By Tom Quiner

The minimum wage increases unemployment among black teen age malesWhat would be a practical way to begin improving America overnight?

I propose that nothing beats getting a job to launch a young man on the way to responsible citizenship.

I washed pots and pans at a hospital for my first job. I got paid the minimum wage, which was $1.50 per hour at that time. I reaped some real rewards from the job. They included:

√ I built up my savings account to prepare for college.

√ I learned the importance of being on time to a job.

√ I learned how to get along with diverse personalities in the workplace. That job was the equivalent of Human Relations 101. I was surrounded by territorial little old women with a delightful blend of quirky personalities through which I learned to navigate. At the same time, I worked alongside a peer group whose value system was not always in sync with mine. I learned a lot about people, and a lot about myself.

√ I learned the value of self-sacrifice. Washing pots and pans is never fun, especially when each one is encrusted with what seemed to me to be concrete. Especially when someone named Dencie is bellowing for me to get her a clean roasting pan (one requiring dynamite to get cleaned, no less) NOW!

√ My self-respect grew. I got along with people. I got raises. I felt like I was contributing to society, especially when I strolled down the hospital’s corridor and saw the sick people I was helping in my own small way.

√ I became motivated to better myself, because I knew I didn’t want to scrub pots and pans my whole life.

We’ve got a big problem in America. We discriminate against young workers, and in particular against black teen age boys, whose unemployment rate floats between 40 and 50%. The government prevents them from selling their productive labor for what it is worth because of minimum wage laws.

The rationale for the minimum wage is devoid of logic. Do we really think these young men are better off without jobs than with jobs simply because the government won’t let employers hire these kids for what they’re really worth?

If you’re a teenage boy without a job, what do you do?

Here’s what you don’t do:

√ You don’t make money.

√ You don’t save money.

√ You lose the skills you learn in starter jobs like getting to work on time; like learning to get along with people; like getting a promotion and a raise.

You lose the chance to shore up the self-respect a man gets with his first job.

What happens to the young men who don’t get jobs? Who knows? Some join gangs. Some take drugs. Some get in trouble with the law.

A starter job engages young men in productive pursuits and helps them avoid unproductive ones.

The minimum wage is viewed as “compassionate” by progressives despite the high unemployment created by the law among young workers. Many so-called conservatives go along with it out of political expediency because they have bigger legislative fish to fry and pick their battles accordingly.

One of those is Mitt Romney who has come up with another terrible idea: to index the minimum wage to the inflation rate. Perhaps he’s simply being a practical politician. Perhaps he thinks this isn’t a battle worth fighting every few years, so let’s cave by indexing the rate and move on.

Let’s turn his thinking around. Imagine the huge impact on the U.S. if we could find jobs for teen age males and engage them productively before they get themselves into trouble.

What a boon this would be for America.

The beauty is that it doesn’t require a government program. It simply requires more freedom, freedom to let each worker sell his or her productivity for what the market will bear.

We’ve seen the carnage done by the minimum wage. Republicans need a candidate with the political courage to promote just economic policies, not destructive liberal ones.

Mitt Romney just doesn’t get it.


  1. Monte B. Gray on February 7, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    I see you enjoyed the benefits of receiving minimal wage, as did many of us in our youths! Just out of curiosity, did you complain about the mainimal wage way back then, or did you appreciate how you did’nt have to depend on the hospital paying you what they felt you were worth? :’)

    Also, will you consider O’bama as a competing liberal with Romney, if Romney is selected as the Republican candidate? Might be a difficult choice! :’)

    • quinersdiner on February 7, 2012 at 2:21 pm

      Mitt is conservative in some of his thinking, less so in others. I’m concerned about his convictions and whether he has deeply held conservative beliefs. His record casts grave doubt on the subject.

      Regarding my first job, I didn’t get the job because of the minimum wage but in spite of it. Let’s say the minimum wage had been $10 per hour. I wouldn’t have gotten the job because the job wasn’t worth it, nor was I at the time. Suppose there wasn’t a minimum wage then. Some would suggest that employers would have underpaid us, and exploited untrained workers, but that’s not true. The marketplace would prevent it. If the hospital was only paying a buck an hour, I could’ve made more money mowing lawns, which I had been doing up to that point, and I wouldn’t have taken the job. I was worth more than that. The hospital would be forced by the invisible hand of the marketplace to pay what the job was worth, or else they wouldn’t be able to fill the position.

  2. Bob on February 7, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    I babysat for a living when I was in high school, usually for between .50 and .75 an hour — far less than minimum wage (which was 1.25 at the time). I was happy to get the jobs, and learned lots of worthwhile things from doing them — being on time, getting along with people, being reliable, and so on. My first job out of high school was as a waitress, and the boss was able legally to pay us less than minimum wage because we also received tips. It was okay with me, and I did fairly well with tips, since I was good at what I did and customers liked me. In college, I mostly cleaned houses and babysat to earn money. Babysitting was better in some ways, because you could do your homework after you put the kids to bed, but housecleaning paid better. I was glad the market in these jobs was unregulated, because it meant I had all the work I wanted — which would not have been the case if the people who hired me had had to comply with arbitrarily-set wage guidelines determined by some government busybody.

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