Let’s Call Minimum Wage What It Is; Another Job-Killing Mandate

Rep. Joel Stetkis penned this Op-Ed that was printed in the Bangor Daily News:

Over the last month, in the Maine legislature, we’re once again debating the idea of imposing new government wage mandates. Despite the fact that over the last two decades the minimum wage has been increased on average every two years I still can’t find anyone who has been pulled out of poverty due to the Maine Legislature imposing a wage mandate.

Not only have these mandates not reduced poverty, as the proponents would like us to believe, it is evident that similar government mandates have done nothing but carpet-bomb the Maine economy, particularly in rural Maine.

We have all seen first-hand that government actions are just as subject to Newton’s law of physics as anything else: “Every Action has an Equal and Opposite Reaction.” Many would argue even more so when it comes to politicians’ short-sighted policies that provide little more than a good soundbite during election season.

To find examples of what I’m talking about you need to look no further than the “Great Recession,” caused mainly by the housing market bubble, followed by the catastrophic “cash for clunkers” program which cost tax payers $24,000 per car and of course, the coupe de grâce, the perennial dumpster fire that is Obamacare which will wind up costing us trillions of dollars. Maybe one day we will heed President Reagan’s warning when he told us that the nine most frightening words in the English language are: “I’m from the Government and I’m here to help”.

Isn’t it about time those of us in rural Maine stop believing that the government is the answer to all of our issues and realize that government mandates are the reason for so many of our woes? Isn’t it about time we demand that our elected officials remove the barriers for job creators instead of subjecting us to more crushing mandates so that everyone has an opportunity to work and improve their circumstance in life?

If you want to take a look at what this Democrat proposed government wage mandate will look like for Mainers check out the 2014 Congressional Budget Office’s report that outlines the impacts of a proposed federal wage mandate of $10.10. The report does say that some people will get a raise but a staggering one million people stand to lose their jobs if this is enacted. In a stunning peek behind the curtain of liberal logic, one Democratic State Representative actually called this potential trade off a “net gain.” And the people who would lose their jobs are generally the least educated, least skilled and the ones who would have the toughest time finding another job. These are the very same people that the wage mandate proponents claim they want to help. Please, enough help already. I’m not sure these folks can take much more.

There is also a report out of Kentucky stating that these wage mandates have a disproportionately negative impact on rural areas. The Maine Department of Labor recently released data showing that while the state’s urban areas are now below the national average unemployment rate, our rural counties are still stuck between 8%-10%. There is no question that rural Maine and the “mom and pop shops” they house will not be able to absorb a blunt wage mandate. The inevitable result will be a cut in hours and massive job loss.

Wage mandate proponents in Maine continue to beat their new drum of “income inequality” and are now pushing for a job-killing $12 per hour mandated wage, an increase of nearly 50%. What would this do to our seniors on fixed incomes, low-income families already relying on government programs of one kind or another and our job creators? Our nursing homes and small businesses are struggling to keep their doors open in the current economy.

The price increases on just about all goods and services that will surely come with a wage mandate will be felt by all of us while jobs in our state will become even more scarce and the “income inequality” gap will widen. This past November the Maine people spoke very loudly in support of more jobs not less.

As an alternative to Government mandated wages we should be promoting and supporting business and job growth not suffocating them. We need to focus our efforts on attracting optimum wage jobs and readying our workforce to make sure they’re qualified for these jobs. Instead we’re squabbling about entry-level jobs. A wise man once said: “Business capital goes where it’s welcome and stays where it’s appreciated.” Blunt wage mandates should not be welcome anywhere in Maine.

Rep. Joel Stetkis is serving his first term in the Maine Legislature. He represents House District 105 which includes the towns of Cambridge, Canaan, Hartland, Palmyra, Ripley and St. Albans. He has been appointed to serve on the Labor, Commerce, Research and Development Committee for the 127th Legislature.

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