Speaker of the House, John Boehner, a Catholic pro-lifer who has previously said he would rather commit suicide than raise the minimum wage, offered the logic that a raise would adversely affect minorities who hold low-wage jobs and would be “bad policy.” “When you raise the cost of something you get less of it,” he said.
By that logic, as the cost of living has gone up, over 46 million people –16 million of them children–already living in poverty in the United States, would simply have to eat less.
Representative Paul Ryan, who has invoked Catholic teaching, often perverting it, to explain his policy positions, called increasing the minimum wage “bad economics,” and explained that it would actually hurt Americans instead of helping them:
These conspicuously Catholic legislators who have not been averse on other occasions to parading Catholic doctrine as they choose to understand it, appear unmoved by facts and deaf to the arguments raised by the bishops on this issue. The bishops, like many others, have noted that more than half the workforce on minimum wage are women. One in five children lives in poverty. In their letter to the US Senate earlier this year, they pointed out what is obvious to those struggling to make ends meet on one, two or even three minimum wage jobs:
“A full year, full-time worker making the minimum wage does not make enough money to raise a child free from poverty. Because the minimum wage is a static number and does not change, each year it becomes more difficult for workers making the minimum wage to survive. Additionally, while some minimum wage workers are teenagers, research suggests as much as 25 percent of workers who would benefit from a minimum wage increase are parents.”
Women entrepreneurs appear to understand this. Unlike the US Chamber, the US Women’s Chamber of Commerce which has 500,000 members across the nation, actively supports increasing the minimum wage.
“Give Hawaii a Raise” say Faith and Community Leaders
Here in Hawaii, faith and community leaders have been one in driving home the same message to state legislators. It doesn’t matter through which lens you look at the issue: faith, justice, gender, child advocacy, community values, AND the health of the economy: it’s time to give Hawaii a raise. The Honolulu Chamber testified against raising the minimum wage citing the potential impact on small businesses and what they see as the “unsustainable” rise over five years to $10.60 an hour.
What is unsustainable in Hawaii and in the nation is the growing chasm between rich and poor, a chasm that should make anyone, believers or atheists, cringe. Philanthropy alone is not the answer. Better public policy is. And raising the minimum wage is the least we can do to address the shameful disparity between those who have more than they could ever use in multiple lifetimes and those who are simply asking for a lifeline. The Chamber of Commerce should support raising the minimum wage because it would be consistent with its stated mission –“to promote economic vitality”–by putting just a little more money in the hands of those who will, of necessity, spend it.
And the Bishops could raise the volume on their support for raising the minimum wage to at least the level of their very public and continuing opposition to women’s right to make their own reproductive healthcare decisions, a right that affects women’s ability to escape the dehumanizing cycle of endless pregnancies and poverty.