The fact is, I have a lot of questions about the minimum wage debate.
Of course, the uncountably vast majority of people who are earning minimum wage are kids, or others who are just entering the workforce. People who haven’t yet developed even the most rudimentary work skills – like showing up on time, much less running the shake machine or the deep fryer with authority.
But there are people earning the minimum wage who do, in fact, have themselves and others depending on their income.
If you’re a conservative, you no doubt suspect that that sad state is because of poor choices; partying too much in high school and not getting an education; having children out of wedlock; working on the easy crime career before developing the boring straight career.
Of course, not every person is affected by their own choices. When you party you way into your twenties, do jail time, get knocked up and wind up having to raise a family on a wage that wouldn’t support a single person, you are very likely passing a lot of problems on to the next generation; you’re passing your bad, shortsighted, immature and/or stupid choices on to them. ”Personal Responsibility” is great when it’s just your own choices affecting you – but when your parents, and grandparents, were idiots or drunks or screw-ups, what’s a kid to do?
(And if you’re the progeny of a couple of generations of people who made good choices, worked hard, got good jobs and dedicated themselves to helping you make good choices, too, then thank whatever it is you believe in. It’s a major leg up in life).
Now, I’m not sure how many of Jessica English’s choices were her ancestors, and how many were hers. But the media certainly is playing up the results – the state of Ms. English’s life today:
Jessica English is the face of a newly revived effort to raise Minnesota’s minimum wage.
Ms. English, speaking at the Minnesota State Fair, illustrating the dangers of poverty to cute, white women from Wayzata who choose to work in art.
She earned minimum wage while working in rural western Minnesota, places such as Fergus Falls, Ortonville and Kerkhoven. A case worker called it the “land of the minimum wage.”
Now, the 35-year-old divorced mother said she faces losing custody of her four daughters, ages 6 to 15, because she earned so little, even though her finances improved a bit since moving to St. Paul.
On the one hand? That sounds scary – being 35 and up against it like that. Now, I have no idea what got Ms. English to this point in her life – single, four kids, job skills worth $6.15 an hour.
(As to the “losing custody” bit, though? Er, if she was a single father - presuming that’s who Ms. English would be contesting for custody - would the media even care? What if the father is better able to provide a decent life for the kids? The double standard is nothing new).
But the fact is, one does make choices in one’s life. I’ve made a few; I left radio, my first career, when I was married and had two kids and another on the way, and was making $6.50/hour, and painstakingly taught myself how to convince managers I was a competent technical writer. I adapted. I did what it took to develop a skill that would get me and my family out of poverty. I don’t want, or deserve, a cookie for that - that’s what you do when you have a family; you take care of them. I had some blessings, of course; I’d gotten a passable education when I had the chance, I’d avoided doing any jail time, that sort of thing. Perhaps my greatest blessing? Growing up in a place and time when “not being ready to raise a family when I had one” still had some moral weight.
And it’d seem Ms. English has learned that lesson, at least in part. The article notes that her financial situation has “improved a bit since moving to St. Paul”.
Where she works – for an inadequate wage, perhaps, although we don’t know – as a “community organizer” for “The Coffee Party”, the beyond-astroturf liberal-plutocrat-funded “response” to the Tea Party.
In other words, one of the liberal-plutocrat-supported non-profits that’s agitating for a “living wage” apparently won’t provide one.
Judging by Ms. English’s rap sheet, she spent the last several years working in the public/non-profit art business – a famously penurious racket, usually the province of trust fund babies, bored housewives and young, no-strings-attached arts majors.
I don’t know Ms. English. But how much weight should the media give the testimony of a person who has apparently dedicated herself to finding and remaining in poverty?
And how much should Minnesota’s real working poor – the 20 year olds scrambling for their first jobs at Burger King, who will be the first to get laid off when the robots do finally take over the fast food business, the immigrants who are working as many minimum wage jobs as they can while they learn English and develop other skills, the poor kids who need to some some reassurance that there’s a future in working the straight and narrow rather than turning to crime - have to pay for such dilettantism?
Because it’s their jobs – not the “Community Organizer” jobs for fashionable lefty non-profits – that’ll be disappearing.
UPDATE: Someone emailed “aren’t you being a bit condescending?”
Me? Not a bit. There’s a reason that the poverty pimps are trotting out an attractive white woman instead of a 30 year old Somali immigrant. Put another way – the proponents of the minimum wage hike are doing the condescending, here.