A Gallup poll in 2013 found that a miserly 14 percent of Americans consider state officeholders “trustworthy.”
That, of course, doesn’t mean all politicians are untrustworthy. They aren’t.
In fact, such polls really aren’t about individual politicians as much as they serve as a kind of protest in favor of oft-discarded values – such as when a man’s word was his bond or when hard-fought politically negotiated agreements were honored.
Take, for example, the agreement reached on a minimum-wage increase during the 2007 session of the Kentucky General Assembly that led to passage of House Bill 305, which raised the state’s minimum wage by $2.10 during the next two years to the current $7.25 (same as the federal rate) but tied future hikes to increases in the federal government’s minimum wage.
The bill was the fruit of a challenging political compromise between those who wanted a larger increase than the final agreement and opponents of such government-mandated wage increases, particularly small-business owners, who received assurance of more certainty because of the limits placed on future hikes.
Opponents of minimum-wage increases also in the end went along with the measure because tying future upsurges in the state’s minimum-wage rate to federal minimum-wage hikes would reduce the likelihood that the commonwealth would be placed at a greater competitive disadvantage with neighboring states.
Some current members of the legislature were in office at the time and voted for HB 305, including Nelson County Republican Rep. David Floyd.
“We made that deal; we satisfied both sides,” Floyd said when asked recently on KET’s “Kentucky Tonight” about a potential legislative battle over increasing the minimum wage during the upcoming 2015 session of the Kentucky General Assembly.
It’s not even up for discussion, Floyd said.
“We came together in 2007 (and agreed that) we’re going to raise the minimum wage every time the federal government wage goes up,” Floyd said. “That was the deal and we’re all prepared for that.”
However, Rep. Terry Mills, D-Lebanon, another panelist on the KET show, wants to break that deal since he doesn’t believe Washington is going to pass a minimum wage any time soon.
This despite the fact that before Mills even was elected, several legislators, including Floyd, voted for HB 305 because, while they oppose government telling business owners what they must pay workers, they were satisfied that future minimum-wage hikes could not occur just because some economic illiterates in Frankfort didn’t think Washington was moving fast enough.
Mills now presumably doesn’t believe that a deal’s a deal when it involves minimum-wage policies – although I suspect the reasonable and conservative folks in his district might disagree.
“We all know, I think – especially in the current political climate in Washington, D.C. – the minimum wage is not going to be raised, so I think we have an obligation to treat these people better,” Mills said.
Mills apparently believes that an agreement should be honored as long as the political environment favors his ideology. But when those conditions change to ones he doesn’t particularly care for, then he’s really under no obligation to uphold his end of an arrangement.
Along with the subtle, backhanded slam that the government in Frankfort would – as he stated – treat “these people better” than the business owners in Lebanon and across Kentucky who employ them, Mills seems to find himself in a quandary about deals made and deals broken.
When you understand the fact that Mills and the leadership of the Kentucky House would be in any kind of a dilemma at all about whether to keep an agreement like the accord reached on such a consequential policy like raising the minimum wage, then it becomes much clearer how state politicians could rank so low on taxpayers’ “trustworthy” meters.