My article as originally published in American Thinker:
While President Obama may still possess the ability to bedazzle a certain segment of the population with his haughty rhetoric, his policies, coupled with his economic ignorance, continue to wreak havoc upon the U.S. economy. Case in point: his persistent and injudicious push for an increase in minimum wage that, if achieved, would only further the economic carnage. Without a doubt, minimum wage laws hurt entry-level workers and ultimately the whole economy, as Thomas Sowell and Ron Ross clearly demonstrate. But perhaps the cruelest consequence of minimum-wage law is the fact that it denies poor Americans access to a truly affordable education. With overall teen unemployment already at 21% and sky-high black teen unemployment at 38% under Obama’s watch, his proposal would only exacerbate this problem.
Merely highlighting the hourly wage rate as the singular measure of value received from working in an entry level capacity conveniently ignores one of the most important aspects of the story — education. When an individual has zero work experience and very little in the way of skills to offer, it is imperative to somehow gain such experience. The ability to do just that represents the highest level of value for the entry-level employee. Others think nothing of paying to receive a similar level of instruction in the classroom or taking an unpaid internship to develop new skills. But that’s often just not an option for the poor.
Given the exorbitant costs of higher education (due in part to the ever-reaching tentacles of government), a paid entry-level position appears to be one of the better educational options available for some within the ranks of the poor and middle class. But misguided minimum-wage laws, in effect, price many of these would-be students out of a quality education and a chance to get ahead in life. Employers are willing to give (hire and train) these “students” a paid education in exchange for their labor when it makes good economic sense, but when “tuitions” are raised by government mandated wage controls, only the highest skilled “students” will be accepted, effectively outlawing this form of education for those who possess the lowest level of skills.
President Obama said: “Americans overwhelmingly agree nobody who works full-time should ever have to raise a family in poverty. And that is why I firmly believe it’s time to give America a raise.” But wage rates are for the market to decide and no one should expect to raise a family on the wages an entry-level position provides. As it is with any form of education, it is up to the individual as to whether or not something is actually gained during the process. Some will, of course, be complacent in their low-level position or lack the capacity to move up the corporate ladder, much like the proverbial college student-for-life or dropout. But that is certainly no reason for government to effectively bar entry for those who lack other choices but have the ability and ambition to acquire skills using this approach. While the full monetary value of such employment doesn’t appear on one’s paycheck at first, once an individual develops marketable skills, employers will be forced to compete for their labor within the marketplace.
President Obama will no doubt be given accolades from the Left for all of his faux compassion. But his proposal is anything but compassionate and is more than a job-killer — it’s an education-killer for the poor he claims to be trying to help. This will only breed more dependence upon government, which may actually be the point.
By the way, who wants to actually work (and learn) for a ten-plus dollar per hour minimum wage when, on average, welfare pays much more and requires absolutely zero effort? And that’s even before factoring in ObamaCare’s disincentives to continue working as hailed by the Left.