pro-growth liberalism

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As a registered Republican, I’ve always felt that the private sector does a better job creating jobs than government.  But not all right wing policies promote growth.  Some limit growth.  Two come to mind immediately: the blind opposition to government-funded healthcare and the opposition to raising the minimum wage, or at least allowing it to keep pace with inflation.

I’ve written about the minimum wage before and the importance of honoring work–all work–by giving people the dignity of earning a living wage. But with fast food workers protesting around the country this week, it seems like a good time to revisit the issue from a different angle:

Increasing the minimum wage is a pro-growth idea.

Adjusted for inflation, today’s minuscule minimum wage is a fraction of what it was in the 1960’s. That inequity has produced a vast pool of working poor who–despite putting in long hours and often holding more than one job–still rely on government services like food stamps and Medicaid to get by. That doesn’t just amount to an unfair taxpayer subsidy of  corporate profits, it’s growth restricting.  So many people on the right rail against entitlements and (rightly) call for reform but then turn around and argue against raising the minimum wage, which would give people the chance to live without government help. I don’t get it.

Many conservative columnists have written that raising the minimum wage leads to automation and the elimination of jobs, especially for low skilled and entry level workers.  Maybe true.  But what is wrong with this type of creative destruction?  When I hear these arguments, I think of Henry Ford, who famously paid his auto workers wages significantly above the going rate.  Why?  Because Ford wanted his workers to be able to afford the cars they made every day.  He knew if he paid his factory workers well, he was creating a new class of consumers for his company’s products.

As for healthcare, I don’t understand why most of my fellow Republicans are so locked into their hatred of Obamacare. If all Americans knew they had a base level of care that was not connected to employment, they might quit their jobs and start their own companies.  Don’t we want potential entrepreneurs to take that risk? Isn’t that as pro-growth as it gets?

I wish everybody on the right who rails against Obamacare would quit yelling for a moment and read the book Deadly Spin.  Written by a former health insurance industry publicist, the book outlines how the industry has convinced many Americans that somehow Obamacare equates to a government takeover of health care.  The author points out that the insurance industry’s biggest fear – which they refuse to admit publicly – is a move toward a single payer health insurance program.  Single payer would essentially put the health insurance industry out of business.  So the industry twists the argument.

Single payer would not eliminate consumer choice. It would simply provide a needed base level of care, not a gold plated program some might desire.  A handful of private insurance programs, admittedly with large monthly premiums, would still give consumers access to services and providers not offered by the government’s system. People could also pay out-of-pocket for procedures or doctors. In other words, the market would still have a prominent role in the health care sector. The only thing that would change is millions of Americans wouldn’t have to fear the possibility of bankruptcy when their children spiked a temperature. Last but not least, it is unfair and costly to force American taxpayers to pay for the emergency room health care that millions of Americans consume without paying a dime for those services (or for health insurance that pays those bills), despite having sufficient income to do so.


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