Thursday, January 11, 2007

Misrepresentation 102 - Devil is in the details

In nearly 7 months of campaigning I was told by exactly two people the minimum wage shouldn't be raised after being stuck for the last decade. Their arguments were the talking points distributed by the US Chamber of Commerce that it would be bad for business. Yet, as Inc. Magazine (one of my favorites) points out, Discovery Financial Services surveyed 1,000 small business owners and 70% said an increase would have minimal impact on labor costs. A separate survey in the article showed that small business growth was actually greater in states with higher minimum wages.

Sometimes politicians take a stance against a bill that is to his or her constituents completely unacceptable. Representative Scott Garrett took such an action when he took the floor to oppose the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007. In his less than eloquent wording, he makes a bunch of unsubstantiated and factual misrepresentations grasping for a legitimate argument. Here's his minute on the floor on our behalf:

I rise to oppose this harmful legislation and to oppose the Democrats' plan to interfere with and interject themselves in individuals' personal decisions as to where they are going to work.

I also stand here, actually, in awe of the omniscient view the other side of the aisle has of themselves, this all-knowing, all-seeing view that they know better than families do as to where they are going to work and micromanage their lives. Regardless of whether it is a kid in Iowa after school working on a farm throwing hay or it is a woman in Chicago working at a high-tech plant on an assembly line or it is a man in New York going back as a second career trying to get a job in the finance industry, the other side of the aisle would tell us that each one of those individuals should be paid exactly the same, regardless of their age, regardless of the work, regardless of their experience, regardless of demographics, and regardless of the cost of living in those areas. I tell you, Mr. Speaker, it is unfair.

And, finally, Mr. Speaker, this body, which has been unable to get its finances and house in order for the last 40 years, is in no position to be telling the American public and the families of this country how they should be getting their finances in order.
There are three points that need to be stressed. First, I'm not sure who he's saying the bill is unfair to. As I mentioned above, small businesses who account for 80% of the job creation in this country are largely indifferent if not supportive. To those who work minimum wage jobs, one raise in ten years hardly seems unfair.

Second, his litany of oddly matched job comparisons was completely devoid of fact. Now I couldn't find what a part-time farmhand in Iowa makes, but an entry level assembly worker at the bottom end of the pay scale in Chicago makes roughly $11.40 an hour and an operations clerk in the finance world in NYC at the bottom end makes roughly $12.26 an hour. The bill increased the minimum wage in the US and our protectorate the Northern Mariana Islands* to $7.25 an hour in three stages over two years (longer for the Marianas). Nowhere in the bill does it call for the aforementioned wage earners to take a five dollar an hour pay cut, and somehow (call it a hunch) I doubt that will be a result.

Third, his castigation of the House was once again devoid of fact. Under the PAYGO rules of the 90's, the government actually ran surpluses for a short time and held average increases in government spending under 4%. PAYGO expired in 2002 before Garrett entered the House, and since then new spending averaged over 10% and we've had record deficits. Garrett, the "fiscal conservative" recently voted against the reinstatement of PAYGO.

This speech is an example of where rhetoric and fact collide, and rhetoric is beaten to pulp. This is what our Representative gave us, gross misrepresentation while grasping for straws. I applaud the rest of the Republicans in New Jersey's delegation for doing the right thing for the working poor and our overall economic strength. It's about time.

*For those that don't know, the Northern Mariana's are a US protectorate, and were a big time source of cash for Jack Ambramoff . Without a meaningful minimum wage, which Abramoff was paid to fend off, it enabled sweatshop operations where the owners could still slap a Made in the USA tag on the products. This arrangement was championed by Scott's former colleague and financial supporter, Tom Delay.

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