Cruelty sold as caring for the poor


The $15 minimum wage is being proposed and debated all around the state legislatures and city councils these days. The proponents are engaged in emotional thinking and going against the well established first rule of economics: If you raise the price of something, including unskilled labor jobs, there will be less of it.

The real minimum wage is always zero, because that is the wage that thousands, possibly millions of workers will receive following a government-mandated $15 minimum wage, because they will either lose their jobs or fail to find jobs when they enter the labor force. That’s a very cruel public policy … a cruelty that will inflict the most harm on the most vulnerable and disadvantaged among us. — Mark Perry, American Enterprise Institute

This issue hits home with me because even though my family never needed welfare (my mother would have died before ever accepting it anyway) it was important for me to contribute to my own support as soon as I was able. My mother didn’t have any money to give me much of an allowance so if I wanted money to spend I needed to earn it. I was fortunately able to do that because unskilled minimum wage jobs were plentiful when the minimum wage was set at a number actually lower than what most employers were paying for a kid like me. Thus, at age 15 I could get a job sacking groceries that gave me spending money. Later I got better paying jobs, but that came only after I had job experience to show that I was worth hiring.

An important lesson I learned was that getting a job is a lot easier if you already have a job of some kind. Mark Perry is right, the proposed $15 minimum wage will do the opposite of what the do-gooders and the politicians claim it will do. It will condemn a lot of teenagers from poor families to a marginal existence. It’s cruelty sold as love. It’s not tough love at all, it’s condemnation to a tougher life. Even if the politicians are well meaning, and that’s not at all certain, they are harming the most vulnerable among us.

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