ESTATE TAX AND EXTENSION OF TAX RELIEF ACT OF 2006 -- (House of Representatives - July 28, 2006)
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Mr. PAUL. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to address my concerns with H.R. 5970, a bill to raise the federally mandated minimum wage. Before addressing the substance of this bill, I must address the flaws in the process under which this bill is brought before us. Neither I nor my staff had received any indication the bill before us tonight would be considered by the House until late this afternoon, and the only way a member of the general public could learn about this bill is to look on the Rules Committee website. Therefore, Members of Congress are being asked to vote for a major piece of legislation that was introduced just hours before being voted on the Friday night before Congress adjourns for the month of August.
The practice of rushing bills to the floor before individual Members have had a chance to study the bills is one of the major factors contributing to public distrust of Congress. Mr. Speaker, I have introduced legislation, the Sunlight Rule (H. Res. 709), to prevent situations like the one currently confronting Members. The Sunlight Rule prohibits any piece of legislation, including conference reports, from being brought before the House of Representatives unless it has been available to Members and staff in both print and electronic versions for at least 10 days. H. Res. 709 also requires that conference reports and manager's amendments that make substantive changes to a bill must be available in both printed and electronic forms at least 72 hours before a vote.
The announced purpose of this bill is to raise living standards for all Americans. This is certainly an admirable goal, however, to believe that Congress can raise the standard of living for working Americans by simply forcing employers to pay their employees a higher wage is equivalent to claiming that Congress can repeal gravity by passing a law saying humans shall have the ability to fly.
Economic principles dictate that when government imposes a minimum wage rate above the market wage rate, it creates a surplus ``wedge'' between the supply of labor and the demand for labor, leading to an increase in unemployment. Employers cannot simply begin paying more to workers whose marginal productivity does not meet or exceed the law-imposed wage. The only course of action available to the employer is to mechanize operations or employ a higher-skilled worker whose output meets or exceeds the ``minimum wage.'' This, of course, has the advantage of giving the skilled worker an additional (and government-enforced) advantage over the unskilled worker. For example, where formerly an employer had the option of hiring three unskilled workers at $5 per hour or one skilled worker at $16 per hour, a minimum wage of $6 suddenly leaves the employer only the choice of the skilled worker at an additional cost of $1 per hour. I would ask my colleagues, if the minimum wage is the means to prosperity, why stop at $6.65--why not $50, $75, or $100 per hour?
Those who are denied employment opportunities as a result of the minimum wage are often young people at the lower end of the income scale who are seeking entry-level employment. Their inability to find an entry-level job will limit their employment prospects for years to come. Thus, raising the minimum wage actually lowers the employment opportunities and standard of living of the very people proponents of the minimum wage claim will benefit from government intervention in the economy!
Furthermore, interfering in the voluntary transactions of employers and employees in the name of making things better for low wage earners violates citizens' rights of association and freedom of contract as if to say to citizens ``you are incapable of making employment decisions for yourself in the marketplace.''
Mr. Speaker, I do not wish my opposition to this bill to be misconstrued as counseling inaction. Quite the contrary, Congress must enact ambitious program of tax cuts and regulatory reform to remove government-created obstacles to job growth. However, Mr. Speaker, Congress should not fool itself into believing that the package of tax cuts included in this bill will compensate for the damage inflicted on small businesses and their employees by the minimum wage increase. This assumes that Congress is omnipotent and thus can strike a perfect balance between tax cuts and regulations so that no firm, or worker, in the country is adversely affected by Federal policies. If the 20th Century taught us anything it was that any and all attempts to centrally plan an economy, especially one as large and diverse as America's, are doomed to fail.
In conclusion, I would remind my colleagues that while it may make them feel good to raise the Federal minimum wage, the real life consequences of this bill will be vested upon those who can least afford to be deprived of work opportunities. Therefore, rather than pretend that Congress can repeal the economic principles, I urge my colleagues to reject this legislation and instead embrace a program of tax cuts and regulatory reform to strengthen the greatest producer of jobs and prosperity in human history: the free market.