Monday, June 19, 2017

Does Karen Handel Really Oppose Livable Wages? Come on.

A special election for a House seat vacated by new Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price pits Republican Karen Handel against Democrat Jon Ossoff. A debate between the two candidates in the election, which will be Tuesday, June 20, created a “viral” moment when Mandel, answering a question about raising the legal minimum wage to a “livable” level, answered "I Do Not Support A Livable Wage."

The question, “Does either candidate support a minimum wage increase,” Ossoff went first, framing the minimum wage issue as a guarantee to a “livable wage.” Handel took Kossoff's bait. Check it out.

“This is an example of the fundamental difference between a liberal and a conservative: I do not support a livable wage.” Handel deviated from the actual question, and it cost her. Rather than tackle the minimum wage law head on, she left the impression that she supports a minimum wage as long as it stays low (which is probably true, but who knows?).

I left this comment with the TPM article on the episode:

This is a classic statist mis-framing of the issue—and Handel apparently got trapped by it.

In answer to the question, “Do you support a livable wage,” who would have any reason to say no? Every responsible parent seeks to get her child a good education, instill a good work ethic and good character, send her child to college or trade school, etc., so her child can gain marketable skills and work habits in order to earn a good, self-supporting living as an adult. Adults make themselves more valuable to employers over time by adding to their skills, experience, and so forth. That’s how adults earn raises and advance. Who in their right mind would be against that? Certainly, not Karen Handel.

The issue is, should government force employers to pay every employee what it deems to be a “livable wage,” whether the employer judges the wage economically justified or not and even if the employee agrees to work for a lower wage? The obvious, moral answer is no. Employee compensation, whether “livable” or not, is only justified if both employer and job-seeker mutually and voluntarily agree. If an employee gets a livable wage through law—that is, by force—he did not earn it. He took it, and will soon enough not have the job. That’s what happens when political do-gooders have outlawed all jobs his level of skill and experience qualifies him for.

It is completely disingenuous and ignorant to take literally Handel’s phrasing. It’s obvious the issue is about whether the candidates are for or against government imposing compensation standards by force, not about being for or against “livable” wages. Agree or disagree with so-called “livable” minimum wage laws, the intelligent honest observer would focus on Handel’s actual argument rather than simple-mindedly focus on her unfortunate slip-of-the-tongue as a “gotcha” moment.

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