OP-ED | Connecticut Should Not Increase its Minimum Wage Again
When Gov. Dannel P. Malloy grabbed the microphone away from Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal the other day to defend President Obama’s proposed minimum wage hike, liberals across the country swooned.
Raising the minimum wage is a policy that plays particularly well among the Democratic base, but if we want to help the poor in Connecticut we should not support another hike in the minimum wage.
When Gov. Jindal criticized President Obama for encouraging a “minimum wage economy,” Malloy stepped up to the mic and called Jindal’s comments “insane.” Sounds like our governor.
What is insane is raising our minimum wage at a time when the state’s economy is performing tepidly at best, when our cost of living is sky-high, and when our state already has a reputation for having a hostile business climate.
President Obama wants the federal minimum wage upped to $10.10 an hour from $7.25 an hour — something that is unlikely to happen while Republicans control the House.
Meanwhile, here in Connecticut, lawmakers currently have a bill on the table that would raise the state’s minimum wage from $8.70 an hour to $10.10 an hour by 2017. Under legislation passed last year, it is already scheduled to increase to $9 an hour next year.
Our neighbors in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island have minimum wages that range from $7.25 to $8 an hour.
I don’t believe that this is simply a ploy for votes. I think most Democrats really do believe this will help the poor, but I also think most of them are aware that this move has the potential to do real harm to the state’s economy, making this a truly irresponsible bill.
And will it really help the working poor? Not likely. Many minimum-wage earners are young, and those who aren’t receive government benefits that offset their low incomes — benefits that may decrease as their wages increase.
In response to a proposed federal minimum wage hike, the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office released a report cautioning that an increase would lead to job losses. Here in Connecticut, job losses would likely hurt the working poor first.
An increase could also perpetuate the idea that Connecticut is a bad place to do business.
In testimony last week, the Connecticut Business and Industry Association asked lawmakers not to raise the minimum wage again, warning it would further erode business confidence in the state and lead to price inflation and job losses.
In his testimony, Andy Markowski of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, warned that another minimum wage hike would especially hurt small businesses in the state. Latino business owners also recently expressed their reservations about the proposed increase.
Are more job losses something we want to risk here in Connecticut?
Gov. Malloy keeps saying the number of jobs in the state has increased since he took office, but the numbers tell a different story. In the years since he was elected, the number of people working in the state has dropped by 65,000.
Another minimum wage increase could speed job losses, and likely will lead to a rise in prices, pushing the cost of living here even higher. That is a real threat to poor and middle-class families.
It could also speed up the automation of low-wage jobs. It isn’t hard to imagine using a computer screen to order a meal in the drive-thru lane instead of talking to a person.
Democrats have the power to make this happen, and with Gov. Malloy basking in the national spotlight this week, the pressure to make it happen may be on the rise, despite all of the warning signs that have been raised.
We have some real problems in Connecticut related to poverty, and we all — left and right — need to be looking for solutions. But this isn’t the right solution.
We know, for instance, that if people get a high school diploma, work full time, and wait until they are 21 and married to have children, they have only a 2 percent chance of being poor.
Maybe when President Obama visits the state next week, he — and the media accompanying him — should take some time to visit our cities to see the effects of the liberal economic policies passed by our state legislature and local city leaders.
Three of our cities — Bridgeport, New Haven and Hartford — are ranked as some of the most dangerous in the nation. Our wage gap between the richest and the poorest is one of the highest in the nation.
This is in one of the bluest states around. When are liberals going to admit that their economic policies are failing not just the poor, but all of us?
Suzanne Bates is a writer living in South Windsor with her family. While traveling across the country as an Air Force spouse, she worked for news organizations including the Associated Press, New Hampshire Union Leader and Good Morning America Weekend. She recently completed a research fellowship at the Yankee Institute. Follow her on Twitter @suzebates.