Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Greenhouse Gases

Thomas Sowell is an economist at Stanford University's Hoover Insitute, so you know he's one of the very best in his field. What makes Sowell's work so good is the ease with which he is able to describe economic principles and their applications in the real world. In his latest column, Sowell very clearly defines the objectives of the liberal elite, as voiced by the New York Times.

In an editorial masquarading as news, reporter Steven Greenhouse wonders aloud if Wal-Mart's average wage of $9.68/hour is high enough, especially since this figure places its workers' pay below the federally-defined poverty-line ($19,157) for a family of four. He cites several current and former Wal-Mart employees who decry Wal-Mart's failure to provide a "living" wage.

With most of Wal-Mart's workers earning less than $19,000 a year, a number of community groups and lawmakers have recently teamed up with labor unions in mounting an intensive campaign aimed at prodding Wal-Mart into paying its 1.3 million employees higher wages.

A new group of Wal-Mart critics ran a full-page advertisement on April 20 contending that the company's low pay had forced tens of thousands of its workers to resort to food stamps and Medicaid, costing taxpayers billions of dollars. On April 26, as part of a campaign called "Love Mom, Not Wal-Mart," five members of Congress joined women's advocates and labor leaders to assail the company for not paying its female employees more.

"Wal-Mart should pay people at a minimum enough to go above the U.S. poverty line," said Andrew Grossman, executive director of Wal-Mart Watch, the coalition of community, environmental and labor groups running the series of ads criticizing Wal-Mart. "A company this big and this wealthy has the ability to pay higher wages."
Sowell points out the obvious:

Of course they can pay more. The New York Times could pay its own employees more. We could all pay more for whatever we buy or rent. Don't tell me you couldn't have paid a dime more for this newspaper. But why should any of us pay more than we have to?
Sowell then goes on the attack against Greenhouse's obsession with Wal-Mart providing a "living wage" for its employees, and then gets to the heart of the liberals' socialist obsession:

The fashionable notion of "a living wage" is a wage that will support a family of four. And, sure enough, The New York Times finds a Wal-Mart employee who complains that he is not making "a living wage."

How is he living, if he is not making a living wage?

Should people be paid according to what they "need" instead of according to what their work is worth? Should they decide how big a family they want and then put the cost of paying to support that family on somebody else?

If their work is not worth enough to pay for what they want, is it up to others to make up the difference, rather than up to them to upgrade their skills in order to earn what they want?

Are they supposed to be subsidized by Wal-Mart's customers through higher prices or subsidized by Wal-Mart's stockholders through lower earnings? After all, much of the stock in even a rich company is often owned by pension funds belonging to teachers, policemen and others who are far from rich.

Why should other people have to retire on less money, in order that Wal-Mart employees can be paid what The New York Times wants them paid, instead of what their labor is worth in the marketplace? After all, they wouldn't be working for Wal-Mart if someone else valued their labor more.
Surprisingly, Sowell fails to follow-up on reporter Greenhouse's flawed praise of General Motors and Ford as employers:

Wal-Mart critics often note that corporations like Ford and G.M. led a race to the top, providing high wages and generous benefits that other companies emulated. They ask why Wal-Mart, with some $10 billion in profit on about $288 billion in revenue last year, cannot act similarly.

"Henry Ford made sure he paid his workers enough so that they could afford to buy his cars," said William McDonough, executive vice president of the United Food and Commercial Workers union. "Wal-Mart is doing the polar opposite of Henry Ford. Wal-Mart brags about how its low prices help poor Americans, but its low wages are helping increase the number of Americans in poverty."
In a remarkable case of bad timing, both General Motors and Ford recently had their credit rating downgraded by rating agency Standard & Poors to "junk" status. Unprofitable GM and barely profitable Ford cited high labor costs and overly generous employee health benefits as factors in their struggle to avoid bankrupcy. So much for that...

The plain-vanilla economics of the real world seems to be beyond the comprehension of "The Paper of Record" and its staff. It never ceases to amaze me how liberals somehow believe that human behavior is completely monolithic or uniform. Or, rather, there is nothing such as individuality or personal choice in humans. It apparently never occurs to the elitists at the Times that some people are just lazy while others are highly motivated and ambitious. Thus, it must be incomprehensible to them why some people succeed and are highly compensated for taking risks, while others remain at the bottom.

Sowell draws a similar conclusion:

It would be devastating to the egos of the intelligentsia to realize, much less admit, that businesses have done more to reduce poverty than all the intellectuals put together. Ultimately it is only wealth that can reduce poverty and most of the intelligentsia have no interest whatever in finding out what actions and policies increase the national wealth.

They certainly don't feel any "obligation" to learn economics, out of a sense of "social responsibility," much less because of any "social contract" requiring them to know what they are talking about before spouting off with self-righteous rhetoric.
Whenever I need a laugh, I usually look to the New York Times to review their Page One socialist agenda. When I want to learn someone useful, I'll read Thomas Sowell's work.


Post a Comment

<< Home