Friday, July 11, 2014

In Which I Get A B.S. Form Letter From Pat Toomey...

I was checking my email just now when lo and behold, I had an email from Senator Pat Toomey.  "That's weird," I thought, "why am I getting an email from Pat Toomey?"  The no reply email in question was about why he won't be voting to raise the minimum wage.  Here's the letter:

Did I contact him about the minimum wage?  Jeeze...when was that?  I can't even remember.  So for starters, I know you have the money and the tech: send your b.s. form letter replies faster.  For example maybe don't wait so long that people have - without exaggeration - forgotten they had written you. 

Second, and this is the truly important thing: stop wasting my time.  Stop wasting my time and stop wasting the time of whatever poor staffer had to tap the keys to make this - what my maternal grandmother would so generously have referred to as - horse pucky happen.  Since, however, you've chosen to waste my time, let's spend a moment talking about what raising the minimum wage would not do. 

Raising the minimum wage would not inhibit job growth.  In fact, many economists expect that it would actually cause job growth over the long run because so many people who currently live on their minimum wage jobs have to have two and three of them just to survive.  If your one job, however, pays enough money for you to live on, suddenly you've just freed up a job or two for someone else who will now also be capable of living on that job. 

But, you might say, if employers have to pay people more money they'll eliminate those extra positions so there won't actually be any job growth.  Intriguing point you make, and I'd like to counter that by pointing out that when low-income workers make more money they do something really fascinating with it: they spend it.  They spend it on groceries and gas and household necessities and maybe, just maybe, a night at the movies or dinner out with the kids.  Hell, they might even go on a short vacation the thought of which they might otherwise have laughed hysterically at had you suggested such a silly thing.  "So what's your point, gabby," you may well ask.  Well, my point is that when low-income workers have more money they spend it in the economy in which they live which creates...come on, you can do it...demand!  Demand is one of those things that means employers need to do more work for which they need more employees and more employees means?  You guessed it.  More jobs.

The next issue I have is with the term "low-skilled workers".  It's true, you may say that I'm arguing semantics.  How hard can it be to work retail or wait tables (where, by the way, the federal minimum wage is still $2.13/hr)?  In answer to this, I would suggest that you ask a retail employee or a waitress/waiter or any other "low-skilled workers" how easy their jobs are.  Do they need high-level degrees to be employable in these fields?  No, but that doesn't mean that their jobs are simple or could be done by anyone who chose to take them up.  You may not think so, but putting up with customers all day is a skill.  The ability to turn on a smile for people even though your feet are tired and you're on-call all week because your place of employment doesn't have to give you your hours in advance and you're sick but can't afford to take time off, is a skill.  It is not something that every person has within them to accomplish.  And yes, you may argue that you aren't trying to diminish the dignity of the people who do these jobs, but when you follow up with "too expensive to employ" you're doing just that.  What you just said is that the people that work these jobs, who go home tired and demoralized and over-stressed and then have to deal with a pay-check that may just barely make rent, aren't worth paying enough that they can live.   The effects of raising the minimum wage aren't "perverse", your argument that human beings who work minimum wage jobs aren't worth paying a living wage is "perverse". 

Here's another thing that I'm noticing as I look through your letter.  You cite two studies.  One of the studies says that the US could lose 500,000 jobs and a second that says Pennsylvania could lose 100,000 jobs.  It's a good thing you pointed out that these are two separate studies, because I would otherwise be worried that if we raise the minimum wage a full fifth of all projected job loss could come from Pennsylvania alone.  Do you see how these two numbers seem kind of silly when you put them together like that?  Oh, and by the way, I didn't miss how you cited the first study as being from the "non-partisan Congressional Budget Office" and then conveniently failed to tell me from whence the second study hails.  I tried some Google searching, but came up empty on what this second study might be, but I think I may email you back and ask because I have some thoughts on its provenance.

In closing, I look forward to helping unseat you in 2016.  Pennsylvania deserves better than you.

If you want to learn more about why raising the minimum wage is a good idea, check out the National Employment Law Project's Raise the Minimum Wage site.