Consider the plight of the nation after the 1929 stock market crash and the impending Great Depression which would follow. The nation languished for years in a state of stagnant economics as the federal government, under the leadership of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, created program after program to raise the nation up off its knees. Much like the efforts of the current administration, those efforts failed time and again. The Roosevelt administration wrestled the problem for twelve long years—a circumstance made possible by FDR running for a third term despite the directives of the Constitution. Amazingly, a great faction of Americans pay homage to Roosevelt, holding him up as our ‘economic savior’ when in reality our success in climbing out of the economic malaise came about with the advent of World War II. Economically, the nation was saved by that war, as were the failed intentions of the Roosevelt Administration.
Then along comes Lyndon Baines Johnson to serve as president following the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963. LBJ was primarily focused on carving a place for himself in history. His timing was quite lucky in that civil rights was the red-hot issue of the day, and LBJ’s legacy would derive from efforts to have the federal government create the basis of “fairness and equality” through legislation. Johnson moved forward with his Great Society campaign by creating programs like Head Start and the War on Poverty. Head Start was designed to put children of minorities on equal footing educationally with their peers, a goal to be achieved simply by throwing taxpayer dollars at a given sector of the population. This effort continues today without significant results. The War on Poverty is another program that continues today, with the American taxpayer footing the bill for some $15 trillion dollars since its inception with very poor results. The only thing that money has bought is greater poverty. Here again is another example of the government attempting to legislate “fairness and equality” while ignoring the fact that “opportunity” would be far more effective than either in terms of positive and desired results.
On the basis of the two examples above, we can conclude one fact without a doubt. If the federal government were in the business of horse racing, all of their ponies would be “juiced-up” at the starting gate in order to go for the win. In the government’s eyes, the opportunity to race is not enough; we have to “juice” some of the horses in order for the race to be fair and equal all the way to the finish line. Trouble is, “juicing a horse” is an easy and straight-forward proposition, whereas successfully legislating “fairness and equality” is all but impossible—as it should be. Opportunity exists for anyone who wants it, and is the essence of American greatness. Our energy must go into protecting the freedom and opportunity of each and every individual to seek his level in our society, not to legislate it. We were founded on the principles of equality, but equality of opportunity, not equality of results.
Today we hear the cry for fairness and equality taking shape over the minimum wage. We have politicians in Washington who have never worked a day in their lives for a profit-making concern, and yet these are the very ones who are arguing that “everyone deserves a living wage,” without ever defining what the term “living wage” actually means. You see, they cannot afford to define it because it would vary from individual to individual depending on an array of circumstances. For example, an $8/hour wage will get you much farther in North Carolina than in New York City.
Unfortunately, the government and much of the public believe that corporations keep wages low purely out of greed, and that profits are a foregone conclusion. Neither is true, of course. In a free market economy, wages are determined by what the market will bear. If it becomes too costly to hire or retain a minimum wage earner—i.e., the consumer (market) gives the thumbs down to a more expensive commodity—corporations will be forced to automate, shut down, or reduce their workforce. As for profit, Corporations can set goals, but those goals have to be met by consumer demand. Thus, it should be evident that labor costs are simply one of the considerations of bringing an item to market at the most competitive price. Profit is a much more dicey proposition than saying à la Captain Picard, "Make it so!"
But, with one small wave of his hand, President Obama is determined to raise the minimum wage by a whopping 39%. Alarmingly, the president actually believes that American business as a whole can absorb such a move without experiencing significant fallout in terms of business failures. Entry level labor costs are a big factor in the total overhead of a business. It is absurd to think such a significant increase will not result in an immediate and major financial impact on the consumer marketplace. The cost of labor—just like the price of fuel— ends up on the price tag of our goods and services.
Let us really look at this effort for what it is rather than what it attempts to represent. The desired public perception here is that the government is “looking out for the little guy” and making sure that fairness and equality are in place for him. Politicians love the fact that Americans see the government’s role that way because it garners votes and, at the same time, gives more and more power and control to them. Ultimately, however, this effort is not about the little guy at all. If one looks at the faction of American workers who are receiving minimum wage, they will find that two-thirds of them are not even living on their own yet. They are students and part-time employees earning a bit of extra money and still living at home with their parents. Their current wage is not a factor in their quality of life per se, and yet Washington promulgates the narrative that increasing their wages by 39% is absolutely necessary. Is that the case? In a word, the answer is a resounding “NO”.
Ultimately, the move to increase the minimum wage is one of selfish political action. In the end, an increase in the minimum wage will benefit big labor unions because their contracts have provisions in them that use the minimum wage as a starting point. On that a basis, a company or corporation operating under union shop status cannot simply elect to raise its minimum wage level employees; by contract, it must raise the wages of all its union employees proportionately. One does not have to “do the math” to see that the financial impact of a hike in minimum wage, especially in a low profit margin industry, would be disastrous. Through their collection of dues, large unions are big supporters of politicians, especially those in the Democrat Party. A higher payroll means more dues, which in turn means more money contributed to the political coffers come election time. This, evidently, is where we find the essence of “fairness and equality” as it exists today in the heart of the American politician.
We hear the argument all the time that our federal government cannot operate like a private sector business, but we rarely hear why, since any discussion has long since been silenced by the legislative efforts of those populating Washington D.C. Essentially the government cannot run like a business because, in its infinite wisdom, it has made sure legislatively that it can’t. It doesn’t have a budget, much less live within one, and it isn’t fiscally responsible, as exemplified by trillions in current debt and raising the debt ceiling to spend even more.
Living by a budget, being fiscally responsible, upholding the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Rule of Law is all that the government really needs to do to achieve “fairness and equality” for all people living in this nation. Our government should provide us with the protection of a competent and effective military, and defend the principles of our founders concerning life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. No one is guaranteed anything more than an opportunity . Not you. Not me. What we do with that opportunity is up to us in the “Land of the Free.”
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