"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Friday, July 1, 2011

Minimum Wage Insanity

Economically, what America needs is jobs.   Culturally, what an America of cell phones and video games and texting and sexting needs more than anything is jobs for teenagers where they can learn how to work and behave in the adult world.   The Wall Street Journal today has an article that captures the insanity of our public policy in recent years, together with a chart that tells the story.   Here's the chart first: 

Jobs for America's older teenagers, ages 16-19, fluctuated and generally were trending downward, but really fell off the cliff in the late 2000s.   What happened?   The WSJ has the answer:
One of the first acts of the gone-but-not-forgotten Nancy Pelosi ascendancy was to raise the minimum wage in stages to $7.25 an hour in 2009 from $5.15 in 2007. Even liberals ought to understand that raising the cost of hiring the young and unskilled while employers are slashing payrolls is loopy economics.

Or maybe not. The Center for American Progress, often called the think tank for the Obama White House, recently recommended another increase to $8.25 an hour. Though the U.S. unemployment rate is 9.1%, the thinkers assert that a rising wage would "stimulate economic growth to the tune of 50,000 new jobs." So if the government orders employers to pay more to hire workers when they're already not hiring, they'll somehow hire more workers. By this logic, if we raised the minimum wage to $25 an hour we'd have full employment.
We're idiots if we think that employers will hire completely unskilled teenagers at $7.25 an hour.   That's $290 a week!   No teenager is going to be worth that when he or she is first starting.   But they need the work, and our civilization needs them to develop work habits.

Just as liberal elite environmentalism makes food cost more, which hurts the poor worldwide, the minimum wage doesn't affect the rich suburban kid (who isn't working anyway usually, or else gets an unpaid "internship"), but has a horrible effect on the poor black kid from the city who could really use a job for $3 or $4 an hour to bring home $120-$150 a week in the summer.

Once again, liberalism is shown to be hypocrisy to make white liberal elites feel good about themselves, while damaging the rest of us, and particularly the "underclasses" they supposedly say they're helping.  

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