Posted Online: March 25, 2013, 9:35 am
Raise the Minimum Wage?
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By Col. (Ret.) Dave Shaver
President Obama wants to increase the minimum wage well above the current national amount of $7.25 it is today to $9.00 by 2015, so that those adults who are minimum wage earners have more income, and thus, help grow the economy. Is this a good idea?
Although many of you will object to a reference to the "good old days," in the 1950s, many kids were working after school and on the weekends, plus during summer break, to raise money for their hobbies and interests, as well as to help out with family income. Granted, technology has eliminated many of those old jobs, but new jobs are created by technologies, as well. What holds employers back from hiring minimum wage earners? Perhaps it is a combination of costand administrative "red-tape" employers are forced to endure.
Somehow we lost our way in determining that the Fair Labor Standards Act minimum wage should be paid to everyone, including kids. This may have been a major mistake, socially and culturally. The unemployment rate among teens is now 28.6 % for blacks, 18.5% for Hispanics and 14.9% for whites. Many of our kids, particularly in inner-cities, have little to look forward to. Many turn to gang membership and the resulting killing and crime sprees.
I don't disagree with the President over raising the minimum wage. Many states have already done so. I am concerned that raising the minimum wage covers up the more important issue of what to do with kids in our inner-cities. The minimum wage will definitely help working poor adults, but will teens be able to find work?
I think we have made many social mistakes in our past by "same-sizing minimum wage earners as a primary source of family income, rather than separating the kids' part-time work from needy adults. This has not worked, judging by the youth unemployment results.
It's time to do something "for," rather than "to," these kids. But what?
If those who oppose the minimum wage are correct, the greater the cost to a small business, the less hiring occurs. The argument on the other side, which proposes the minimum wage increase as a way to help the working poor has merit and earlier historical success.
Minimum wage jobs, approximately 4.6 percent of the hourly workforce, have risen with increases in the minimum wage.All our teens would be better served and prepared for life if they participated in the workforce before they graduated from secondary schools.
Go ahead, Mr. President. Increase the minimum wage for adults who need the work, but change and simplify federal labor law and reduce employer administrative burden, to allow our kids to charge "what the market will bear" in a strong effort to entice the private sector to hire kids away from the troubled joblessness of today.
I wish I could establish multiple year-long camps to teach and discipline our troubled youth, but I can't. I can only hope we re-examine policy changes, along with wage increases, which will attract inner-city youth.
Col. Dave Shaver is a retired U.S. Army officer and former tenured faculty member of the U.S. Army War College, where he held the General MacArthur academic chair of research; firstname.lastname@example.org.