Texas Governor Rick Perry makes his debut tonight as a GOP debater. There is one issue I particularly hope he aces: minimum wage jobs in Texas. The meme is that, yes, Texas has created lots of jobs…but they are lousy jobs; they are minimum wage jobs.
Never mind that there are some people in other parts of the country who might appreciate the chance to get any paying work, this is the developing charge against Perry. Typical is the leftwing Daily Koss article: “Rick Perry’s ‘Texas Miracle’ Built on Minimum Wage Jobs.”
I did a piece a few weeks ago for a publication on Perry’s economic record. I quoted one of the nation’s foremost experts on the minimum wage. His quote came immediately after I quoted a law professor saying that the best way to help the poor is through an economy that creates jobs:
Walter Williams, the John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics at George Mason University, who has written extensively on the impact of raising the minimum wage, underscores this point in even blunter terms. “Making $7.25 an hour is better than making $0 an hour,” Williams said. “The history of jobs is that the person who starts out with a minimum-wage job will eventually get a better job.” A high minimum wage, Williams said, always makes for high unemployment among the less skilled.
A minimum wage job is often an entry into the world of work–this is not to be denigrated. Such jobs allow people who might not get a higher-paying job to obtain employment and gain skills. The legislatures can raise the minimum wage, but they cannot raise Joe or Jane’s level of proficiency with a vote. Employers who might hire Joe at one wage will pass on his services at a higher one. He will remain outside the workforce, unable to acquire skills.
Nobody wants to get stuck in a minimum wage job. We hope people will be able to earn more after working at the minimum wage. But they can only do this if there are jobs to be had. My guess is that there are more jobs to move to in Texas.
We should also value minimum wage jobs for the on-the-job training they provide. Government bureaucrats who love to propose endless new job training programs, at taxpayer expense, are overlooking a very important, free to the taxpayer training program: the minimum wage job.