The column in the Kokomo Tribune on December 26th, 2014, titled, “Minimum wage hikes deprive vulnerable … again”, by Philip Coelho and James McClure, both Ph.D. professors of economics at Ball State University, is the most convoluted, confusing article I have read in a long time. I think they tried to make a case for eliminating the minimum wage and allowing the open market to offer wages from zero up. They try to convince the reader that a minimum wage deprives the disadvantaged of work and, if too high, that others will not have the motivation to better themselves and move to higher paying employment. At least I think that is what they tried to say. If so, I completely disagree.
A job is defined by a set of skills, knowledge, and actions. Individuals possess a wide range of skills and knowledge and corresponding ability to carry out actions. I hold the strong belief that people will not be satisfied with employment that requires less skill and knowledge IF higher paying jobs are available to them. The “Elephant in the Room” problem in the United States is that we have been engaging in a race to the bottom. Better than minimum wage jobs have disappeared by the millions even as the population in the United States continues to increase. This began and continues today with the sending of jobs to other countries; first to Mexico and then to Asia, countries with bottom dollar wages. Pick up about anything and see “Made in China”. Both political parties and their corporate buddies are responsible for selling our work force down the river in the name of free trade and lower prices for goods. What are left are minimum wage jobs by the dozens. That is much of what is available for people who before would be working in factory manufacturing jobs. As a society, we have decided no one who wants to work should be paid less than a specified minimum wage; a legal wage that would not be necessary or needed IF higher paying jobs were available. They are not.
As to the disadvantaged, provision does need to be made in wage law to promote employment for people who possess limited skills, knowledge, or the ability to fully act to carry out what is required for a specific job. Limitations of individuals do mean less economic value to the employer, but gainful employment for the disadvantaged has value to individuals and society more than purely economic value.
Beyond that, given the political and economic attitudes and policies of those in government and corporate power, a minimum wage — and a living one at that — is not only desirable but is necessary. Too many families now only able to find minimum wage jobs are on food stamps or other societal support services; cost taxpayers and compassionate givers bear rather than corporations. This is a national disgrace. As a nation, we, the people, have given away too much. If you don’t think so, take a look at corporation profits, Wall Street, and top corporation executive compensation levels.