The Democrats sometimes seem to be waging a war on work.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi tipped us off to this emerging trend during the Obama administration when she said this as she was fighting to pass the Affordable Care Act. She said this:
Think of an economy where people could be an artist or a photographer or a writer without worrying about keeping their day job in order to have health insurance or that people could start a business and be entrepreneurial and take risk, but not job loss because of a child with asthma or someone in the family is bipolar—you name it, any condition—is job locking.
If you can avoid getting hung up on Ms. Pelosi’s peculiar syntax, you realize that she doesn’t quite grasp why keeping your day job might be beneficial until you establish yourself as the next Basquiat. You are better than a humdrum day job, the Speaker of the House seemed to say.
There is one particular kind of job that will be hard hit by an unrealistic minimum wage hike: the entry level job, the job that introduces most of us to the basic requirements of employment.
With President Biden wanting to create a national minimum wage of $15 an hour, we should consider the potential effect on the availability of those all-important entry level jobs.
In a National Review piece headlined “What Do Minimum Wage Hikers Have against Entry Level Jobs?,” Jarratt Skorum says that it is “almost like our elected leaders don’t want [entry level jobs].” But we should all want plentiful entry level jobs. Skorum writes:
My first jobs were entry-level and low-paying. I didn’t need a specific degree or skill to do them. But they were valuable nevertheless. They taught me important life lessons, such as the importance of showing up on time, getting the little things right, communicating openly with my boss, and establishing priorities. I also learned what I was good at, what type of work I really enjoyed, and the pleasure of a job well done. Without those lessons, I could never have climbed the ladder of opportunity.
But it seems to me that policymakers have forgotten the importance of entry-level jobs. How else can I interpret the growing calls for minimum-wage hikes? Whatever else those policies do, they always cut off the lowest rungs of the ladder of opportunity. It’s almost like our elected leaders don’t want entry-level jobs. …
Even economists who advocate a higher minimum wage acknowledge that raising the minimum wage will not drive down poverty rates, because most people who live in poverty don’t have jobs. There is real-life proof: A 25-year comparison of low-income workers in states that hiked the minimum wage with those that did not shows no difference in their wage growth.
Add it all up, and the evidence cautions against increasing the minimum wage. It will not lift many people out of poverty but instead will make fewer jobs available to the unemployed and those looking for their first jobs.
It will also mean that fewer people learn the skills (showing up, cooperating with others) that prepare them to get ahead in life. But apparently elites have a disdain for entry level jobs (and maybe physical work at all levels). Steven Greenhut writes about this in Reason:
As part of their effort to promote a higher minimum wage, some liberal academics shared their stories recently on Twitter about how their previous low-wage jobs were much tougher than the jobs they now hold. No doubt, roofing a house and flipping burgers are more physically demanding tasks than writing a legal brief or giving a lecture on American history, but the comparison doesn’t really mean very much.
Frankly, I was taken aback by some commenters’ negative responses to my obvious point: Wages are not determined by the strenuous nature of any job, but by supply and demand. If pay were tied to physical endurance, then California’s farm laborers would all own mansions on the Pacific Coast. All honest work is honorable, but mastering a high-demand skill remains the key to financial success. That, apparently, is now a controversial point.
But who will do minimum wage jobs when such jobs are priced out of the market? Greenhut explains the “substitution effect:”
When I moved to California, most quality car washes were full service. You hand over your keys and attendants vacuum the carpet and run it through an automated wash. Afterwards, hordes of workers descend on the washed cars to dry them and clean the windows while you enjoy a cup of coffee.
Last time I used one of those washes it cost 30 bucks. In the last year, I’ve noticed the proliferation of quality self-service washes. You often pay via an automated system and then drive into the wash. After the scrubbing, you pull into a vacuum station and finish the job on your own. It costs $8 to $17, yet the result is the same. These car washes operate with a skeletal crew.
This automated trend has proliferated following California’s minimum-wage increases and benefit mandates. Do you suppose there’s a connection? Do you think the wage hikes helped the workers who no longer have jobs doing the drying? Don’t blame companies. Consumers make the ultimate decision. At $30 a pop (plus tip), I’ll wash it myself, wash it less, or seek out a cheaper alternative.
Remember when the counsel was “don’t quit your job until you have a new one?”
It was sound financial advice and implies the worker’s acquiring a certain amount of discipline by holding onto a job that doesn’t entirely please.
Well, President Biden risks rendering that advice quaintly old-fashioned.
Workers who leave their jobs voluntarily would now be able to collect unemployment. This is meant to affect people who are offered dangerous jobs or believe they are being required to do unsafe things. We don’t want anybody to stay on a job that risks life and limb—that doesn’t help the worker or the family.
But can you imagine the effect this directive will have on workers who merely don’t like their jobs? The Labor Department is being asked to explain this, and, if the rules aren’t specific and stringent, what are the odds that it will open the floodgates to fraud?
Just to reiterate: we don’t want workers to be forced to do unsafe things. We just hope that directive will not be vague enough to open the floodgates and allow merely discontented workers to shirk responsibility.