Thursday, July 27, 2006

Mr. Broder's imaginary playmate

David Broder writes in The Washington Post:

My weekend visitor was one of the founders of the postwar Republican Party in the South, one of those stubborn men who challenged the Democratic rule in his one-party state. He was conservative enough that in the great struggle for the 1952 nomination, his sympathies were with Sen. Robert Taft of Ohio, not Dwight D. Eisenhower.

He has lived long enough to see Republicans elected as senator and governor of his state and to see a Republican from the Sun Belt behemoth of Texas capture the White House. His profession won't let him speak with his name attached, but he is sadly disillusioned.

"My wife was thrilled by the veto" Bush administered last week to the bill expanding federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, because she shares the president's belief that those clumps of cells destroyed in the research process represent human life. "I thought it was stupid," he said. "I know too many people who are like this" -- and he shook his hands like a victim of Parkinson's disease -- "and their only hope of a cure is in stem cells. Now Bush is forcing that science to move overseas."

He went on: "How the hell long can they refuse to raise the minimum wage?" He was furious, he said, with the Republican leaders of Congress who keep blocking bills to raise the minimum wage, which has been stuck at $5.15 an hour for years. "I'm a conservative," he said, "but they make me sound like a damned liberal the way they act. They spend like fools, they run up the deficits and they refuse to
give a raise to the working people who are struggling. How the hell are you supposed to live on $5.15 an hour these days?"

He had me right up until the part about the minimum wage. There are conservatives who are "simmering with rage" at what they (mostly correctly) perceive as a betrayal by the Bush administration, but their issue is not the minimum wage.

The fact is that religious conservatives are more likely to support an increase in the minimum wage than the libertarian economic conservatives. There are a great many religious people out there who know right from wrong on moral issues like abortion and stem cells but who don't have a clue about economics. They sincerely believe that the government can wave a magic wand and force employers to give workers a raise and it will not result in fewer jobs for unskilled workers and higher prices for consumers. They also believe the myth that there are large numbers of families out there being supported by a sole breadwinner making minimum wage.

What can you say; they went to public school.

Broder is correct that the libertarian minded fiscal conservatives are upset with the stem cell veto. Many of them, like Broder's almost certainly fictitious "friend", are older and have, or fear to contract, a disease like Parkinson’s or one of the tens of thousands of other ailments which stem cell advocates deceitfully promise cures for if we’ll just raise Mengele from the dead and turn him lose with a government grant.

These folks are also upset and disgusted with congressional Republicans' profligate spending, but because they know enough economics to understand why grabbing a larger and larger share of the nation’s GDP for the state is a bad idea they will also realize that the minimum wage is a lie which harms the people which it is intended to help.

The minimum wage is an entry level wage which is paid to new workers who lack the skills and work ethic to create significant value for their employers. When a worker has been trained in the performance of his job and has learned the importance of things like showing up on time, being polite, maintaining an acceptable appearance and so on his pay is raised. Otherwise the employee will be lost to another company because in today's workplace there is a shortage of people who can do the job while showing up on time, not stinking and not cursing at the customers (see: Public Schools).

Libertarian fiscal conservatives know this. They become angry at the suggestion that the minimum wage be raised, not the other way around.

What the conservative base, a large segment of which is made up of the “religious right”, is upset with the President and Congress about is first and foremost the sellout on illegal immigration. Next on the list would be out of control spending and the general growth of government. We thought we were getting Reagan II. Instead we got LBJ, Jr.