The NY Times looks at life on the minimum wage without making much sense:
Crossing Borders and Changing Lives, Lured by Higher State Minimum Wages
ONTARIO, Ore. — Carly Lynch dreams of a life one day on the professional rodeo circuit, but for now she commutes 20 miles from Idaho to this small city in eastern Oregon to work as a waitress. There are restaurant jobs closer to home, but she is willing to drive the extra miles for a simple reason: Oregon’s minimum wage is $1.85 higher per hour than Idaho’s.
“It’s a big difference in pay,” said Ms. Lynch, 20, who moved last summer from her parents’ home in Boise, 30 miles farther east, to make her Oregon commute more bearable. “I can actually put some in the bank.”
So a twenty-year old is no longer living at home due to a higher minimum wage. Breakthrough stuff! Eventually we get more on Ms. Lynch:
Ms. Lynch is one of the many minimum-wage migrants who travel from homes in Idaho, where the rate is $7.25, to work in Oregon, where it is the second highest in the country, $9.10.
Ms. Lynch’s story illustrates some of the competing narratives of the minimum wage debate. When she took her Oregon job last year, at an Irish-themed restaurant and bar called Mackey’s, she got more hours at higher pay, allowing her to compete in more barrel racing events, her rodeo specialty. Two months ago, she even bought a second horse, a gelding paint named Blue Duck.
What kind of a country are we living in where a young lady with rodeo dreams can only afford one horse? Raise the minimum! Spend Other People's Money!
But Mackey’s owners also told her that she would have to work harder than before for that money. Higher labor costs meant getting rid of the dishwasher, for one thing, said Angena Grove, who owns the restaurant with her husband, Shawn. And whereas Ms. Lynch covered three tables at a time in her old Idaho job, Mackey’s waitresses, with the owners helping out, cover five.
“You work for the money,” Ms. Lynch said.
I am delighted to learn that Ms. Lynch is working harder and moving on up as opposed to slacking to success but the Times is not exactly leading with a particularly desperate and impoverished minimum wage earner.
Next woman up!
Jackie Heintzelman, 32, a bartender and server at the Little Palomino, another restaurant and bar in Ontario, also commutes from Idaho. She said the higher Oregon wages, and additional hours, had improved her life, allowing her to quit a second job cleaning houses during the day and to pay her bills on time.
“Everything is paid for, and that is a luxury in itself,” Ms. Heintzelman said. She said she even managed to take a recent weekend trip with her boyfriend.
So she can work a few less hours and spend quality time with her honey. Good to know, but is this why we are raising the minimum? Next!
Many low-wage workers in this region said that what mattered as much as, and sometimes more than, the actual wage was the number of hours worked. Angela Lowry, 41 and a single mother, recently landed a full-time minimum-wage job in a thrift store in Ontario, and said she was thrilled to have it. She will get a paid vacation for the first time in years, she said.
But the job has trade-offs. As Ms. Lowry’s income surges toward $18,000 a year, from about $10,000 at her previous part-time minimum-wage job at Kmart, the government assistance she receives — helping her pay for food, rent and after-school day care for her 7-year-old son, Darian — will all go down.
“You make a little more, they take a little more away,” she said. “But I understand that — it’s got to be fair.” She added, “I am really fortunate and blessed.”
So full-time beats part-time. The jury remains out on whether the ObamaCare employer mandates (if they are ever enforced) will create a push towards part-time work. Will greedy, heartless employers respond to the new incentives by dumping their full-time workers? Time will tell!
Who else does the Times offer? They close with this vignette:
Darin Hill, 39, has been a minimum-wage worker for 19 years on a farm and feed lot outside Ontario, supporting his wife, Cathy, and their two children on about $300 a week. He often gets lots of hours, sometimes 60 or more per week, and that helps, he said. So does the fact that his wife raises pigs. But the trick to getting by, he said, is learning to simplify one’s needs and desires.
“You can’t have a lot of ‘I wants,’ ” he said.
Twenty years at the minimum wage? This is exactly the sort of person progressives want to benefit by raising the minimum. Why is he buried at the end?
The NY Times also includes this awkward fact:
Regardless of the differences in the minimum wage, poverty rates have remained high for many years on both sides of the border. In Malheur County, which surrounds Ontario, 24.5 percent of the population lived in poverty in 2011, according to the most recent federal figures, up from about 19 percent in the late 1990s. In Payette County, Idaho, the poverty rate rose to 19 percent in 2011 from about 13 percent in 1999. A family of four earning about $24,000 or less is considered impoverished under federal standards.
By my arithmetic the Idaho side has a poverty rate about 5-6% lower than the higher-minimum Oregon side.
In an unexpected bit of candor the Times also includes this minimum wage puzzle - when we spend Other People's Money, whose are we spending?
Todd Heinz, who owns three coffee shops called Jolts and Juice with his wife, Vicki — two on the Oregon side, one in Idaho — likened the result to a treadmill when Oregon’s wage went up Jan. 1 by 15 cents under an automatic system linked to the cost of living. (Oregon is one of 10 states that link their minimum wage to the Consumer Price Index.) After raising the pay for his 24 employees, he raised the prices for coffee, smoothies and beer to compensate.
“It feels like a wash,” he said. “It is not the consumer that wins, because most businesses will pass their increase on to the consumer through higher prices. The business doesn’t win, because they are forced to increase their prices to maintain proper margins to keep their doors open, thus affecting current customers and the potential of loss of new business. The employee doesn’t win, because they are the consumer.”
Well. The fast-food industry probably works as an example where most employers have a similar minimum wage mix. On the other hand, A minimum wage big-box retailer in competition with Amazon might not be able to raise prices just because wages have gone up; presumably that would depend on the labor mix at Amazon.
As to the employee not winning, surely that depends on what they buy. It seems unlikely that everything they buy will be marked up in response to a higher minimum wage.