Minimum wage op-ed comes up short


Letter to the Editor


In their editorial of Sept. 9 advocating the raising of New Jersey’s minimum wage, The Daily Targum editors ponder what to do about the suffering of the state’s poor. After listing the requisite sobering statistics, they pronounce their solution: besides for a minimum wage hike, what we need is the improvement of government programs, as well as increased regulation, to change the state of things in New Jersey. This is all very well and good, but I have one question: Haven’t we tried this already?

If, as the quote often attributed to Einstein claims, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, then the editors of the Targum are prime targets for institutionalization. Lyndon B. Johnson launched the “War on Poverty” in 1964, and the welfare state has since continually grown at all levels of government. The state spent roughly eight times more on federal welfare programs in 2010 than in 1957. Since 1938, the federal minimum wage has been increased on 22 occasions. Have these actions, or the multitude of other programs, regulations and laws that have been enacted since, helped the poor?

When the armies of the welfare state were sent forth to do battle in ’64, the poverty rate was 19 percent. As of November 2012, 48 years later, the poverty rate was 16 percent. This hardly compares with a victory like Cannae, instead it recalls Antietam — a stalemate with a desperate government claiming success to bolster morale on the home front. The poverty level being 3 percent lower after half a century of trying is not success. That is failure — dismal, bitter failure.

The editors of the Targum acknowledge that there are endemic problems in the welfare system. But what do they propose to do about it? Do they suggest getting rid of Obamacare, which is causing millions of minimum wage-earners to have their hours reduced due to the employer mandate? No. What about a negative income tax, where people who earn a certain amount pay no taxes, people earning above that amount pay taxes proportionate to their earnings, and people below that number receive a supplemental amount from the government, proportionate to their earnings, to improve the efficiency and cost of the welfare system? No. How about cutting the U.S. corporate income tax rate, the highest in the industrialized world, to encourage businesses to pay their workers more? Ditto.

Instead they suggest the same old, tired solutions that have failed Americans for the past half-century: More regulation and, presumably, more taxation of the “upper class” coupled with higher spending. We’ve tried this over and over, and it hasn’t worked. Don’t make us suffer through it anymore.

Ben Kusnetz is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student.


By Ben Kusnetz

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