There are other problems with the president’s “free lunch” approach to governance. Here are three:
First of all, the president doesn’t have this money to spend. He’s borrowing it. The day Obama took office, the national debt was $6.3 trillion. Today, it stands in excess of $13 trillion, which is what happens when you run annual budget deficits averaging $1 trillion a year. The president is happy that the 2014 deficit is “only” $483 billion. I’m happy, too, but that number would still be larger than any other deficit in U.S. history—even adjusting for inflation—except for during George W. Bush’s last year in office.
Yes, Obama inherited a fiscal mess, no doubt. But acting like there’s a pile of found money lying around is disingenuous. Future generations of Americans will foot that bill because voters are being promised more goodies than their politicians are making them pay for.
The second problem is one of federalism. By what rationale should workplace salaries be mandated from Washington? States and counties with traditional manufacturing might mandate time-and-a-half for hourly employees. States and counties with many seasonal agricultural jobs might not. And when it comes to the minimum wage, the folly seems obvious. Do entry-level workers in Lincoln, Nebr. (median housing price $146,000) need to be paid exactly the same as those in San Francisco (median housing price $769,000)?