Twitter: @SteveAhlquist

Steve Ahlquist is an award-winning journalist, writer, artist and founding member of the Humanists of Rhode Island, a non-profit group dedicated to reason, compassion, optimism, courage and action. The views expressed are his own and not necessarily those of any organization of which he is a member.

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"We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” - Elie Weisel

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor." - Desmond Tutu

"There comes a time when neutrality and laying low become dishonorable. If you’re not in revolt, you’re in cahoots. When this period and your name are mentioned, decades hence, your grandkids will look away in shame." - David Brooks

3 responses to “The ‘opportunity wage’ scam hits the RI Senate”

  1. salgal

    NO WAY!

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  2. Polly Tickes

    This is a Ponzi scheme waiting to happen.
    What is wrong with these GA politicians? Don’t they thnik things out before they come up with foolish legislation?

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  3. Randall Rose

    The “opportunity wage” can’t possibly benefit working people. It can’t help anyone afford more burgers or fries or whatever a minimum-wage joint happens to serve. It doesn’t create any more demand for these products. What it would mean is that, compared to a lot of people who are making minimum wage now, there would instead be a lot of people making a subminimum wage, and they wouldn’t be able to afford as much. The decreased demand for products, in itself, would tend to lead to closures and layoffs, further harming the economy. Perhaps, if a subminimum wage was instituted, some people could conceivably do better — namely, the companies who would profit from paying less wages. But those companies wouldn’t be facing favorable conditions for expanding their operations, since demand would be down. At best, they would take more profits out of the business. A lot of these companies, who pay minimum wage now and would like to pay subminimum wage later, are retail chains that are based out-of-state anyway, so money would end up leaving the Rhode Island economy. If those big companies are given a windfall by getting the opportunity to lower wages, they’re not going to return that whole windfall back to their customers in the form of lower prices. They’ll try to keep most or all of it for themselves. So when you spend money on their products, the part of your money that goes to wages will be a smaller share than before, and the part of your money that gets sucked up by the 1% will be a larger share than before. Result: working people in RI get less in total, and more of the RI consumer’s money goes to the 1%, in particular to the 1% outside RI.

    This is all pretty obvious — most people know that wage cuts aren’t the way to make the economy better for working people. Wage cuts are great for rewarding the passive investor who does nothing. If there’s anyone who actually thinks wage cuts produce prosperity, you haven’t been paying attention to what voters have been yelling in the last election, and you’ve been too busy smoking what media like the Wall Street Journal like to say.

    And further — to amplify Steve’s point above — having a subminimum wage for those under 18 shifts jobs from adults to teenagers in a way that’s bad economic policy. Right now a lot of working people who get paid minimum wage are adults with kids to take care of. But among 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds, a much smaller share have kids of their own. So with a subminimum wage, adults who want to work to take care of kids, and who have been working, will lose their jobs, harming the entire family, and instead the jobs will go to teenagers who are less like to be contributing to a kid’s support. I think it’s important for teenagers to gain independence, but having a job is only one of many possible ways of gaining independence, and I don’t think the benefit that some teenagers will get from having jobs is important enough to compensate for the disaster of throwing adult parents out of work. I know right now there are some 17-year-olds and younger who are working and earning the minimum wage already, but this opportunity wage isn’t a gift to them — it just means they’ll get a pay cut. So it’s actually bad for those teenagers who are working. And yes, if they instituted this subminimum wage and some companies started preferentially hiring teenagers, then some teenagers who aren’t working now (maybe because they have less need for jobs) might be given work, at the price of throwing parents out of work. That doesn’t sound like a good trade to me. When you’re thinking about economic policy, think about what it would be like for the economy to work well, and try to design things for that. In an economy that works well, parents are paid enough that they can support their families, no matter whether they do or don’t have a teenage child who can be asked to take on an adult job. When teenagers have to work a lot, it means they have less time for school, which may permanently harm their education and their future. In fact, sometimes teenagers are led to think that they’re better off dropping out of school and just concentrating on their jobs, which is often a disaster. Good economic policy shouldn’t close the door to teenagers working entirely, but it should concentrate first on making sure parents have good jobs, not on taking away adults’ jobs and replacing them with miserably paid teenage jobs.

    Let’s not forget, one reason why unscrupulous businesses prefer to employ teenagers instead of adults is because teenagers don’t ask for raises as much, and sometimes teenagers are even naive enough to think that their job is great for them economically even though it pays them only a pittance. Teenagers in the workplace stand up for themselves less. And if big corporations want to push through a wage cut, they may figure that it’s easier to sell the public on it if the people who will be underpaid are just teenagers, especially if it’s deceptively sold as an “opportunity wage”. But let’s be clear, this is about the opposite of opportunity. This is the kind of economic policy that’s designed to take more out of working people for the 1%. That’s the large-scale effect, and any benefits involved for working people are tiny in comparison. Just figured this was worth saying in words.

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