I applaud Representative Jay Obernolte’s opposition to increasing the minimum wage, even though his reasoning is way off base (“Minimum wage increase treats symptom, not disease,” Daily Press, April 3, 2016).
To start with, income inequality is not a symptom of any disease. It’s a fact of life, and it’s due to the law of supply and demand. A fast-food chain with thousands of employees, for example, has a guy at the top who makes a lot of money, and a lot of workers “at the bottom” who don’t make so much. The guy at the top is typically one of very few persons who can successfully manage that position. The workers at the bottom of the wage chart are fungible.
Second, when you already have plenty of citizens who are able to perform certain jobs, adding millions of immigrants — whether legal or illegal — from other countries also adds competition for available jobs, which pushes down wages. In fact, American workers have lost ground to their immigrant competitors throughout the Obama years. There’s no need to pay attractive wages to citizens when there is a seemingly endless river of cheap labor flooding across our borders.
Third, “minimum wage” jobs are not meant to support workers for years on end, let alone families. Low-wage jobs are the bottom rung on the ladder; they are where you start when you are young single, not where you are supposed to stay forever.
Fourth, just as corporations don’t pay taxes (they pass them along to consumers in the form of higher prices), raising the minimum wage just makes things more expensive to buy, with no guarantee of any reduction in income inequality.
Fifth, raising the minimum wage has the corrosive side-effect (AKA unintended consequence) of depressing in workers the urge to improve themselves to earn more money so they can live better. This is bad both for the worker and for society at large.
Sixth, the minimum wage is inflationary because a number of unions in the service, retail, and hospitality industries peg their base-line wages to the minimum wage. As the minimum wage goes up, so do union wages, which means that any costs associated with union wages also go up for consumers.
The only successful societies have been meritocracies. Raising the minimum wage discounts merit in exchange for the false promise that things will be better if we reward people for underachieving.
Greg Raven, Apple Valley, CA