Mayor Pete Buttigieg is fond of quoting the Bible to scold Republicans. It can sometimes be effective, as when he tweeted a Hebrews passage about the suffering of prisoners to tweak the Trump administration for the conditions at border detention facilities.
Last night it didn’t go quite as well. Mayor Pete made the classic liberal mistake of trying to mix a scriptural soundbite with economic policy.
Trying to score some cheap points by suggesting that God wants a higher minimum wage, Mayor Pete said:
There are people in economy who go through more jobs in a week than my parents went through in the lifetime. It’s why I’ve proposed we allow gig workers to unionize, because a gig is a job and a worker is a worker. We have to respond to these changes and, in addition to confronting tech, in addition to supporting workers by doubling unionization as I propose to do — some of this is low tech, too. Like the minimum wage is just too low. And so-called conservative Christian senators right now in the Senate are blocking a bill to raise the minimum wage, when scripture says, ‘Whoever oppresses the poor taunts their maker.’
The bill he referred to is the Raise the Wage Act, which would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025. It also would eliminate the exemption for tipped positions, gradually raising the minimum wage for wait staff by 560 percent.
The obvious implication: Not paying at least a $15 hourly wage is anti-Christian and a cruel act of oppression.
In the flurry of stories about the quote that circulated last night, reporters seemed unaware that Pete Buttigieg is, in fact, the chief executive of a large employer — the City of South Bend, Ind.
Neither the debate moderators nor the authors of any number of the click-bait news briefs churned out during the debate asked the obvious question: Does South Bend pay all of its employees $15 an hour or more?
The answer is: nope.
Indeed.com lists numerous City of South Bend positions that pay less than $15 an hour. Among them: Director of food and beverage, $11.25 an hour; shop assistant, $12 an hour; gardener, $10.10 an hour.
The city’s own website advertises numerous positions at pay rates below $15 an hour.
Maintenance worker: $10.10–$17 an hour
Golf course player assistant: $10.10–$12 an hour
Part-time general laborer-streets: $12 an hour
Part-time laborer-downtown parks: $12 an hour
The city’s 2019 budget shows that the scripture-quoting mayor pays his own interns $10.10 an hour.
One might notice that many City of South Bend jobs start at $10.10 an hour when Indiana’s minimum wage is pegged to the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour. Why?
In 2016, Mayor Pete pushed to raise it to $10.10. He succeeded, and it’s been the same rate since.
Just this spring, the mayor boasted about his $10.10 an hour city employee minimum wage in his 2019 State of the City address.
Realizing that a $7.25 minimum wage is not enough to get by, we have acted to bring the minimum wage of a city employee to $10.10 an hour, and continue to urge other area employers to do the same.
That was in March.
In four months, Mayor Pete has gone from boasting about paying his own employees $10.10 an hour to declaring that anything short of $15 an hour “oppresses the poor” in the eyes of the Lord.
Nothing in the Bible dictates that Christians pay their employees whatever wage is arbitrarily chosen by politicians eager for votes. The very fact that the arbitrary figure fluctuates from place to place and moment to moment ought to be a clear sign that it is no mandate from heaven.
If it were, Mayor Pete would have some explaining to do to the man upstairs for his cruel, years-long oppression of so many City of South Bend employees.