« Interesting | Main | Good Leaders Are Hard To Come By »

January 25, 2007

Comments

A pox on them. May they lose their next election.

The proposal to eliminate the minimum wage is there so that the so-called moderate Republicans can oppose it, therefore protecting themselves from their vote against a minimum wage hike. Its legislative politics 101 - the cons are giving the mods cover.

Arbitrista, what is the explanation for those who vote for it, though? It has no chance of passing, so they're just causing themselves pointless trouble when it comes time for reelection, and as Bob Geiger says,

For the record, those running for reelection in 2008 are Alexander, Bennett, Chambliss, Cochran, Cornyn, Craig, Enzi, Graham, Hagel, Inhofe, McConnell and Sununu.

Oh, and that guy McCain is probably running for president and Brownback definitely is.

On everything except foreign policy, Hagel is as conservative as they come. I'm surprised Hilzoy is surprised.

KCinDC: It has no chance of passing, so they're just causing themselves pointless trouble when it comes time for reelection

Are they? Given that Bush's tax cuts to benefit the extremely wealthy were successfully spun as beneficial to all, I'm sure the Republicans who voted for the abolition of the minimum wage were counting on the media spinning this as really affecting no one at all.

Exactly, Jes. They'll point to paragraph H, point out the number of states that already have minimum wages higher than the extant Federal wage, clap their hands and say, "Our work here is done!"

Up Or Down Vote!
Will Of The People!
Party Of No!

The majority of these Senators are in safely red states that wouldn't vote against a Republican if Jesus H. Christ himself was the Democratic candidate. I notice that my Senator, Norm Coleman is starting his reelection triangulation.

If paired with a negative income tax, I would support abolishing the minimum wage. The negative income tax is a much less distorting method of dealing with poverty, and is much better targeted to people who are actually poor than the miminum wage.

But I wouldn't consider just abolishing it ad hoc.

As far as statutory interpretation: I'll admit to having a brain that doesn't work in the morning, but I don't see how the amendment abolishes the minimum wage. It appears to me that "not be required to pay an employee a wage that is greater than the minimum wage provided for by the law of the State in which the employee is employer and not less than the minimum wage in effect in that State on January 1, 2007." doesn't speak to the Federal minimum wage at all, and allows the States to have a higher minimum wage than the Federal minimum wage.

No I'll admit to be suspicous about the need for the language since it conforms with my (weak) understanding of how it already works. The exact effect of the "on January 1, 2007" language isn't clear to me in context. Does it mean that the states can't lower the minimum wage after that date?

But unless I'm grossly misreading the amendment (and it has happened before) I don't see how it says anything about the Federal minimum, much less how it would drop it.

Seb: I took ""not be required to pay an employee a wage that is greater than the minimum wage provided for by the law of the State in which the employee is employed" to mean: if you pass a federal minimum wage that is higher than the state minimum wage, it's not binding on employees of that state. I was somewhat more confused by the "and not less than the minimum wage in effect in that State on January 1, 2007" -- it seems to say that employers cannot be required to pay a minimum wage unless it's less than the state minimum wage in effect on Jan. 2007, which seems to mean that states cannot raise their minimum wages.

In any case, the first part, at least, seems to say that states are free to set minimum wages lower than any federal minimum wage -- that lower state minimum wages preempt federal minimum wages.

Hm. It was my impression that state minimum wages only overrode the federal ones for companies that did no interstate business.

Could be a wrong impression, though. God knows how many of those I've had.

Oh. Probably would have been good to read the whole thread, first. Sink me!

Ah, I see hilzoy. If your interpretation is correct, it sounds like the amendment says that you can have a wage lower than the federal minimum wage but NOT lower than whatever you minimum wage was on Jan 1, 2007. Since all states had a wage at or above the federal minimum at that point, it would tend to lock in the old minimum wage as the absolute floor, and would ratchet in whatever higher wage states had at the time. But it would allow wages below the federal minimum if it went higher than the Jan 1, 2007 rates.

I think that is a plausible reading of the amendment now that I'm more awake. It sounds like a ham-handed attempt to lock in the old rates.

