involvement in this campaign is amusing because a few years ago
the group sued the state of California in order to be exempted
from its minimum wage requirement, which was higher than the federal
government's. In its appellate brief, ACORN acknowledged that
the more it had to pay each worker, the fewer such workers it
would be able to hire. Of course, the same thing is true for businesses,
as well -- something minimum wage advocates refuse to admit.
ACORN argued that paying its workers less than the minimum wage
aided its organizing efforts. Said the brief, "A person paid
limited sums of money will be in a better position to empathize
with and relate to the low and moderate membership and constituency
of ACORN." Somehow I doubt that a business catering to those
with low incomes would get any sympathy from ACORN if it made
the same argument.
ACORN has a history of denying its workers rights that it demands
from corporations. For example, its "People's Platform"
says that all workers have the right to organize. Yet, when its
own workers have tried to do so, ACORN strenuously fought them.
all of the workers in ACORN's Seattle office signed cards stating
a desire to join the Industrial Workers of the World, a labor
union with a long history of radicalism. ACORN's management refused
to recognize the union and locked out the workers. Eventually,
ACORN relented and paid a $20,000 settlement. Afterward, an IWW
organizer said, "This underscores further the doublespeak
that causes their workers to unionize or resign in disgust, and
it shows that (ACORN's leaders) have learned nothing about workers'
year, ACORN intimidated and fired workers in its Dallas office
for threatening to organize. In 2003, the National Labor Relations
Board found that it had violated the law. Said the NLRB, "By
interrogating employees about their union activities, by informing
employees that other employees have been discharged because of
the union, by threatening employees that selecting the union to
represent them will be futile and by threatening employees with
discharge, respondent has violated section 8(a) of the act."
doublespeak on the minimum wage has a long history. According
to a fascinating article in the fall 2005 issue of the Journal
of Economic Perspectives, early advocates of the minimum wage
knew perfectly well that it would lead to job losses. Not only
that, the loss of jobs was actually a prime reason why they supported
the minimum wage.
University economist Thomas Leonard recounts the story, liberals
of a century ago were strong supporters of eugenics -- the idea
that the quality of the human race could be improved by weeding
out, even killing, those deemed to be unfit. The great novelist
D.H. Lawrence expressed an appalling but typical view. Said Lawrence
on one occasion, "If I had my way, I would build a lethal
chamber as big as the Crystal Palace ... and then I'd go out in
the back streets and main streets and bring them all in, all the
sick, the halt and the maimed; I would lead them gently, and they
would smile at me."
Theodore Roosevelt shared this philosophy. "I wish very much
that the wrong people could be prevented entirely from breeding,"
he wrote in 1914. Criminals should be sterilized, he said, and
the feebleminded should be forbidden to leave offspring.
states enacted laws imposing forced sterilization on such people,
a practice even approved by the Supreme Court in Buck v. Bell
wage fit in with this philosophy, according to Leonard, because
its advocates thought that inferior races and ethnic groups would
be priced out of the labor market and become unemployed, thus
reducing immigration and reproduction by such people. "This
unemployment is not a mark of social disease," wrote famous
socialists Sidney and Beatrice Webb, "but actually of social
minimum wage supporters of the Progressive Era also believed that
it would price women out of the labor market, forcing them to
marry and have children. Eugenicists were obsessed with reproduction
because they feared that whites of Northern European stock were
not having enough children and would eventually be overwhelmed
by faster-reproducing groups in what we now call the Third World.
rightly condemn eugenics as racist. But many people still support
policies such as the minimum wage that were originally planted
in its soil.
Bruce Bartlett's new book, "Impostor: How George W. Bush
Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy," will
be published by Doubleday next month.