Reality check: while I respect the work of reporter Bryan Horwath and his fellow Aberdeen journalists, any sentence that refers to David Novstrup’s oratorical exertions as “fire” probably overstates the situation.
David and his dad Al (that’s Rep. Novstrup) both got crotchety yesterday over criticism they’ve read online that the youth minimum bill serves their interests as owners of the Thunder Road amusement parks, which employ young seasonal workers and could cut costs by paying young workers the youth minimum wage:
“On a regular basis, it’s been said that David and I would benefit from this idea because we own a business,” Rep. Novstrup said. “That’s changing the debate away from the facts to a personal attack. We have all but one employee at 18 or over and that one employee makes more than $8.50, so this would have zero impact on our business.”
Sen. Novstrup said he’s mostly seen criticism of his stance on the bill via the Internet and agreed with his father that the personal nature of the criticism has no bearing on his intent.
“Our family has put ourselves out there to serve the people of Aberdeen,” Sen. Novstrup said. “We’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in Wylie Park that we didn’t have to do and we’ve provided jobs for young people — close to 200 in 20 years. Our business has done nothing but help the community. I don’t care if you like or dislike the proposal, but leave that out of it.
“I’m tired of hearing the comments, 99 percent of which are not directed at me and are said on the Internet by people hiding behind a computer. Look at the proposal — is it a good idea or not?” [Bryan Horwath, “Youth Minimum Wage Bill Sparks Fervent Debate at Cracker Barrel,” Aberdeen American News, 2015.03.08]
Hiding behind a computer? Really? I don’t feel terribly well hidden.
I have pointed out that the sponsor of a bill and his legislator-dad run a business that hires workers age 16 and up and thus may be motivated by personal business interests to sponsor a bill cutting the minimum wage for young workers. Go ahead, call that a personal attack, an argument that hinges on the identity of the person proposing the bill, an argument that would become obviously irrelevant if a different person (my dad, your sainted Aunt Myrtle, whoever) were proposing the bill.
Personal attacks are usually bogus. Saying that David Novstrup is not a fiery speaker has no bearing on whether the youth minimum wage is a good idea. But if pointing out a bill sponsor’s possible business interest in that bill is technically a personal attack, then we have an exception to the rule. David Novstrup could save money by changing the minimum wage law. Money is a powerful motive. Money could influence David Novstrup in selecting the evidence he offers to support his idea. Money is why we pass conflict-of-interest laws (remember voting for House Bill 1064, Senator Novstrup?).
David, it’s unbecoming for a Senator to play the victim card to dodge debate… especially when you’re not a victim. Your critics (at least not this critic) are not hiding or lying. Your critics are pointing out that your bill offers you and your legislator-dad a chance to boost your business’s bottom line. That situation rightly raises a red flag in grown-up politics. If you don’t like that, maybe you should have found a legislator with no such conflict of interest to lead-sponsor your bill.