The War (For) Poverty

Photo from nypost.com

Photo from nypost.com

Looking back over the last five years under liberal rule, Americans have come to understand a very simple truth at both the state and national level: liberal leadership is an oxymoron. From the Governor’s mansion to the White House, the shortcomings of the liberal agenda have become a spectacle for the nation to witness; but the problem runs deeper than just the people in charge.

For example, New Yorkers have become all too familiar with this concept. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio has virtually waged his own war for poverty by targeting and shutting down charter schools for underprivileged students. No matter that these schools have astonishingly higher test scores in almost every category compared to their public school counterparts. Rather than finding ways to capitalize on the tremendous work of these schools to educate students, de Blasio has blocked efforts with no clear alternative. But here’s the catch: this same platform was what got him 73 percent of the vote in his mayoral election.  How is this possible?

Similarly, the President has seen his approval rating drop to the low 40s as the “deadline” for healthcare enrollment approaches next week. He claimed the American people could keep their own insurance if they liked, but apparently that was just a nice thought. He said you could keep your doctor too, which has also been rescinded. Apparently this is what happens when you have to pass a bill to see what is in it. The administration has chosen to adopt executive orders and partisan strong arming as its standard operating procedures. However, as with de Blasio, this same agenda is what won the President both elections.

The answer for why voters experience such a disconnect with their lefty representatives is the vicious cycle perpetuated by the core beliefs of liberalism. Their most basic maxim is the more government the better. The only way to expand government power is to have elected officials create legislation to do so. And the only way to ensure those officials are elected is to make voters dependent on that legislation.

As a result, the stereotypes of liberals being the party of social justice and equality and conservatives as the enemy of the poor are ideologically reversed. In reality, liberals have no voter base if their constituency weans themselves off their government programs. In contrast, conservatives believe in the ownership of wealth, fighting for policy that creates opportunity for individuals rather than creating a state of dependency (i.e. welfare).

Because of this fundamental difference, liberals have no choice but to lambast and ridicule comments like those made by Paul Ryan about poverty’s roots in culture rather than allegedly oppressive conservative policy.

For if those left of center conceded that issues like poverty are rooted more deeply than dollars and cents, they put themselves in jeopardy of losing the vast majority of their voter base in exchange for more opportunity for those who need it most. God forbid.

If you would like to find out what innovative ideas are coming out of the states to address issues like these, check out spn.org/directory for a list of state think tanks.

Minimum Wage, Maximum Consequences

Good news teenagers, you may be earning a few more dollars on the hour if you’re planning on working for minimum wage at your next summer job. Unfortunately, here’s the bad news: good luck finding one.

According to USA Today, over 30 states are set to consider legislation on minimum wage increases with 22 bills having already been introduced in 15 states. While the chances for a federal increase are slim, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts and Minnesota look to be the most likely candidates to raise the wage. Illinois workers may (or may not) be the most fortunate of the bunch, as they have seen their bottom line raised from the federal minimum of $7.25 to $8.25 which now has the potential to be re-raised to $10.10. While those like the President and Wisconsin Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke claim that this increase will improve the lives of impoverished families and decrease youth employment, states like Illinois prove just the opposite.

As the Illinois State Policy Institute observes, the Land of Lincoln boasts the fourth-highest minimum wage in the nation along with the country’s fourth-worst unemployment rate. Obviously then, there seems to be more to the equation.

History has taught us that money alone does not solve the issue of poverty, i.e. LBJ’s War on Poverty in the mid 60s. The same is true in the case of minimum wage. Think about it for a second. Sure, unskilled and young employees may get some extra cash, but the ripple effect is much larger. Employers must produce this extra cash by cutting expenses from somewhere else, or finding a way to increase revenues without the benefit of netting more profits due to payroll increases. The simplest way to avoid these extra costs is to not hire people. As a result, an increase may only benefit those who are earning minimum wage currently and avoid being let go by their employer, as well as those whose received above the previous minimum wage and receive a proportional raise. The latter poses yet another financial obstacle for employers, cause the ripple effect to spread even farther.

So you may be asking yourself, “Is raising the minimum wage ever ok?” According to his analysis in the Wall Street Journal,  economist Joseph Sabia says there is never a “good” time, but especially not in the midst of economic instability. Of course, wages should roughly adjust to inflation, but the reality is that these increases have real consequences and have the potential to do more harm than good. With small business already strapped for cash in a slowly recovering economy, forcing employers to increase payrolls could be retroactive for both employers as well as job hunters. Watch this video by the Foundation for Economic Freedom for a real-world explanation.

If you would like to find out more about the minimum wage discussion, use the Directory tool on spn.org to find what your state’s think tank has to say about it.