Imagine this: A high-school student gets out of school and heads to her job at the local diner. All the while, her father has been working at the plant all day. Both make $9.00 an hour.
This scenario is not the reality for most Americans, but it could be if Obama successfully raises the minimum wage. To Obama, families are the victims of current minimum wage injustice. “Today a family with two kids that works hard and relies on a minimum-wage salary still lives below the poverty line,” he believes. “That’s wrong, and we should fix it.”
But President Obama seems to neglect several fundamental facts:
First, families are not the ones making minimum wage. In 2011, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that only 2.4 percent of married workers make minimum wage or less. Nearly half of the minimum wage-earners are 24 or younger, and many of them live in homes with additional income. Obama has created a myth that raising the minimum wage will not help parents as much as it will buy their teenagers more movie tickets and fast food (but don’t worry, I am sure they will choose the fruit option instead of fries).
Second, raising the minimum wage does not solve poverty. While the teens get richer, their parents get poorer. Low-income parents will have a harder time finding a job above minimum wage, and will be less likely to gain raises because employers will be stretched thin to simply pay the lowest wage-earners. They will be less likely to create mid-range positions, and they will have to cut staff. When the minimum wage increased in 2009, William Dunkelberg, chief economist for the National Federation of Independent Business, concludes that 600,000 jobs vanished within six months.
Third, families shouldn’t strive for the minimum. Of the 2.4 percent of married workers who do make minimum wage, Obama should not make an initiative to help them stay there, but should encourage them to rise above poverty. These mothers and fathers should seek additional training, promotions in the work place, and higher-paying industries, not succumb to thinking that they are only good enough to stay in minimum-wage job. When the government attempts to remedy poverty, it only enables citizens to stay in it. Since Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” presidents have tried to end poverty, but in reality these programs have only led to a cycle of poverty. In 2011 alone, the government spent over $1 trillion on means-tested entitlements, and yet the poverty still rose from 2010.
Perhaps President Obama should look back to Benjamin Franklin, who explained the difference between serving and providing for the poor this way: “I am for doing good to the poor, but…I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it.”
Rather than continually funding more programs and instituting regulations, the Obama administration might be surprised by the people’s competence. The first settlers started with nothing more than the soil underneath their feet, and they managed to produce a flourishing republic. So many Americans have carried on that tradition; why should it stop now?
Brittany Baldwin manages the George Washington Fellowship Program at Hillsdale College. Image courtesy of Big Stock Photo.
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Joseph Hammond
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Andrew Stiles