Fast Focus: 'What should determine the minimum wage?' Minimum wage hurts workers

June 15, 2014 

Minimum wage laws are immoral and counterproductive. The current federal legal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. (Many states, including Washington, have higher minimums.) The federal minimum will rise to $10.10 over the next two years. For now, it is a criminal act for one person to contract to hire or work for another for $7.24 an hour or less. This immoral law clearly violates the rights of allegedly free people. It should be repealed on that ground alone.

In the working world, a minimum-wage law mandates unemployment. It makes unemployable anyone whose current job skills do not produce enough value for a willing employer to hire them for $7.25 an hour. Think Economics 101. An increase in the price of any good or service will result in less demand for it. Potential employers willing to hire the unskilled at below the legal minimum will hang out the "not hiring" sign. And the job seeker, rather than earning $6 per hour, for instance, will earn nothing at all.

This "unemployment effect" falls most heavily on inexperienced, poorly educated, young people, especially minorities. Many potential employers willingly would take them on as lower-paid trainees. Trainees can acquire work experience at the first rung of the ladder and move up later. The minimum wage law bars the young and unskilled from getting that first job opportunity.

A large majority of workers receiving minimum wage are the youngest beginners, students living at home and part time employees. Most are not supporting families. Nor do they stay at the minimum-wage jobs for long, soon moving on to higher paid jobs. That's the real world. Start low, learn, work hard, move up.

Another predictable effect of minimum wage laws is an increase in prices charged by businesses trying to absorb higher labor costs and still make enough to survive. One recent example: In Seattle, where the minimum wage may be going to $15 per hour, an airport parking lot business has begun adding a "Living Wage Surcharge" (actually printed on the receipt) of about 7 percent to its basic parking fees.

Fundamental principles of economics cannot be avoided, regardless of the ignorance of legislators. If America is truly "the land of the free," that must mean freedom to hire or work at wage rates set by honest negotiation without government interference.

-- DAVID BERGLAND, Kennewick

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