Former Gov. Edwin Edwards enjoyed the thought of being called “The Sun King” after the French King Louis XIV, who provided Louisiana with its name. But it’s Louis’ great-grandson, Louis XVI, and wife Marie Antoinette whom current Gov. John Bel Edwards most resembles on the issue of raising the minimum wage.
The comparison doesn’t come from Edwards’ spouting inaccuracies when testifying on behalf of state Sen. Karen Peterson’s Senate Bill 269, which hikes the wage in two steps and creates bureaucratic procedures to enforce it. Instead, Edwards emulates the royal couple, eventually beheaded, in their obliviousness to the plight of the less well-off.
Edwards lectured state senators not to “be persuaded” that “any increase in the minimum wage is going to decrease the number of jobs available. That has simply not been borne out by the facts.” What “facts” he conjured on this remain a mystery to government and academic analysts on the question. Their most recent research almost universally shows that raising the minimum wage reduced the number of jobs produced, disproportionately eliminating jobs at the lower end of the economic scale. The research also shows that for those who keep their jobs despite the wage hike, almost all of the financial benefit helps those not at the lowest salary levels.
When work costs higher than its actual value to society, producers must pass on the extra expense to consumers and/or find cheaper ways to perform the labor, such as automation, the use of illegal aliens, and outsourcing beyond America’s borders. American citizens and legal residents see fewer total jobs created for them, with those toward the bottom of the ladder hurt relatively worse.
After his remarks, the media didn’t ask Edwards whether he could avoid such problems because he believed his regal gubernatorial powers included repeal of the law of supply and demand. Instead, they asked if he felt concerned that a higher minimum wage could drive up prices for consumers. He dismissed those comments by saying, “The cost of goods is going up, anyway.”
I see. So, as long as the overall cost of living is going up, it’s all right for government to artificially make goods and services cost even more? And with the poorer suffering the most from the inflation it causes? Let them eat cake, indeed.
Speaking about her bill, Peterson added to the nonsense by alleging that many in urban areas like New Orleans earned at the minimum wage while supporting families. National data falsify that claim.
Only 4.3 percent of workers receive pay at or below the federal minimum wage (the rate paid in Louisiana), which includes those jobs that pay the $2.13 base wage plus. Of these workers, those under age 25 make up more than half the total. The vast majority in this group do so to gain entry-level experience or to earn money while in school, and they live in households with an average income three times the poverty level. Even among the 25-and-older workers, their households typically earn about twice the poverty level. Among the whole group, roughly two-thirds work part-time, while only one-sixth are sole breadwinners with dependents.
But the most interesting comment on the matter came from Edwards, who proclaimed the bill was “about families” and represented the pursuit of “policies that value families.” Defining “Edwards family values” as supporting policies that put more of the people most in need out of work and that push families’ cost of living higher doesn’t make for a great re-election platform. Rather, it should make his future electoral beheading more likely.
Jeff Sadow is an associate professor of political science at Louisiana State University Shreveport, where he teaches Louisiana Government. He is author of a blog about Louisiana politics at http://www.between-lines.com, where links to information in this column may be found. When the Louisiana Legislature is in session, he writes about legislation in it at http://www.laleglog.com. Follow him on Twitter, @jsadowadvocate. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His views do not necessarily express those of his employer.