By Scott Kimmich
To the Editor:
At the League of Women Voters breakfast at the police station on Saturday, many attendees noted that the current level of local “affordable” housing is neither affordable nor adequate, and discriminates against African-Americans, who largely represent the lower income brackets. The state representatives present were sympathetic, but directed the critics to take their grievances to Norwalk’s municipal officials.
When it was pointed out that the state and federal efforts to raise the minimum wage would have a positive effect on many working families, Larry Cafero, the incumbent in the 142nd district, took issue with the hike, citing a recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate that a wage hike would cost a half a million jobs. Mr. Cafero added that small businesses would suffer the most. According to the U.S. census bureau, that would mean a loss of 5,000 low-paying, non-farm private jobs right here in Connecticut.
What Mr. Cafero failed to mention is that the CBO went on to recommend passage of the minimum wage increase. Why? The CBO projects 6.5 million new jobs over the next three years, with or without the hike, even after subtracting the projected 7 percent loss of jobs. The CBO reported that a minimum wage increase would lift almost one million Americans out of poverty. Again, that would mean some 5,000 people here in Connecticut! Regardless of the color of their skin, two-thirds of these working poor are women, and many are mothers.
The CBO also reports that 16.5 million workers would better off even in the face of slightly higher consumer prices and that the total net annual increase in wages would be $19 billion. Middle class households with average incomes up to $125,000 would benefit as well. Households with incomes of $30,000 to $65,000 would average about $200 more per year. Families with incomes less than about $30,000 would average an extra $300 per year.
Because the CBO works for Congress, its attempt to be bipartisan can lead it down a slippery slope. In the case of the minimum wage, it argues that the projected job loss represents the midpoint of various academic projections. Some of the studies it uses are 20 or 30 years old and are uncontrolled. The newer, controlled studies show virtually no effect on unemployment.
What are controlled studies? Over the last 20 years, economists have studied counties in every U.S. state with a minimum wage and compared them with contiguous counties in bordering states, like Fairfield County with Westchester County in New York. It’s like comparing an active drug with a placebo. Had the CBO used only statistically solid controlled studies, as opposed to uncontrolled studies, there would not be a projected job loss. That’s why many believe that the report is a Republican mirage.
The controlled studies show that an increase in the minimum wage puts more money into the economy and, by reducing employee turnover, actually lowers costs for small businesses. It helps us reduce the amount of taxes we pay to subsidize firms who don’t pay workers a living wage.
The current Tea Party zealots who have hijacked the Republican Party refuse to acknowledge that the middle class has been waiting 30 years for a raise, and that the working poor, including a majority of African-Americans, are slipping into poverty
Mr.Cafero can actually help our less fortunate neighbors help themselves by voting to increase the minimum wage, or he can keep on chanting the mantra of the Dark Side. He should vote as if his wife or mother had to support themselves on a shoe string. He has a choice.