Slartibarfast:

I have not researched this recently, but I used to do this type of legal work. I believe that the federal minimum wage does not preempt State laws with higher minimum wages. It is a floor below which no State can go, but not a prohibition for a higher rate in a State. Companies in interstate commerce must still abide by the local minimum wage laws of any State in which they have employees.

Sebastian and Hilzoy:

Sebastian is partly correct as to the effect of the proposed law, but wrong in another. It sets as a floor whatever the minimum wage was in a State as of 1/1/07 (it does not seem to allow it to be lowered further by the State after 1/1/07; so there is some vestige of a federal minimum standard), but does also abolish higher federal minimum wage standards.

Many States have abyssmally low minimum wage laws because they never get updated and are forced to follow the minimum federal standard. For example, I read somewhere that the rate in Kansas is around $2.50. This proposed law would immediately drop the minimum wage to whatever level it happens to be at in each State at this time.
_____________

I think a lot of Republicans like this law because they care less about protecting workers and think they are empowering the States by letting each State have its own standard. Its just federalism, right?However, this is truly something for which there needs to be a national minimum standard -- there are already many areas of commercial regulation in which its a race to the bottom to attract business.

For example, in addition to minimum wage, there are a host of other federal minimum standards concerning employment, such as 40 hour work week and entitlement to overtime. (as well as no contractual penalties for quitting your job). If we are going to dump a federal standard for minimum wage, why not go whole hog and leave it all to individual States?

We don't need to institutionalize the Saipan model for business regulation.

Seb: as of yesterday, some states had no min. wage. Of those that did, most had it at or above the federal minimum, but Kansas was, as dmbeaster says, somewhere around (I think) $2.65.

Of course, I could go find the chart again, but what fun would that be?

I still don't see why this amendment doesn't preclude states' raising their minimum wage. It doesn't say 'employers shall not be required by the federal government'; it says they shall not be required, period.

Ah, SH returns with the zero min. wage request.

Let's say, for example, that you own a cotton farm in the South, oddly enough in a place with high unemployment. Now, as a landowner you happen to have substantial political power. The min. wage drops to zero. The legislature cuts unemployment benefits even further. You build some cheap large dormitories on your land and a big kitchen and you generously offer $1 per hour plus room and board. hey, maybe the sheriff gives you a hand in filling up the dorms. Your gas costs drop to zero. The local John Deere salesman goes out of business, but you're getting your cotton picked, by god.

oh, and the best part is the taxpayer subsidizes you by paying your workers a negative income tax. whee.

The low end of the labor market is not adequately modelled by Econ 101.

Workers aren't flour; they're people who spend the wages you pay them. There are feedback mechanisms not captured by the standard supply / demand X.

Elasticities are hard to measure -- just how many positions can McD cut from a busy lunch line?

Workers need to eat, so a too low wage will encourage people moving into jobs which pay adequately, like crime.

The Phillips curve -- the relationship between unemployment and inflation -- is a critical component of the fed's decisionmaking. Whenever the labor market gets too tight, the fed raises interest rates, cooling the economy. Structural unemployment is a basic characteristic of our economy.

As Hurricane Katrina showed, the premise of free mobility of labor at the lowest end of the labor force is a lie. The poorest poor are too poor to move. They will work on the plantation because they will have no choice.

Zero min. wage is a return to indentured servitude, subsidized by the US taxpayer. No thanks.

"I still don't see why this amendment doesn't preclude states' raising their minimum wage."

Oh shoot did I say that? I meant that they couldn't lower their wage to below Jan 1, 2007.

Hey now that I'm fully awake, I'd like to note that it doesn't say "not less than the minimum wage in authorized in that State on January 1, 2007.", it says "not less than the minimum wage in effect in that State on January 1, 2007."

Since the federal minimum wage was in effect in "that State" as of Jan 1, I think it sets the Jan 1, 2007 federal rate as the absolute mimimum.

WTF?? How does McCain expect to win the presidency with "Voted to Abolish the Minimum Wage" hanging around his neck?

My understanding is that (1) the minimum wage is pretty popular, and (2) McCain is a pretty tactically smart politician, but I don't see how (1) and (2) can be reconciled.

