American Elephants


Nouns Are Just the Names of Things, and Can Be Changed To Suit The Moment. by The Elephant's Child

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Conservatives need to borrow a page from the Democrats, Liberals, Progressives, who casually change the names of things when the previous name becomes unworkable. The whole concept of a minimum wage needs both a new name and a new definition. The present terminology is simply confusing everybody.

“Minimum wage” is defined by Conservatives as a beginner’s wage. Absolute beginners in the world of work need a place to start, where the person who hires them will train them in the job so that they can become productive. The wage must be low, ideally there would be no minimum. Haven’t you heard people advise those who can’t find a job to offer to work for free just to show what they can do?

[Somewhere in here we need to mention that the White House does not pay their interns, so they must be the children of those who can afford to feed and house them in the nation's capitol. It becomes a prestige internship, for some, an unlucky choice for others.]

Around the beginning of the twentieth century, child labor laws were gradually passed, along with laws to keep children in school. A child under 12 years of age may not be employed, between 12 and 16 — allowed occupations and limited hours. There are exceptions for parents, newspaper delivery, but kids with lemonade stands may run afoul of the law, depending on the town.

An absolute beginner in the workplace is all cost, little productivity. Employers must be willing to train the beginner into a productive worker. The minimum wage for a beginner must be low enough to entice an employer to take a know-nothing on in the hope that he/she will eventually develop into a desirable employee.

Liberals think of the minimum wage as a wage to support a poor, unfortunate family. Obviously, if you think of it that way, a wage must be higher than a “minimum.” They speak of a “living wage,” and think of themselves as compassionate and concerned and their argument becomes as much about feelings as about economics.

Statistics show that most minimum-wage workers get a raise within 6 months, which confirms the training-to-productivity theory, and most minimum wage workers belong to families where the household income is over $50,000 a year, which casts doubt on the idea that the minimum wage supports a family. But clearly you have two sides in the debate who are not talking about the same thing at all.

In my community, the minimum wage is $9.25. The City of Sea-Tac, which is small, containing the Seattle-Tacoma airport, strip malls, bars, motels, and not much else, voted in the last election for a $15 minimum wage, which probably doesn’t affect many at the airport. The last election also elected a Socialist to the Seattle City Council, who is campaigning for a $15 minimum wage, so it is a subject of considerable debate here.

We badly need to separate, re-name, and probably lower the wage for beginners to entice businesses operating on narrow margins to take on absolute beginners. ObamaCare has thrown a monkey wrench into that with an incentive for employers to cut workers back to 30 hours or less, with ObamaCare regulations.

The unemployment rate for teenagers is 16.3 percent, measured in July which is the period of highest youth employment, but 28.2 percent for black youth. How about calling it “Beginner’s Wage?” That might help those who have learned to be a cheerful and productive worker, with skills, to move on to a better job. We never expected anyone to stay at the minimum wage, but to climb the ladder to success.  Conservatives believe in growth and mobility.

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