I just stopped in at the office and was listening to NPR on the way over. After the rather interesting interview with Paul Simon (hey, did you know that he and "Artie" were originally known as "Tom & Jerry" back in ’57 when their first recordings were for sale, and it wasn’t until 1964 they became known as Simon & Garfunkel?) they were talking about the Immigration Bill and whatnot and issues all peripheral all over the place.
They talked with one gentleman who owns a business contracting with the lumber industry to plant trees (it’s amazing how many hundreds of thousands of replacement trees get planted when the subject is immigrant work, rather than some environmental issue where the fact is overlooked completely). He’s up in arms because he can’t "play by the rules" and compete with contractors that don’t; namely: hire immigrant labor at the market. Did you hear me? I said: at the market. He wants his competitors to pay their people more than they’re willing to work for, so that he can pay his people more than they’re willing to work for; because, I guess, he either feels all warm and fuzzy by paying more than they’ll take (but not so warm and fuzzy as to go it alone), or he just loves the idea of a minimum wage law. Big businesses do, you know.
Setting a minimum wage is essentially price fixing for most unskilled
labor, so it takes one element of competition (who can get the best
workers for the least) out of the business plan equation. Big
businesses also like to see minimum wage increases, as it raises
barriers to entry for small capitalized businesses. So minimum-wage
luvin’ lefties are in the corner of big business.
Then they moved on to talking to some bimbo lawyer with the Southern
Poverty Law Center (wanna guess what they want more of?) who’s
representing immigrants in class actions for fun and the sob story in
this case is how the immigrants get paid pennies per tree they plant,
the work is tough and long, and when you calculate it all out they’re
making about $2 per hour. Now, what is $2 per hour? Well, it’s less
than the "minimum wage." That’s a fact. It’s also an amount the
employer is willing to pay (a fact), as well as an amount the employees
are willing to work for (a fact). It’s also an amount the employees are
willing to travel from Guatemala and other places to obtain.
Now, the issue here — the conflict or antagonism, if you will — seems
to be that while the employees are certainly willing to work for more
(wouldn’t we all?) the employer isn’t willing to pay more. Why? Simple:
there is a supply of people willing to take $2 and less. At $2, he gets
all the workers he can want. If there’s not enough at $2, he has to raise his price until he gets enough dependable workers, up to the point of a certain opportunity cost of capital, i.e., the point where for the same investment and less cost, time, and hassle, he can do better. This is the point at where his workers won’t be exploited — because they’ll be unemployed — and we will have achieved a level of justice that is perfect, all possibility of exploitation having been expunged — kind of like if we were to nuke a million people we could save them from starvation.
So where the question turns, is: what could
the employer pay if he wanted to and still make an "equitable" (that’s
where when you produce it, you get less than you’re entitled)
profit? — equitable being determined, of course, by "authorities." Once that amount is
identified imposed, it’s a simple matter of court
judgments, orders and injunctions in order to consummate the marriage of "need" and gunpoint.
What it really all boils down to, is:
what amount can he be forced to pay, above what he’s willing to pay,
before it’s not worth it to him anymore? For most, including myself in business, there is such a number.
Just so, like, you know…that’s the real bottom line when you’re talking about this stuff. It’s a clever little process. 1) Find what they love. 2) Find what they’ll pay to keep from having it be destroyed. 3) Threaten to destroy it unless they pay what you know they’ll pay. We call it government and we step inside voting booths once every two years to choose the people we think are the best at that.
You should be proud. A proud American in the "Land of the Free."