Third Party & Independents Archives

What Exactly Is a Minimum Wage Job?

Is a wage a contract or a social obligation? As the debate over raising the minimum wage continues, this fundamental question seems to underlie the differences between those who advocate a state-based mandated raise in the minimum wage and those who state that market forces need to play out, and that local state conditions should determine minimum wages, rather than a national standard. Wisconsin governor Scott Walker has received tons of flack from liberal and hard-left organizations, some of whom say the minimum wage should be raised to over $20.00 an hour, a proposition that goes beyond most social democratic forms of socialism and borders on marxist labor theory. As these groups parade examples of adults who could barely meet living expenses, Walker’s more nuanced response was lost in all the shouting.

The only way forward, both for his state and for the country, and for an individual worker, is to create and work in higher-value jobs, according to Walker. In other words, what he really said was, don't expect to earn a good living, a barely sufficient living perhaps but not a good one, on minimum wage. Minimum wage jobs should be entry points into the labor market and not considered adequate for an adult to earn anything beyond a minimum living standard. They are basically young worker's first job and that is their value: giving younger workers their first work experience. Raising minimum wages would both cause business to invest more in machinery and less in labor, (and that means workers would need higher skills to remain relevant), and mean less jobs for young first-time workers. And the added benefits to those who would still have minimum wages jobs has been estimated by some to be a few billion dollars annually in a 15 trillion dollar economy; not even a rounding error. But as the shouting continues, exacerbated by a slow-growth economy that is not creating significant numbers of new jobs, it seems clear that the answer should be finding ways to move older workers out of minimum wage jobs into higher value jobs. Raising business costs by mandating large minimum wage increases may not be the best way to achieve that.

Finally, the question remains regarding those older workers who are not able to gain the education or skills necessary to qualify for higher-wage jobs. Targeted subsidies may be a more efficient government policy instrument to deal with those who are left behind by the hard-paced job market. In the end, of course, the best solution to the problem of wage stagnation is a more dynamic economy that creates more jobs, and increases the demand for skilled and unskilled labor as well. Nothing like a booming economy to help everyone find a job they can live with. And to answer that, one final question: where would you be more likely to find work? In Wisconsin? Or Texas? Of course Scott Walker would love to change that. Let's see if Wisconsin lets him.

Posted by AllardK at December 10, 2014 1:55 PM
Comment #386603

It seems to me the “market” in this country doesn’t work anymore when it comes to wages fo people that work for a living. With the unions legislated out of existence by the corporations, the jobs that were supposed to materialize due to the globalization process but didn’t and the gutting of decent jobs from this country to slave labor countries the market is so one sided as to be nonfunctional when it comes to wages.

While it is easy for people like Walker to tell the country and state to create higher value jobs but even these jobs are being sent overseas to low wage countries, so his talk is just that, all talk and little substance.

To think that each and every one of us should be a CEO or an inventor of something such as Jobs or Gates is not realistic. To think that each and every one of us should go to only the most prestigious of universities and receive the most advanced of degrees or work for the smallest of wages is also not realistic. To think that each and every one of us should plan on receiving multiple advanced degrees in our lifetime as technology changes also isn’t realistic. Yet this is what we hear from the Walkers of the country.

If the “market” is unwilling to solve the problem then the state must come forward.

Posted by: j2t2 at December 13, 2014 6:14 PM
Comment #386655

Perhaps the leftist indoctrination in our schools doesn’t leave room for educating children to be qualified when they enter the workforce.

How does learning how to put a rubber on a bananna get someone a job, unless they want to be a prostitute? How does creating global warming terrorists make better machinists? If boys can’t even talk to girls without being called a rapist, how do you expect either to get along in the workplace?

I’ve seen young people work. You get about 3 hours of real labor out of 8 hours of payment. If they’re getting paid 8.00 an hour they are really getting over 20.00 an hour for the actual work they do. That’s what you get when the state comes forward. Unions pay politicians to pass laws that only pertain to unions and then complain when it screws up the rest of the workforce.

Posted by: Weary Willie at December 15, 2014 1:55 PM
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