In response to Ed Read’s “From the State House” piece in last week’s VR, I feel compelled to respond: Will someone please challenge him for this seat in the Vermont Legislature this fall? We desperately need someone in this seat who is capable of grasping complex issues, who can see multiple perspectives on the key issues, with a track record of being a true Independent instead of a conservative wearing an Independent sheepskin. Unfortunately, Mr. Read’s appointment amounts to yet another example of Governor Scott’s Trumpian approach of appointing people with no background in the work that they are assigned. We need a state representative who avoids the simplistic, reductionist and incorrect statements that we see coming from Ed Read.
Mr. Read writes: “So, as it is, the only workers currently guaranteed an annual raise are minimum wage workers who don’t get a raise on merit but instead get a cost of living increase.” Apparently Ed has never heard of VSEA for state employees including the state police, or the NEA for teachers, or unions of any kind – all of whom get annual increases (yes, in some cases six-month increases or increases every two years) as specified in union pay charts which typically exceed the increase in the Consumer Price Index. Ed, be clear – you don’t like unions either, do you? Or, did you simply reduce and oversimplify your argument about minimum wage to convince yourself that you are making sense? To me his grossly incorrect statement is indicative of his broader inability to think through this issue.
Ed blames minimum wage workers for adversely impacting everyone (except the very wealthy – no shots taken there – that’s a Republican tendency) and somehow he reaches to the conclusion that increasing the minimum wage will cause gasoline and clothing prices to go up. Is that why gasoline prices were at $4 not long ago? Who knew that Vermont minimum wage earners determined the price of oil and clothing? True, if you have two minimum wage cashiers at Valero and 5,000 gallons a day is pumped, then over five years that $5 in additional wages could result in an increase of around 1.2 cents a gallon. It’s not the major driver of gasoline prices. His argument is nonsense.
According to Mr. Read, it is the minimum wage earner who makes everyone pay more for everything and thereby makes everyone poorer. According to his logic, Vermont then should avoid developing its economy entirely, as anyone making more money will make everything more expensive. That line of logic is, as Ed’s favorite adviser, the folksy fictitious character from “M.A.S.H.,” would say, “That’s a busload of bushwah.” If you believe in the horrors of what you refer to as “wage compression,” then why in the world did you pay your own workers more than the minimum wage? Didn’t that drive up the price of clothing and gasoline for the poor and all middle-income earners, making everyone poorer and everything more expensive?
He engages in wishful thinking that rests on the idea that owners of capitalist enterprises “want to give them (their employees) as much as they can afford, even to the extent of providing for them before ourselves.” That is horse hockey. It’s not even conservative blathering, it’s just blathering. Let’s see your books and those of The Valley’s largest employer. Yes, some beneficent souls are out there to be sure, but then let’s remember why we have child labor laws in this country. I see tree-service owners driving expensive, new pickup trucks and race cars like the governor – are they scrimping to get by? Without minimum wage laws and without child labor laws, employers would hire children and pay them even less than they do the adults. This is a fact of history for which you do not need an economist to account. How much did Sugarbush earn last year before they laid nearly everyone off in the spring? How many of those people went on state unemployment (or non W2 income as you call it). How many work “under the table” to get by with their unemployment? And who paid the tab when they collected unemployment or needed medical care? We need someone in the Legislature who is less dogmatic, more balanced and more responsible. The arguments he offered are not whole-assed.
DelBrocco lives in Fayston and Robbins, North Carolina.