State legislators need to be more innovative, and not just merely complain about Albany

Posted 29 January 2019 at 8:30 am


Tom Rivers, editor of the Orleans Hub,  provided a good recap of a local legislators gathering in Albion on Jan. 25. Assemblymen Hawley and Norris and State Senator Robert Ortt are good dedicated folks doing an often tough frustrating job. But support does not necessarily mean agreement.

Norris states, among other things, that he wants, “… residents better equipped to excel in the economy.” Hawley on the other hand isn’t keen on raising the minimum wage. If you raise the minimum wage (which Hawley opposes)  aren’t you enabling residents to be better equipped to excel in the economy (which Norris desires)? These are two people acting on our behalf who aren’t even on the same page.

Hawley’s concern is the impact that a raise in the minimum wage would have on businesses.  It’s a legitimate concern. Hawley’s thinking however is out of date – about 100 years out of date.

In 1914 Henry Ford made an announcement that shocked the country, causing the financial editor at The New York Times to stutter, “Is he crazy?” with further predictions that Ford Motor Company would soon be bankrupt.

Henry Ford began paying his employees $5.00 a day, over twice the average wage for automakers in 1914. He also cut the workday from 9 hours to 8 hours. In that year the Ford Motor Company sold 308,000 cars – more than all other carmakers combined – and set new records for profitability. A year later sales were up to 501,000. In 1919 Ford raised wages to $6.00 a day – and the wage hike produced even higher production numbers. By 1920 Ford was selling a million cars a year.

Henry Ford had several reasons for doing this. But paramount was his understanding that “The owner, the employees, and the buying public are all one and the same, and unless an industry can so manage itself as to keep wages high and prices low it destroys itself, for otherwise it limits the number of its customers.” One might conclude that things have changed since that time. They have. But nothing that was done 1914 is beyond our capacity or reason in 2019.

Assemblyman Hawley makes speaking points that higher costs and regulations discourage business growth. Since we’ve debunked the first point, I’ll make a brief point about the second. I would remind anyone listening that the U.S. Patent Office, the Department of Motor Vehicles, labor unions and the five day work week, the Clean Air and Water Act and non-discrimination based on age, gender, race or religion all fall under the “regulations” banner.

“We need less regulation” may play well at face value in front of unchallenging constituents. However most businesses want their intellectual property protected and most of us want to be paid overtime or to go to a restaurant that isn’t re-using dishwater. Regulation, conformity and enforcement of standards are necessary. If some regulations are deemed excessive – then address them directly – but let’s dispense with the political sound bites and generalities – we’re better than that.

Norris states that “Rural counties are not getting the attention they deserve.” Um – isn’t that why you’re there Mr. Norris? To get us the attention we deserve? Or is there some other reason you showed up to work today?

Since it looks like our legislators are going to get a $50,500 increase in their annual salaries, I’d like to challenge them all to become legislative innovators and thinkers – not mere complainers and echo chambers. I’m pleased Assemblyman Hawley is still “energized” after 13 years – but if one is going to simply sit in the same box does it matter?

Darren Wilson