Any Minimum Wage Is A Bad Idea

In 2006, my 15-year-old son worked as a lifeguard/swimming instructor making $5.15. per hour.  In 2007 and 2008, he got a $.10 an hour raise each year because he had one-year more experience.  In 2008, minimum wage increased to $5.85 per hour.  Although my son liked the raise, he noticed something:  He got paid the same as the new employees with zero experience.

I remember him saying, “if a new employee with zero experience gets paid $5.85 per hour, then shouldn’t I make more because I have two years’ experience?”  “Yes, of course,” I said.  My son’s innate sense of fairness told him what I already knew:  Minimum wage laws are a bad idea.

If the point of having a minimum wage is to provide a “living wage,” who in their right mind would say a “living wage” in New York City is the same as a “living wage” in Arco?  Yet, under federal law, the minimum wage is identical.  And if the federal government were so good at setting wages, then we should have bureaucrats set prices on everything, not just entry level wages.  But we know instinctively we’d pay more for everything and get less.      

Requiring businesses to pay entry level employees more causes employers to hire fewer of them.  If you are already annoyed by the self-checks outs, just raise the minimum wage and see what happens–more robots and computers replacing entry level jobs!  I guess that’s good for the computer and robot people.  But it’s not so good for poor people looking for entry level jobs.

Raising the minimum wage reduces the incentive for low-wage workers to get an education or gain  experience to move up to higher paying jobs—after all, why would people bother to improve when they can rely on minimum wages to get paid the same as experienced employees?  You want to watch Eastern Idaho Community College enrollment skyrocket?  Just get rid of the minimum wage.  Kids making $5.00 per hour at summer jobs will enroll in school faster than you can say, “living wage.”

Finally, the more something costs, the less you get of it.  So, the more employees cost, the fewer people get hired.  Basic skills like getting to work on time, giving an honest day’s work, and learning to be a team player are needed to succeed at employment. 

On the job real world experience is so important that students at BYUI must complete an internship to graduate.  Many students accept nonpaid internships just to gain experience necessary to advance their careers.  By raising the minimum wage, employers will hire fewer people resulting in fewer people learning basic employment skills needed for jobs to sustain families. As my son learned as a teenager, a minimum wage may be well-intentioned, but it is a bad idea and not a real solution to poverty.

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