but may prosper merely by offering his skills and talent on the labor market.

Along that road to the middle class the peasant encounters the roadside stalls of various hucksters hawking a variety of social and political institutions to help them on their way. The offerings range from the predatory gang to the self-governing team. There is the stall of the city street gang, the city political machine, the radical activist group, and the labor union. Then there is the enthusiastic church, the fraternal lodge, the self-governing association. Which one will the traveler choose?

Many immigrants to America have started out life in the new world by subordinating themselves to a criminal gang or city machine or to a radical political group like ACORN. That is their right. The glory of America is that, any time they are ready, they can climb out of the desert of the gang culture for the sunny green uplands of the productive team. Except in Santa Fe.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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Faith & Purpose

“When we began first to preach these things, the people appeared as awakened from the sleep of ages—they seemed to see for the first time that they were responsible beings, and that a refusal to use the means appointed was a damning sin.”
Finke, Stark, The Churching of America, 1776-1990


Mutual Aid

In 1911... at least nine million of the 12 million covered by national insurance were already members of voluntary sick pay schemes. A similar proportion were also eligible for medical care.
Green, Reinventing Civil Society


Education

“We have met with families in which for weeks together, not an article of sustenance but potatoes had been used; yet for every child the hard-earned sum was provided to send them to school.”
E. G. West, Education and the State


Living Under Law

Law being too tenuous to rely upon in [Ulster and the Scottish borderlands], people developed patterns of settling differences by personal fighting and family feuds.
Thomas Sowell, Conquests and Cultures


German Philosophy

The primary thing to keep in mind about German and Russian thought since 1800 is that it takes for granted that the Cartesian, Lockean or Humean scientific and philosophical conception of man and nature... has been shown by indisputable evidence to be inadequate. 
F.S.C. Northrop, The Meeting of East and West


Knowledge

Inquiry does not start unless there is a problem... It is the problem and its characteristics revealed by analysis which guides one first to the relevant facts and then, once the relevant facts are known, to the relevant hypotheses.
F.S.C. Northrop, The Logic of the Sciences and the Humanities


Chappies

“But I saw a man yesterday who knows a fellow who had it from a chappie that said that Urquhart had been dipping himself a bit recklessly off the deep end.”  —Freddy Arbuthnot
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison


Democratic Capitalism

I mean three systems in one: a predominantly market economy; a polity respectful of the rights of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and a system of cultural institutions moved by ideals of liberty and justice for all. In short, three dynamic and converging systems functioning as one: a democratic polity, an economy based on markets and incentives, and a moral-cultural system which is plural and, in the largest sense, liberal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism


Action

The incentive that impels a man to act is always some uneasiness... But to make a man act [he must have] the expectation that purposeful behavior has the power to remove or at least to alleviate the felt uneasiness.
Ludwig von Mises, Human Action


Churches

[In the] higher Christian churches... they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a string of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger. If God were to blast such a service to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it every minute.
Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm


Conversion

“When we received Christ,” Phil added, “all of a sudden we now had a rule book to go by, and when we had problems the preacher was right there to give us the answers.”
James M. Ault, Jr., Spirit and Flesh


Living Law

The recognition and integration of extralegal property rights [in the Homestead Act] was a key element in the United States becoming the most important market economy and producer of capital in the world.
Hernando de Soto, The Mystery of Capital


presented by Christopher Chantrill

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