Polarizing Rhetoric Ill Serves Wage Debate

Once again the tactless, abrasive rhetoric of Ronda Storms has transcended an issue. Most recently, it was the Hillsborough County Commission’s “no” vote on the “living wage” proposal. In its 4-3 vote, the commission turned thumbs down on a plan to increase the minimum wage for county employees — and some private-sector, contract workers — from $6.97 an hour to $9.97.

There are reasons that three other members of the commission also voted “no” for a 30 per cent hike for low-paid workers. And there are reasons that a county task force recommended against the measure. A possible uptick in unemployment. A wage-hike domino effect for other workers.

And, of course, the money to pay higher county-employee wages — and increased vendor costs –would come from somewhere. Otherwise known as the taxpayers. And it could exceed $10 million. Bad fiscal policy in the good name of compassion — or “tackling poverty” — is still bad fiscal policy.

Storms said as much, but couldn’t resist a vintage, insensitive sound bite. After reasoning that “artificially inflated” wages was no acceptable answer — which is an acceptable response — Topical Storms Ronda waxed sociologically snotty about the plights of some low-wage employees. “If you can’t afford four children, birth control has been around since the 1960s,” she sniffed. “There is a little thing called the pill.”

Once again “The Furor” of Hillsborough County has become a distracting, mean-spirited sideshow to a legitimate issue. And ironically she does a disservice to her point of view, one that is not without merit. The insulting rhetoric may play well with her south county constituency, but it’s counterproductive to any dialogue of understanding and comity.

Storms obviously doesn’t think it’s proper for taxpayers to subsidize those who have made poor career choices. Such that they are still in minimum-wage, entry-level jobs not designed for raising a family of four. She’s hardly alone in so thinking. In fact, it’s worth noting that most of those in minimum-wage jobs don’t remain there permanently. Their pay increases as they accumulate experience and develop skills.

And perhaps Storms has been privy to some of the studies — including by the Cato Institute — that indicate that fewer people are employed when wages are hiked artificially. Moreover, unemployment tends to fall disproportionately on lower-skilled workers, younger and inexperienced workers, and workers from minority groups.

And that’s why education is ultimately the better societal strategy for those in minimum-wage positions, i.e., the “working poor.” In fact, that was pointed out by Storms.

Her “pill” put-down, however, carried the day — much to the benefit of no one.

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