September 07, 2004

Where Are the Saintly Economists?

I've been hearing politically liberal Christians railing against conservatives who "call themselves Christian". In our diocesan newspaper a columnist upset at Republican economic policies warned that not everyone who says, "Lord, Lord" will be heard - which I think is the atomic bomb of Christian rhetoric. When Jesus said that some who call out to Him will not be saved, well, I just don't think we should be in the business of flinging that passage around.

Fr. Groeschel has said that we need more devout Christian psychologists. How about more devout Christian economists? Because the hash slung by non-economists is so bereft of thoughtfulness. For example, I recently read a church official say that it's an outrage the minimum wage isn't being hiked when the salaries of Congressman have gotten multiple raises. The problem is the salaries of Congressmen has virtually no negative impact on the economy or jobs. As a percentage of the budget it can't be seen without an electron microscope. Not one job is lost when a Congressman gets a raise.

I simply wish the bishop had given some detail. Like how much of a raise to the wage? $15 an hour? I wish he'd said something like, "economists have shown that raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour would not significantly reduce the number of jobs." Which I happen to think is true. But then I'm no economist.

For me, raising the minimum wage conjures up teenagers making more money in order to buy more CDs and DVDs so as to further corrupt their impressionable minds. But I'm willing to pay more for my burgers for the sake of those who aren't teenagers (which is easy for me to say since I can afford it). And at least, why not index the minimum wage to the CPI index and have it automatically rise? I think it's plain that the current minimum wage is not too onerous because we have the lowest unemployment rate in the industrialized world. (But keep in mind that the higher the wage the more illegal aliens will arrive to do the work 'under the table' for cheaper.)

The case against a dramatic hike in the wage is made here: "People in minimum wage jobs do not stay at the minimum wage permanently. Their pay increases as they accumulate experience and develop skills. It increases an average of 30 percent in just their first year of employment, according to the Cato Institute study. Other studies show that low-income people become average-income people in a few years and high-income people later in life. All of this depends on their having a job in the first place, however. But the living wage kills jobs."

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