West Virginia Delegate Daryl Cowles (R-Morgan) was one of two members of the House Finance Committee to vote against a raise in the state’s minimum wage.
The state says that 26 percent of all jobs in West Virginia are minimum wage jobs.
The bill Cowles voted against would gradually increase the minimum wage from the current federal minimum of $7.25 an hour to $8.00 an hour on January 1, 2015 and to $8.75 an hour on January 1, 2016.
Congress is considering legislation that would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.
But appearing on Hoppy Kercheval’s Talkline program this morning, Cowles was adamant in his ideological opposition to the minimum wage.
“I would certainly join with other people in the desire to raise wages here in the state,” Cowles said. “But we have problems here Hoppy. We have problems with job growth and the jobless recovery we are in. Just to be clear, the minimum wage that we are talking about is not the minimum wage that workers are receiving today. That is the federal minimum wage. The bill that is before us is raising the state minimum wage up and above the federal minimum wage. That minimum wage requirement would only apply to state businesses. I like many of my colleagues would love to raise wages for all workers, but we do that through upward mobility in the economy, raising the standard of living and improving workers ability to make a better wage. And we do that with improved education and job training and new job growth and demand for workers. That’s the way we move forward. But those things are certainly more difficult.”
Kercheval asked Cowles — isn’t this an incentive to encourage people to go get a job and maybe draw them off the dole?
“I would love to think so,” Cowles said. “One of the things I talked about was the inability for us to consider the impacts of this. I would love to talk about the poverty level and have a discussion about how that might affect those. But I’m afraid that these wage mandates don’t happen in a vacuum. When the costs of goods and services rise, so do prices. I would love to understand the impact on the poverty level and the jobs impact. Could it hurt businesses and cost jobs. We need more information to consider this properly. I do know that these things don’t happen in a vacuum. As cost rise so do prices. And that could hurt low wage workers and low income folks in our state.”
Kercheval asked Cowles about the cushion built into the legislation — the increase won’t go into effect until January 1, 2016.
“That’s semantics — a state only requirement,” Cowles said. “Twenty eight of the 55 counties in West Virginia are border counties. I represent two of them. When we do this, if this bill were to pass, the businesses in my district are going to have to raise their prices and be even further struggling — they won’t have a level playing field, because competition for workers flow across state lines, the economy flows across state lines. This will be one more instance where West Virginia businesses will not be on a level playing field with their surrounding states — Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania will be a short drive from my district.”
Maryland and Pennsylvania legislators are considering raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2016.
The best rebuttal to right wing extremists like Cowles are conservatives for the minimum wage — conservatives like software developer Ron Unz, who is campaigning for a ballot initiative in California that would raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour.
“Tens of millions of low-wage workers in the United States are trapped in lives of poverty,” Unz wrote recently. “Many suggestions have been put forth to improve their difficult situation, ranging from new social welfare programs to enhanced adult education to greater unionization. But I think the easiest solution is also the simplest: just raise their wages. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour and hiking it to $12 would solve many of our economic problems at a single stroke.”
Who’s the largest employer in West Virginia?
And what do conservatives like Unz say about Wal-Mart?
“Walmart is America’s largest private employer and 300,000 of its workers have average wages of just $8.75 per hour, forcing many of them to receive food stamps and other government welfare benefits to survive,” Unz writes. “But if a minimum wage hike boosted their pay to at least $12 per hour, Walmart could cover the costs by a one-time price rise of just 1.1 percent, and the average Walmart shopper would only pay an extra $12.50 per year. Meanwhile, a $12 minimum wage would increase the incomes of America’s lower-wage work force by a total of over $150 billion each year, shifting those huge sums from the pockets of the sort of people who don’t shop at Walmart to those who do.”
“And not just Walmart. America’s low-wage families tend to spend every dollar they earn, so a large minimum wage hike would constitute an enormous, permanent economic stimulus package, but one funded entirely by the private sector.”
“A $12 minimum wage is hardly extreme or ridiculous. At the 1968 height of our post-war economic prosperity, the American minimum wage was over $10.50 in current dollars, and setting the rate at $12 today would represent a real rise of merely 11 percent over a 45-year period, which seems reasonable since worker productivity has grown by over 115 percent during the same period,” Unz writes. “The minimum wage in France is almost $13 while Australian workers benefit from an hourly minimum wage of around $15, together with unemployment of just 5.7 percent.”
“Ordinary taxpayers would be the other great beneficiaries, saving many tens of billions of dollars each year in payments for Food Stamps, the Earned Income Tax Credit, housing subsidies, and other social welfare programs. Businesses should pay their own employees rather than quietly shifting the burden to government programs and the American taxpayer. Conservatives and free-market supporters should endorse this simple idea. The best way to help low-wage workers is to raise their wages.”