"The local John Deere salesman goes out of business, but you're getting your cotton picked, by god."

No you aren't. People would move. And at low enough wages, with a minimum income why work at all? The difference between the minimum income and the minimum income plus $40 isn't enough to justify working 40 hours.

you're getting your cotton picked, by god

Well, I expect God will do it better, and faster. Still, I have no idea what the point of this is.

[/kidding]

Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, an employer shall not be required to pay an employee a wage that is greater than the minimum wage provided for by the law of the State in which the employee is employed and not less than the minimum wage in effect in that State on January 1, 2007.

one, the "notwithstanding" clause is the atom bomb of statutory language. Everything else is put aside.

second, the employer is now free to pay the State minimum wage. now we see the need for the atom bomb. all the other language anywhere else in the federal code about setting federal min wage, and escalating fed min wage due to COLAs is now surplusage.

third, what does the "not less" clause attach to? by basic rules of grammar, it must follow the "a wage that is". and since it follows an earlier "not" let's eliminate the double negative by substituting "equal to or greater than" for "not less".

so the clause now reads: an employer shall not be required to pay an employee a wage that is ... [equal to or greater] than the minimum wage in effect in that State on January 1, 2007.

what does this mean? hard to tell. it's arguable that the intent is to set a federal minimum floor of each state's minimum wage as of 1/1/07, but since it's phrased in the negative, it seems to me that it fails in the attempt.


oops. let's try again.

Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, an employer shall not be required to pay an employee a wage that is greater than the minimum wage provided for by the law of the State in which the employee is employed and not less than the minimum wage in effect in that State on January 1, 2007.

one, the "notwithstanding" clause is the atom bomb of statutory language. Everything else is put aside.

second, the employer is now free to pay the State minimum wage. now we see the need for the atom bomb. all the other language anywhere else in the federal code about setting federal min wage, and escalating fed min wage due to COLAs is now surplusage.

third, what does the "not less" clause attach to? by basic rules of grammar, it must follow the "a wage that is". and since it follows an earlier "not" let's eliminate the double negative by substituting "equal to or greater than" for "not less".

so the clause now reads: an employer shall not be required to pay an employee a wage that is ... [equal to or greater] than the minimum wage in effect in that State on January 1, 2007.

what does this mean? hard to tell. it's arguable that the intent is to set a federal minimum floor of each state's minimum wage as of 1/1/07, but since it's phrased in the negative, it seems to me that it fails in the attempt. It nowhere says that an employer is required to do anything.

What Steve said re: Hagel. Look Orrin hatch supports stem cell research, but that's about the only thing I agree with him on.

Sebastian:

Since the federal minimum wage was in effect in "that State" as of Jan 1, I think it sets the Jan 1, 2007 federal rate as the absolute mimimum.

And therefore the Act does absolutely nothing, since under this interpretation, the Act requires that the federal minimum wage still be paid.

Admittedly, the language does have an ambiguity in it and your proposed reading is possible, but there is no way any court would read it that way since it turns the whole provision into mush. More likely is that the clause not less than the minimum wage in effect in that State on January 1, 2007 is going to be read as "in effect in that State [under State law] on January 1, 2007.
______________

Hilzoy:

I still don't see why this amendment doesn't preclude states' raising their minimum wage. It doesn't say 'employers shall not be required by the federal government'; it says they shall not be required, period.

It says:

an employer shall not be required to pay an employee a wage that is greater than the minimum wage provided for by the law of the State in which the employee is employed

It is all pegged to whatever the law of the State happens to be, and does not restrict the State's discretion to increase it.

Francis:

what does this mean? hard to tell. it's arguable that the intent is to set a federal minimum floor of each state's minimum wage as of 1/1/07, but since it's phrased in the negative, it seems to me that it fails in the attempt. It nowhere says that an employer is required to do anything.

Good point. Talk about sloppy drafting. I guess we are all trying to make sense out of this gobblydegook and inferring plausible meanings even if not literally there.

Funny how much federal law suffers from this type of crappy language. Or not, if your client has hundreds of thousands riding on its meaning.

Writing clear statutory language (or contractual, for that matter) is a high art.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad