Friday, November 04, 2005

October 22, 2005 I wrote a post about the inadequate reporting that occurred in relation to a proposed minimum wage law.  I did not take a position on the desirability of raising the minimum wage law on that night and although I’m going to write more about it tonight, I still will not take a position.  My concern is an irrational argument being used to try to push it through.

The original article was published October 20, 2005 in the Peoria Journal Star page A8.  Senator Kennedy, who was the sponsor of the bill according to the article, is quoted as saying “… it was ‘absolutely unconscionable’ that in the same period that Congress has denied a minimum wage increase, lawmakers have voted themselves seven pay raises worth $28,000.”  According to an editorial written on October 30, 2005 by the Peoria Journal Star editorial staff which echoed the same sentiment; the present salary of members of Congress is $165,200.  

The fallacy of the argument by both the Senator and the editorial staff should be obvious to everyone who knows anything about economics and supply and demand.  It is impossible to realistically compare the work done by elected Congressmen and the work done by individuals who earn minimum wage.  In the whole of the United States, there are only 535 Congressmen who make decisions daily that enormously influence the life and wellbeing of ever person in the country.  Even if you doubled their salary tomorrow they would only be making $330,400 a year.  How many executives make more than $330,400 a year?  Executives whose decisions don’t have nearly the impact that decisions made by Congress do on the nation.  

The Peoria Journal Star is owned by The Copley Press, Inc. which is based in California.  Realistically, do you believe that the CEO of that company earns more or less money each year than is paid in salary to each member of our Congress?  I’ve got an idea.  Why don’t we write a letter to the CEO and ask him how much he earns each year in salary, stock options, and all the other perks executives receive.  My guess is he earns much more than a Congressman does in salary.        

We have school superintendents in Illinois who earn well over $100,000 a year.  The head of the University of Arizona earned more than $300,000 a year when I moved from Arizona in 2004.  Arizona’s basketball coach earns more than a million dollars a year although not all of it is paid directly by the University.  This one I think is interesting.  The day after the editorial appeared in the Peoria Journal Star the following information was printed in the Star on page D7—the average professional basketball player’s salary in 1995-1996 was $2 million.  The average professional basketball player’s salary in 2005-2006 is $4.5 million.  My point is, for the job we ask Congressmen to do, for the tremendous influence their decisions have on our lives, and for the results that occur (whether or not we agree with them); we, as a people, get their efforts dirt cheap in comparison to the salary received by others in our society.  We get them dirt cheap!  

From what I have heard, Senator Kennedy is a millionaire several times over.  I’ve got another idea.  Why doesn’t he follow the old adage to put his money where is mouth is.  I want to emphasis that he put his money, not our money, where his mouth is.  If he really believes that it is “absolutely unconscionable” that so many people are paid so little.  I suggest that he donate all his wealth to the poor and live only on the $165,200 in salary he receives each year.  Do you think he will do it?  


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