As of today, the minimum wage in New York State increases to $8.00 per hour from $7.25 per hour. On January 1, 2015 the minimum wage in NYS will go up to $8.75. It will go up another twenty-five cents to $9.00 per hour on January 1, 2016. This increase in the minimum wage has been long overdue. For those of us who like to keep score, the U.S. minimum wage of $7.25 was in 2013 only 38% of the American median wage. In Great Britain the minimum wage is 50% of the British median wage and in Germany by 2016 the new minimum wage will be about 62% of the median German wage. The delayed attempt on the NYS level and national level to address the problem of an artificially low minimum wage may reflect a growing concern among the insider elites in government and corporations that widening income inequality may develop into a serious problem for them.
The Silver standard and the minimum wage
Just this week on Monday came more news out of Albany that even more might happen in NYS on the minimum wage front. Sheldon Silver, the Democratic Assembly leader, has now indicated his intention to introduce legislation that would establish $9.00 per hours as the NYS minimum wage in January 2015 instead of in January 2016. The key provision in this new bill is the linking of the NYS minimum wage to the inflation rate via automatic adjustments.
It is another good, long overdue idea—but is it sincere and does it have any chance at all to fly in the State Senate? Mr. Silver may just be appeasing potential critics of the latest sexual harassment problem within his own Assembly ranks. He is especially vulnerable to allegations that he tries to cover for his members’ excesses. For example, remember the Assemblyman Vito Lopez situation? This new proposal about raising the new minimum wage comes at a convenient time for the Assembly leader.
Reform in Albany – a bird without wings
The Albany legislative game is transparent: propose reforms that sound good in order to create the impression of willingness to reform, but only as long as the proposals won’t be passed by the other legislative branch. Apparently our state leaders believe that the public can be duped indefinitely, and any informed criticism of their self-dealing ways need not to be taken seriously. Just finessed. This has evolved into a self-serving political game that is by now decades overdue for correction.
Likewise, the new proposal to ban legislators from receiving ANY extra outside income whatsoever also sounds great, but as is the case with Mr. Silver’s minimum wage proposal, it is another bird that won’t fly. It looks good on the ground, though.
(I’ll be keeping my eye on the landscape of public reality for Compass readers in a weekly Wednesday column, “The Razor’s Edge.” For now–be kind, keep reading and keep in touch with true friends.)