Posted by: bkivey | 19 August 2014

HIgher Minimum Wage = Lower Expectations

Part of the fallout from the Occupy Whatever movement is the agitation for a much higher minimum wage than is currently extant. The current Federal minimum is $7.25/hr., and hasn’t changed in five years. Where I live the state minimum is $9.10/hr., and is adjusted annually for inflation. The current figure of merit bandied about is $15/hr. I’ve commented on this a bit, but my opinion is that a minimum wage isn’t a great idea to start with, and forcing employers to pay unskilled labor $30,000 annually is a terrible idea. If a person desires a middle-class wage, they can develop middle-class skills. Society shouldn’t be in the business of awarding economic participation trophies.

In a 12 July guest editorial for The Oregonian, Chris Morgan examines the effect of  a high minimum wage on systemic unemployment, particularly  as it affects the Millennial generation (the tween to early thirties demographic). His two main points are that a high wage won’t help this group obtain employment, as older long-term unemployed persons will re-enter the workforce, and that a high wage will encourage young people to forgo higher education in favor of entering the workforce.

Both points are valid. If a $15/hr. wage becomes common, a lot of people who didn’t think they could support themselves on $10/hr. are going to be much more interested in working. Leaving aside my opinion that supporting oneself, by whatever legal means, is essential to dignity and self-esteem; all else being equal, an employer is likely to select the more seasoned worker for a given position. Thus the already generally entitled mindset of the Millennial takes another hit.

Mr. Morgan’s second point is more problematical, and stems from the everyone-should-go-to-college mindset. Mr. Morgan fears that society will suffer from irreparable loss if an 18 year old decides that making decent money for low-skilled work is preferable to spending years in a classroom. I tend to agree, but not in the same way as Mr. Morgan.

There are any number of people in college that have no business being there. I’ve met them. Some don’t have the intellectual horsepower, but the majority of the don’t-belong are people in school because it’s what was expected, or they didn’t know what else to do, but they have no real interest in going to school. If  working becomes more attractive than sleepwalking through class, then they should by all means do that. It may be that a few years of labor will give them a greater appreciation for education, to the betterment of all concerned.

From his essay, Mr. Morgan appears to belong to the group that doesn’t believe people can make good decisions on their own. Like any other organism, people tend to make decisions in their own perceived best interest. If those decisions don’t happen to jibe with others notions, well, that’s really no one else’s business.

Cool Explained

sci fi venn diagram

h/t to Mike Mallow.


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