Monday, March 13, 2006

I'm not a real liberal, but I play one on TV

There was a lot of ink this weekend for readers of The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press dedicated to the state senate's passing of a higher minimum wage, proposed to be $7.40 by July 2008. Republican legislators felt this was the politically savvy thing to do to avoid a petition indexing the minimum wage to the consumer price index. Fearing such an amendment might bring Detroit voters to the fall polls like children after ice cream trucks, they felt it better to keep kids off the street and bring ice cream to their doorsteps. I agree with this weekend's editorials suggesting that if Michigan citizens wanted liberal-smelling laws they would have elected genuine liberals instead of conservatives acting like liberals. This is wrong-headed thinking. It is not better to do something idiotic for fear that someone else may do something idiotic. It would have been better for them to take a principled stance, but that requires leadership which the state of Michigan seems to have little of as it slides into the economic backwaters. Already a business-unfriendly state, perhaps they thought one more onerous and burdensome insult to small business would make little difference to the pile of onerous burdens already heaped on small businesses (like the Single Business Tax).
"We decided one big pile was better than two little piles and rather than bring that one up we decided to throw ours down."
-- Arlo Guthrie, "Alice's Restaurant"
As far as a constitutional amendment is concerned, some in Michigan don't know what a constitution is for. This is understandable for anyone who hasn't
read the document. Not unlike our federal constitution, Michigan's enumerates the rights of citizens and the mechanisms, responsibilities, and limits of state government. Nowhere does the constitution interfere or proscribe the relationship between employers and employees. It's not the job of a constitution. Responsibility for employment law is given to the legislature in Article IV, § 49, where it's given the right to regulate hours and conditions of employment, presumably including fixing of wages. The benefit laws have over constitutional amendments is laws can be more easily changed than constitutions. If an amendment is a tattoo on the body Michigan, a law is purposely one made from henna so that its shortsightedness might be more easily removed.

Fixing minimum wage to the CPI as a constitutional amendment will be like getting a tattoo when your in college. It sounds like a great idea to impress your friends and annoy your parents when your 19, but you'll be wearing long sleeve shirts the rest of your life to hide the evidence of your drinking binge with the wrong crowd.

Lansing needs some adult supervision before all the chaperones leave for other, more responsible states.

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