There are a lot of times when my writing on this site and in politics will be at-odds with the positions taken by the Editorial Board of the Baltimore Sun. I also have some concerns about bias among the reporting that’s conducted by the Sun (that’s not to say anything about the reporters themselves, but, there’s always a twinge of personal bias that makes it through into the ink. It’s life. The Sun’s viewpoint tilts leftward).
However, it’s very important to stress the times when the Baltimore Sun and I agree on important topics (like their endorsement of me in the last Primary Election). In politics, and political writing, it all-too-often is assumed that people who disagree on political issues will always disagree. That’s the narrative. It sells papers and it gets clicks. However, it’s also not the way things always have to be.
Therefore, let me share a point of agreement between myself and the Editorial Board of the Sun. Today, the Sun, in response to the City Council’s decision to adopt a $15 minimum wage in the City, has taken the stand that Mayor Catherine Pugh should veto the bill. You can read the Editorial here. Vetoing the legislation would send it back to the Council which would then be tasked with deciding whether to override the veto and force the bill to become a law. The Sun has been consistent in its opposition to the way in which the Council is attempting to push through this flawed economic idea.
You’ll remember, if you’re a frequent reader, that I ran for City Council and lost in the General Election. One of my warnings to City voters was that the recently-defeated minimum wage bill would rear its ugly head once a new Council had been sworn in. I knew that it would pass given the ideological dynamics of the new Council, but that my election would prevent the Council from securing the needed 12 vote super-majority to overturn a Mayoral veto. Now, the Council has the opportunity, and exactly the 12 votes it needs, to do just that. Sure, there will be calls made to members of the 12 to not act to overturn the veto, but, the reality is that union and other interests will likely be strong enough for Baltimore’s elected officials to sell-out the future of Baltimore’s workers.
I’ve written most of my critiques about the minimum wage legislation in a voice as close to the third-person as possible. Principally, my goal is to get the facts out about the issue and to explore the poor economic decision the City’s leaders are making. However, it was an explicit attempt to avoid the inevitable contention that my opposition to the decision was merely “sour grapes” following an election loss. Given that I am not a psychiatrist, I can’t generally say how much that weighs into the decision to write about what I see as a coming economic catastrophe for the City, but I’m sure that plays a part. If that disqualifies my view, so be it. As the oft-defeated Henry Clay said, “I’d rather be right than President.”
What the City Council has done, and what it is poised to do if the Mayor vetoes the legislation, is to, in the guise of being helpful, set back Baltimore’s workers at a critical moment of opportunity. Without drilling into the economic points, which have been made on this site numerous times before, it’s important to reiterate that Baltimore City arbitrarily raising the cost of labor without raising the value of the labor will create a dividing line within the State that will prejudice Baltimore’s citizens, discourage big business investment, and hurt the urban poor.
Let’s remember, before the moralizing and high-handed altruism of the $15 proponents comes to bear: there is nothing in this bill that will change Federal law. Raising wages, regardless of the phase-in period, will do nothing to stop the Federal government from deciding that an individual no longer qualifies for certain programs and grants. However, that person may not have to worry about that because a more-skilled individual from over the City-County line will just decide that a 30-40% raise more than justifies walking a few extra blocks to displace a City worker.
Not only does this plan make employment more competitive with the very people the proponents seek to help, but it also deliberately hurts the people who do the employing in Baltimore. When you hear talk of growing “food deserts,” remember the politicians who decided to make it a bad economic decision to invest in Baltimore. When you hear about stores closing up in the City and moving to the County while displacing City workers, remember the politicians who made the decision to punish business growth. When you hear about unemployment rates rising, remember the politicians who decided it was more expedient to listen to union interests than the individuals who needed help the most.
Debate the minimum wage in Washington DC where, at least, income and business tax issues can be resolved along with wage levels. If it’s absolutely necessary, debate it in Annapolis. But, there is no excuse, aside from a progressive crusade towards failed economic slogans, to force the people of Baltimore to suffer for a cause that will, inevitably, lead to greater economic distress in a City that is already in dire straits.
So, yes, I agree with the Baltimore Sun’s Editorial Board: Mayor Pugh, veto this attack on Baltimore’s economy. Send it back to the Council that passed it, and be it upon their heads as we watch the continued exodus of jobs, prosperity, and hope from Baltimore.