What happens when the U.S. Secretary of Labor visits a church in Charlotte? If an incident earlier this month is any indication, faulty political promises and destructive economic policies continue to spread.
It took place on April 3rd. Acting U.S. Labor Secretary Seth Harris made an appearance at a Baptist Church in North Carolina’s largest city, along with Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx. He was visiting to promote President Obama’s proposal of elevating the federal minimum wage requirement from the current $7.25 to $9.00 an hour.
Harris and Foxx gathered in a large room within a Baptist church building. They sat in a large circle with several “average” (which means “hand-picked, pre-screened, and pre-approved by the Labor Department”) Americans living in Charlotte who work at jobs that pay only minimum wage. As news microphones and cameras caught all the action, Harris facilitated a “discussion” with the minimum wage earning Charlottean’s, and explained how their lives would benefit from the President’s new proposed mandate.
Harris told the group participants that if the minimum wage requirement was raised to $9 an hour, a full-time worker at the current minimum wage would earn an extra $3,500 more per year. A total of 557,000 workers in North Carolina “would directly benefit from that proposal,” he said, noting that President Obama is seeking to “lift people out of poverty” by imposing this new proposed requirement.
It all sounded so good. But in reality, there were problems.
For one, mere laws don’t “lift people out of poverty” – genuine wealth creation does. Using the force of government to mandate that a business owner pays a worker a specific wage does not ensure that wealth is being created. On the contrary, such laws are coercive mechanisms of wealth redistribution, and they only ensure that an increasing amount of existing wealth is taken away from one individual or group and transferred to another.
History, even recent history over the course of our lifetimes, demonstrates this. While roughly half of the world’s population -about 3 billion people - live in measurable poverty today, the other roughly 3 billion are measurably “middle class,” and mostly facing upward mobility.
So what has happened to the more fortunate 3 billion? We have not been “minimum waged” to wealth. We’ve been fortunate to live in countries where we’ve been relatively free to privately own property and advance in the marketplace and amass wealth for ourselves.
The best examples of this have been post-World War II Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong, along with the increasingly liberated economies of China and India. Many Americans seem oblivious to this capitalistic, free market transformation that has taken place over the last few decades – surely if we were aware of this we wouldn’t have elected our current crop of politicians who are taking us in the exact opposite direction – but the transformation is nonetheless real.
Another problem with Harris’ promises is that they are based on the false assumptions that government bureaucrats understand the inner-workings of a business than a business owner does, and that government mandates always produce their desired outcomes. Can every small business in Charlotte – or anywhere else in the U.S. – afford to “absorb” the increased labor costs that will ensure with a higher minimum wage mandate? Harris is frequently asked about the un-intended consequences of his policy proposals, and will frequently say “I reject the notion that this kills jobs.”
Did you hear that business owners? He “rejects” it, so it is obviously not a concern. In fact, Harris promised the minimum wage earning Charlotteans that raising the minimum wage requirement will actually improve wages overall, and stimulate job creation.
Harris, by the way, took no time at all in Charlotte to meet with the business owners that would be impacted by the proposed wage mandate. When you have degrees from elite schools, and your work experience is based exclusively in the worlds of academia and law, and you wield the power of government (these characteristics describe both Harris and Barack Obama), it’s easy, apparently, to believe in the infallibility of your ideas. There’s no sense wasting time on the “non-believers.”
For now, Americans have put their collective trust in politicians who have promised to re-distribute us all to a better, “more fair” existence. Let us hope and pray that we see the error of our ways – before the country is irreparably damaged.
Austin Hill is an Author, Consultant, and Host of "Austin Hill's Big World of Small Business," a syndicated talk show about small business ownership and entrepreneurship. He is Co-Author of the new release "The Virtues Of Capitalism: A Moral Case For Free Markets." , Author of "White House Confidential: The Little Book Of Weird Presidential History," and a frequent guest host for Washington, DC's 105.9 WMAL Talk Radio.