- - Tuesday, June 14, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The “dollar menu” at McDonald’s has vanished, but there’s a new $15 menu. It’s called the government-mandated minimum wage. In a sagging economy, overpaid and underseasoned McJobs are attracting the best and the brightest straight out of the likes of Harvard, Yale and Stanford.

The Fight for $15 Movement says it wants to provide a livable wage to workers in food, health, child care, retail and transportation jobs, and guarantee the right to unionize. Good things all, but achieving these goals by artificial means leaves many job-seekers jobless. Business has to make a profit to pay its workers, a home truth often lost on visionaries.

A “McJob” was never meant to be a full-time position suitable for supporting a family of four. Almost 1 in 4 of all jobs in the United States pay wages below the poverty line for a family of four.

The Pew Research Center found two years ago that workers earning the minimum wage make up a smaller share of the workforce than ever. The Bureau of Labor Statistics calculated in 2013 that more than a million and a half hourly workers earned the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Nearly 2 million more earned less than that, due to exemptions for tipped employees, full-time students, and certain disabled workers. That was 3.3 million hourly workers earning the minimum wage or less. This was only 4.3 percent of the nation’s 75.9 million hourly workers, and only 2.6 percent of those earning a salary. Three decades ago these numbers were considerably higher, at 13.4 percent and 7.9 percent.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that workers earning the minimum wage or less are disproportionately young — more than half are between 16 and 24 years old and almost 1 in 4 are teenagers largely working part-time. This is evidence that minimum-age workers are not trying to support a family.

“McJobs” are meant to be starter jobs for young people with no job training, experience or education. A “McJob,” though supplying the opportunity to gain those skills, is not a career. But that’s how many begin their climb to the top. One prominent example is Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon (and the owner of The Washington Post).

Many Americans, to be sure, are trying to support families with part-time minimum-wage jobs. It’s the curse of a faltering economy. Raising wages by fiat is not the answer, and arbitrarily raising the minimum wage to an unreasonable and unsustainable level attempts to make a “McJob” more than a starter job.

A new college graduate may try his hand at dispensing burgers and fries because the job market is soft and the pay isn’t bad for a start. A hiring manager may consider college graduates preferable to job candidates with little to no previous training.

This does the single mother with a high school education and no options no favors. In a vibrant economy “McJobs” should remain starter positions where the untrained can make their start. Targeted job training is a better way to help workers help themselves, and that requires getting the economy cooking. Supersizing the minimum wage by government order is no way to do that.


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