We’ve heard tons of niceties about high federally mandated minimum wage that is supposed to enable every American or US Citizen between here and the eastern seaboard to live the “American Dream”. Such dream entails a chicken in every pot, two luxury cars in the garage, savings and investments to the tune of at least $500,000, a huge house with living and family rooms, including diamond earings and all those things and an annual getaway to some exotic destination to unwind. Friends, it only happens in fairyland!
Proponents of higher federal minimum wage have failed to consider a paramount factor in the ongoing debate of a federal takeover: Set of economic circumstance that are oceans apart. Our mother country is a global and technological industrial power while ours is the equivalence of a grain of sand hardly visible at the bottom of a million gallon drum can. About the only other item we manufacture out here is more government, the credo of an inefficient and ineffective lead federal agency known as the US Dept. of Interior. Thus, ours is a political trophy of more government, a fatal legacy we wish we’ve never learned from Interior.
The gulf in the differing set of economic systems often taken for granted is the standard between a wealthy US government versus the a fragile island economy of the CNMI. This standard, as appropriately pointed out by former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, is the wrong measurement to impose worldwide especially among poor countries, CNMI included. Lest we forget, the CNMI isn’t even in the ranks of developing economies in the Asia Pacific Region.
Ours is basically a quirk of fate, i.e., tourism which popped-up in the sixties that brought fickle wealth to the Marianas Archipelago. And we need not expound on the slide of this industry for it has become a familiar sigh. It goes to illustrate the fragility of island economies when the “bad times” come crashing into our shifting sandy shores.
What else is there that is ironically the sturdiest industry today that sustains the local treasury despite being the most maligned industry? Apparel manufacturing!
Tourism would eventually rebound but even if it did, it won’t be the same “as we know it”. We would have to do something different or engage in similar tourism development as did Costa Rica: hideaway motels in the far jungles of the country now the most sought after vacation destinations. It can be done on Rota, Anatahan, Alimagagan, Sariguan and Pagan. But it’s an issue for leadership to ponder and decide.
It’s good to preach the American Dream but not at the expense of US mainland taxpayers 60 percent of whom are struggling daily to make ends meet . This is essentially what our detractors are pushing for–instant bankruptcy that would quickly translate into the destruction of more than 3,000 jobs here. It reminds me of Hawaii’s labor union’s master carpenters salaried at $18 an hour but are placed on call like doctors. In other words, an $18 an hour wage is basically useless if there are no jobs to work on or earn your $18 hourly wage. Am I making sense?
At a personal level, I also wish to see every single indigenous family making at least $8-12 an hour. But this would be subscribing to the liberal and warped philosophy of closing the wealth gap when in fact it has never been designed that way by the Master Creator of the universe. Otherwise, everybody would have been wealth since day one. But He created a man and a woman, each is completely different from the other. In other words, He too isn’t a believer of the warped philosophy of “sameness”. Think about it!
Strictly a personal view. John S. DelRosario Jr. is publisher of Saipan Tribune