f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

April 17, 2006

bainbridge speeds past the working poor

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 9:33 pm

Maybe it takes a cynic to see the irony.  Our Prof. Yabut was bemused
that f/k/a’s friendly weblogging foil, the vociferously-conservative Catholic,
Steven Bainbridge, opined within the past week (“Holy Week”) both on the
relationship between the miniumum wage and the working poor (basically,
none, he says) and on the relationship between cars and one’s religion/
spirituality or politics (a bit murky). Meanwhile, he also confessed to AutoMuse
his dual lust for sinfully expensive cars and “driv[ing] fast on curvy roads (like
Malibu Canyon or Mulholland Drive)” [via Blawg Review #53].
tiny check We don’t know if Steve’s Confessor is paying attention to his socially irresponsible speeding habits, but you can be darn sure a plaintiff’s p/i lawyer will be doing so, should Prof. B. ever be involved in a vehicular crash along Mulholland Drive, or any- where else.
Tonight, we’re not going to psychoanalyze or sermonize over Steve’s fixation

on Porshe 911’s and similar occasions of sin.  But, we do want to focus on his April 11 post “Drum on the Miniumum Wage,” which had as its immediate provocation Kevin Drum‘s article at Washington Monthly, dated April 11, 2006). Volokh Conspiracy‘s Jim Lindgren immediately endorsed Steve’s position.  We dissent on the facts. the law and the equities.

Prof. B. has joked that his ideas often provoke me (an acknowledged agnostic and ex-Catholic) into asking just what Jesus might think/do/drive.  In his minimum wage post, he cavalierly concludes — based on a 2002 The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics Report —  that:
“the minimum wage debate is not really a debate about how much money the working poor make.  Instead, it is mainly a debate about how much working teenagers and twenty somethings in their first job ought to make.” (emphasis added)
The BLS Report states that “Minimum wage workers tend to be young. About
half of workers earning $5.15 or less were under age 25, and slightly more than
one-fourth were age 16-19.”  It also says that about 2% of workers over 25 earned
the minimum wage.  This leads Prof. B to pontificate:
“Sympathy for the working poor thus ought not to be a driver of minimum wage debates.”
And, it leads me to wonder what Jesus’ Statistician would do with the same

numbers. You see:

48% of the “young workers” Steve is talking about are 20 or older.
The study he uses does not tell us how many of them are heads of
household or have dependent children, nor if they are in their first
jobs, as Steve suggests — nor whether they are trying to work while
studying for a better-paying career.   The “teenagers” in the BLS
study are 16 to 19, and they make up 28% of all of the hourly-wage
workers who earn the fedeal minimum wage or less.
Steve doesn’t give actual numbers of human beings, but the BLS
does. There were 2.2 million hourly-wage Americans earning the
federal minimum of $5.15 or less in the 2002 report — with 1.6 million
of them making less than the minimum.  605,000 Americans under
age 20 were making the minimum or less. Over 1.5 million workers
were over age 20.  A million of those workers were over 25, and
99,000 were over 65 years of age.
More important, though, it seems that Prof. B’s Ivory Tower is so high (or
he’s driving so fast), he has failed to notice that:
(1) Being above the minimum wage is not exactly an automatic
ticket out of the “working poor” category.  In the BLS Report
Profile of the Working Poor, 2003” (March 2005), we learn that
7.4 million persons were classified as “working poor” in 2003 —
that means that they “spent at least 27 weeks in the labor force,”
but still had “income below the official poverty threshold.”  The
working poor made up 5.3% of the American workforce.
If age matters, you should know that more than seven million of
the working poor were over 20 years old.  If twenty-five is your
magic number, then consider that 5.7 million of the working poor —
77% — are 25 or older.  [Table 2]
tiny check If you were making the federal minimum wage in 2003,
and managed to work 40 hours per week for the full
52 weeks (you probably didn’t get any paid vacation),
your annual income was $10,712. (by comparison,
the average annual salary for all covered workers
in 2002 was $36,764)  [We have no figures on the
average income of Porsche 911 drivers, but surely
someone out there does.]
According to BLS, “The actual poverty thresholds vary
in accordance with the makeup of the family. In 2003,
the average poverty threshold for a family of four was
$18,810; . . . and for an unrelated individual aged 65 or
older, it was $8,825.”
(2)  Dan Glick of Sick Transit explains (and even I figured out),
that the “only 2%!” of the workforce argument misses that
“most employers – even minimum-wage employers – give
periodic raises. A retail worker making $6 (or for that matter,
$5.50 or even $5.16) an hour won’t be counted in those statistics.
“Raising the minimum wage, however, would still cause an increase in those workers’ wages. . . . [A]ny employer large enough to have formal pay grades would also have to raise the next couple of pay grades above minimum to maintain a reasonable structure.
As Glick concludes, there really isn’t much room for the claim that the
minimum wage is irrelevant to the welfare of the working poor.  Prof. B’s
approach gives Ivory Towers, and fast cars, a bad name.  His massaging
of the numbers to make a problem regarding the poor in America seem
to disappear (or to be irrelevant to our political process) also has me won-
dering about things such as Catholic Legal Theory (at least in its conser-
vative political or economic manifestation) and its relationship to Pope
Benedict’s first Encyclical —  “Deus Caritas Est” (“God Is Love”), dated
Dec. 25, 2005.  That is a topic for another, imminent day.
update (April 20, 2006): For our promised follow-up on Deus Caritas Est, see Catholic Conservatives Ignore Benedict on Political “Caritas” (April 19, 2006); for more on minimum wage, see our post poor steve bainbridge (April 20, 2006), where you’ll learn that Steve continues his focus on teens and the minimum wage, and keep removing Trackbacks from f/k/a on these topics.
Lawtigation? If you haven’t read Will Wilson’s post at AG Watch on
Lawtigation, you should click over there.  Speaking of certain activity
in Massachusetts, Will says:
“Good, good. If one can’t go back in time or make laws with foresight
of future concerns, ex pending facto lawtigation is the next best option.
Let the AG start suing and then work out laws that apply to the lawsuits.
Can’t miss. Best litigation strategy ever.
“THNLogoG”  The first annual edition of The Heron’s Nest Journal arrived at my
frontdoor today.  It has all of the haiku (about 500 of them) selected for the online
version of The Heron’s Nest in 2005. (at $15, including postage, it is a great value)
Flipping to the Index, I realized that virtually all of our Honored Guest poets are
represented in the volume.   In particular, tonight, I want to point out that there are
six haiku by Gary Hotham in the volume.  Here they are.  You can find them, respec-
tively at these links: : 4#3, 5#6, 9#8, 1#4, 2#2, and 4#1.
day at the zoo —
the elephant’s shadow
in a small place
warm night —
a soda machine rejects
my coin
yesterday’s snow —
the dog’s path
one way
under us —
water that roared
in the waterfall

on every step
dead cicadas —
a day’s list of things to do

the dog takes a sniff —
snow that didn’t go
with the first warm day
gary hotham from The Heron’s Nest (Vol. VII, 2005)
“Dog neg”

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