Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Tingley, Toscano Favor More Joblessness

Last week, I criticized Rich Collins, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the Virginia House of Delegates in the 57th District, for favoring the doubling of the minimum wage, to over $10 per hour. Such a move, I argued, would lead to increased unemployment among the most vulnerable members of the labor force, primarily minority teenagers looking for their first jobs, single mothers seeking part-time work, and the elderly semi-retired trying to supplement their pensions.

Now I have the pleasure, if you will, of aiming that same criticism at Collins' two opponents in the race, businessman Kim Tingley and attorney David Toscano. (Collins teaches urban planning at the University of Virginia.)

In a report on WCAV-TV's 11 o'clock news on Tuesday, Toscano said on camera, in response to a question about mandating a "living wage" for UVA employees, "why shouldn't we talk about raising minimum wage in the state as a whole[?]" The report did not cite a percentage or amount that Toscano prefers for a statewide minimum-wage increase.

In this morning's Daily Progress, Bob Gibson (who also appeared briefly, though silently, in the WCAV-TV report) quotes Kim Tingley:

Tingley spoke of his “full support for the living wage” and told UVa employees he was “very concerned about outsourcing” of university jobs from the state workforce to private companies.

University wages “need to reflect the high cost of living in this part of the country,” said Tingley, 60, whose wife, Deborah Lawrence, is an environmental science professor at UVa.
I won't bother to repeat all the familiar arguments about how every increase in the minimum wage causes employment dislocations. But I found this summary in an article from The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty by economists Kevin Sohr and Walter Block. (Block is the author of the popular Defending the Undefendable: The Pimp, Prostitute, Scab, Slumlord, Libeler, Moneylender, and Other Scapegoats in the Rogue's Gallery of American Society.)
Moreover, the minimum wage is not an equal opportunity destroyer. Teens in general suffer more from this law than do adults. Each succeeding increase in the minimum wage has negatively impacted teenage unemployment rates. Just as the minimum wage attacks the young more than the old, it also harms blacks more than whites. Observed Milton Friedman more than three decades ago: “Of all the laws on the statute books of this country, I believe the minimum wage law probably does the Negroes the most harm.” Each increase in the minimum wage has been followed by an immediate widening of the unemployment rate gap between black and white teens. Prior to the 1949 increase the two rates were virtually identical; immediately a gap was created. Every subsequent increase led to a dramatic increase in non-white unemployment while the white level stayed relatively stable.

The problem is not racism, but lack of employment skills. Friedman explained that black “youngsters are less productive than white youngsters. They tend to have a lower level of education, a lower level of skill.” This being the case, any given level of mandated wage is likely to trap more black than white youth.

The one advantage low-skilled workers might have over their skilled counterparts is price competition, offering to work for less. But the minimum wage makes such an offer illegal. Thus, the minimum wage hurts those whom it is intended to most help: unskilled laborers.

Given its disastrous consequences, why does the minimum receive so much support? It preys on people’s good intentions. Voters think: Poor people are not making much money. How can we help them? Mandate that their bosses pay more. When a politician opposes an increase, people hear “I want poor people to earn less money.”
It appears that in their understanding of basic economics, the three Democrats seeking to succeed Mitch Van Yahres in the House of Delegates are as different as Tweedledee, Tweedledum, and Tweedledummest. (Your pick as to who is whom.) Whichever candidate gets the nomination, he'll provide a fat, juicy target for Republican nominee Tom McCrystal.

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