Minimum Wage / by kevin murray

There was a time when I made just over the minimum wage, was I embarrassed by this fact?  Not at all, at that point this was my first time being fully employed and quite frankly I was delighted just to have a job, any job. Did I deserve my wages?  Yes, I believe that I was productive for the wages paid and I maintained my job, learned responsibility, and advanced.  Did I wish I was paid even more?  Duh, who wouldn't want more!    But the most important thing about my first job was it allowed me eventually to get more pay, more opportunities, mainly because my skill set, my networking, and my experience improved.  Without someone taking a chance on me, giving me that opportunity, my history may have been far different, and instead of being a success, perhaps my results would have been pathetic or worst.


When it comes to discussing the fairness of the minimum wage, the first test should be, are there a multitude of minimum wage jobs in which nobody will take the job, and it just stands vacant month after month after month.  The answer to that appears to be no and the reason why I can say this is that if this was true, the employer would have no choice but to raise wages in order to attract employment.  Another reason why we know this isn't true is the fact that the unemployment rate for youth ages 16-19 is around 25%  and for young adults 20-24 it is around 15%, as compared to the nationwide average of about 7.2%.  How is it possible that the segment of the population that makes the lowest wage on average has the highest unemployment rate?  On the surface, this doesn't make any sense, since your labor cost is an important component of your company's expenses.  It only makes sense if one recognizes that an artificial minimum wage above what the free market would settle on, allow employers to cherry pick their employees and therefore they often opt for someone more experienced, more reliable, and steadier.  Therefore, despite the good intentions of a minimum wage, the people that the minimum wage purports to help, those that are struggling to make a living wage, to get a job, any job, are left with no wages, no job, and effectively become wards of the state.  That is the irony of good intentions.


I do believe that a man should receive an honest day's wage for an honest day's work, but is it necessary for the government to impose a minimum wage upon private enterprise?  In the modern world, I doubt it and I suspect that if the government followed a more carrots-and-stick approach that they might find themselves more successful in providing more employment and better wages for the public at large.  Corporations are not stupid and are enterprises that as going concerns will typically last long beyond our human lifetimes.  Do you actually think for a minute that corporations will allow themselves to be legislated out of existence?  It won't happen, and therefore taking an antagonistic attitude towards corporations is both short-sighted and ill-served especially in a country created with the spirit of self-reliance.


The government can play a role in increasing wages, but this role should perhaps be done by engaging businesses in comprehensive discussions in order to formulate common goals that benefit both parties.  Additionally, tax consequences make a huge difference in the decisions that corporations make, so it is high time to think outside the box and formulate some new plans such as the deductibility and depreciation of capital investment vis-a-vis labor.  If government truly wants to see more jobs available above the current minimum wage and/or to see labor utilized more, provide those specific incentives to do so to businesses and it will happen.