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Minimum wage
by Joseph Branco


March 28, 2005

Linda, thank you so much for your thoughts on a topic I find fascinating and challenging to explain. Perhaps my column could have been a bit clearer; I admit it did not flow as well as most of my work. Let me clarify my points a bit for you.

First, the amount referred to as a minimum allowable wage is virtually a meaningless number aimed at appeasing the conscience of Americans who, like you illustrated, equate it to directly impacting the survival of the poor. This conception of the minimum wage could not be any more off the mark. Linda, it is not your fault you see the minimum wage in this particular light. Politicians for years have been using the raising of the minimum wage as a mindless topic to 'seem' more caring about those less fortunate. And it has worked. A few years ago, even I thought that the minimum wage amount was what most poor people lived from. I was wrong. After taking every economics and business course at the University of Alaska, I have learned that the minimum wage is directly linked to unemployment rates and inflation. When the minimum wage raises, inflation rises, unemployment rates rise, and politicians grandstand proclaiming their caring for the working class. In my opinion this changing of the minimum wage is an absolute insult to hard working Americans who have earned wage increases on the merits of their work and professional development. Let me walk you through a quick example:

I start working at a modest size corporation as a janitor. Let's say by some very strange and unusual circumstances (very rare) that I start at the minimum wage of $5.15 an hour. I work very hard at my job. My manager notices my hard work and dedication to the position. He offers me one dollar an hour raise and agrees to send me to a special course on Decontamination and hazardous material cleanup, a skill that significantly improves my value to the organization and my own personal development. The cost to the company is considerable taking into account that I have only been working there for a couple of months, but they see promise in me and send me to school. I return from my training a few months later and I get a nice wage increase to $8.00 per hour. Ted Kennedy (my working class friend and hero) and his political buddies pass the raising of the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour. The next day the company, who has seen so much promise in me, spend money to develop my skills, and given me a respectable wage that I earned on the merits of my own work explains to me that they can no longer afford to keep me on staff, along with 5 other janitors. I am what you would consider in the lower wage-earning bracket (i.e. poor) - how has this raising helped me?

Raising minimum wages destroy the efforts of those who have worked and struggled to succeed in their positions. Anyone who has ever received a pay raise should squirm in his or her chairs the next time someone proclaims we should raise the minimum wage.

OK, that said, let me explain why the US government should abandon the entire minimum wage concept. First, the economic levels, unemployment rates, standard of living, cost of living, etc vary greatly from state to state. It is extremely prejudice to make a sweeping minimum wage across an entire country in which so many states have such different living circumstances. The minimum wage rate should be something that each state should be responsible for without federal government interference. Personally, I think this would be great, because you would see corporations running out of liberal hotbeds like Oregon, California, New York, and Massachusetts. But, I also think that the states should each abandon the concept as well and set the minimum wage at $0. Businesses do not operate for the sole reason of providing jobs to people. The purpose of a business is to make money through the selling of goods and services. The by-product of greed is employment and a higher standard of living in general.

Linda, you stated, "Minimum wage is there to protect the average worker from the occasional greedy opportunist that comes along, waiting for the chance to rip somebody off." We have substantial regulations that protect American workplaces, enforce employer/employee contracts, etc. People either accept a job or do not accept a job. Adam Smith (The forefather and creator of economic system in America) stated simply that as private individuals make decisions to improve their own situation, the effects improve the situation of the entire community as well. He was explaining that pure capitalism improves the financial situation of all and provides tremendous employment and professional development opportunities. Making money is not a bad thing. Becoming a successful business is not something to be ashamed of. A financially successful person is not something to insult. I have worked hard to get where I am and I see great things in the future for my family, not because of the government protecting me like I'm a little baby too incompetent to take care of myself. I work full time at the hospital, full time student who starts my MBA program in the fall, full time parent with another on the way in a month, I started my own business, work as a freelance writer, work as a business consultant and I write business plans for start-ups in my spare time. Now people think it so easy to just insult successful people and equate people like me to being greedy. Well I'll be the first to admit I am greedy. I see the opportunities our great country offers and I intend to take advantage. Nobody is handing me money and jobs. I have been going to school and studying until 2am every morning after all of my other obligations are complete. I am an American worker - I am not a whiner waiting for a handout from Uncle Sam. The minimum wage should be abolished to free up more opportunities for young people and those less fortunate to get their foot in the door with employment. What they do from there is entirely up to them. If they work hard and take advantage of every opportunity, the limits are boundless. I refuse to keep allowing the government to regulate every facet of my life. The minimum wage protects nothing outside a politician s next bid for office.

Linda, don't ever think you are too young to make a point about anything in this world. Age is certainly not a characteristic of wisdom. As opposed to the third-world country you have come from, America has several checks and balances already in place that insure proper business practices (though no system is perfect). You will find that the elimination of the minimum wage in the US will not result in businesses abusing their employees. American workers tend to not put up with fraudulent business practices or abusive employers. You sound like a young woman with much potential and a promising future. Make your way in this world through the merits of your worth and through the opportunities you seize.

Joseph Branco
Ketchikan, AK - USA

Related Viewpoints:

letter Minimum wage protects the average worker by Linda Burger - Ketchikan, AK - USA

letter Hardships tough for minimum wage earners by Ralph Mirsky - Ketchikan, AK - USA



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