Minimum wage equals minimum sense
by Jay Ambrose
September 04, 2013 01:32 AM | 775 views | 0 0 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jay Ambrose - Scripps Howard News Service.  (SHNS file photo)
Jay Ambrose - Scripps Howard News Service. (SHNS file photo)
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Impersonality or treating others as mere functions cheats us all, so I engage in give-and-take with clerks, asking them about their lives, how they like their jobs, anything that doesn’t seem to be overreaching. And I learn, as I have repeatedly learned talking to clerks at Wal- Mart.

One of them, a beaming, bright-eyed lady, said she loved her company. She had worked for it in Arkansas, was given a job in Colorado after a family move, and was that very week going to celebrate her daughter’s graduation from optometry school. Wal-Mart made that degree possible, she said.

I will come back to her daughter after first discussing our intelligent, charming, likeable and smoothly articulate president, Barack Obama. He comes across as oh-so-caring when he absurdly believes that rights-denying Big Daddy Government is the answer to everything, an idea that can foment boundless misery.

He was at it again at the half-century celebration of the 1963 March on Washington. There, this man who has given us Obamacare and other recovery-stultifying programs blamed an “unjust status quo” for injuries to the poor he himself has done no end of mischief to incur. He doesn’t want to stop that mischief, he made clear, calling for a higher federal minimum wage. Since February, his announced goal has been to take it to $9 instead of the current $7.25. He says greed is in the way. Let’s look at some facts.

Those getting the minimum wage are under 3 percent of the workforce, and more than half of these are young people starting out and gaining the skills to earn more some day, the Heritage Foundation reports, drawing on data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. These young people aren’t the only workers in families where the average household income has been put at $65,000 a year. More than half the minimum-wage workers in the older group are part-time workers. Very few are single-parent heads of households.

Hike the minimum wage and some people do get more, but others get fired or get fewer hours a week. During the same half century since the March on Washington, more than a score of major studies have verified that basic economic theory is right: The more businesses are forced to pay, the less likely they are to have as many jobs as they used to have. Poor people are not on average helped.

A few economists then made a limited study more to liberal liking and later contended those past studies were just wrong. A study of their studies say they are themselves wrong, and large gangs of economists still see large gobs of evidence of minimum-wage detriment, especially to the young and disadvantaged blacks.

In the end, the minimum wage is a charade that interferes with the rights of employers and employees to enter into contracts of their own choosing. The assumption is Washington knows best. What Washington really knows is what works politically. The minimum wage was introduced in 1938, when Southern states were luring textile factories from New England because wages there were more affordable. New England members of Congress struck back with a minimum wage law, wiping out Southern possibilities. Today, the politics of it is to please unions and the poor with misinformation about what will help them.

Businesses do what they have to do to stay in business, knowing a thousand times more about what’s required in their own particular circumstances than any central planner in Washington. Look at Wal-Mart, ferociously demonized by the left for low wages and too few benefits even as it hires more people than any other business in America and saves low-income families many billions of dollars a year in prices. Give liberals their druthers and tens of thousands of those jobs will disappear as prices go up, and what will we hear? That justice has won.

No, justice will have been denied.

Obama himself is not an outspoken Wal-Mart basher, but some of his Big Daddy policies are the kind that could very well have denied a deserving young woman an optometry degree.

Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado.

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