When a President sees his poll numbers slipping and his policies become so unpopular that they place members of his party in danger in other elections, he starts buying votes.
That’s what President Obama was doing on Wednesday when he voiced his support for raising the minimum wage — he was ensuring that a voting bloc that has traditionally supported him and other Democrats would continue to do so in the coming midterm elections, for their own economic interests and based upon a proposal that has no real chance of coming to fruition.
He paints a pretty picture, but it’s merely a distraction for the many people who would, in theory, benefit from the increase. A mandated increase in the minimum wage means prices would go up across the board, and businesses in many states, like North Carolina, that are still feeling the sting of recession and are lagging behind the national economic recovery would have to cut costs. The result would be lost jobs, and minimum wage jobs in particular.
Make no mistake, raising the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour won’t fix a stagnant economy and it won’t lift the many millions of Americans living in poverty up to a comfortable economic status.
The United States has a service-based economy. We manufacture very few things in this country any more. Workers in the service industry hold the majority of minimum wage jobs. According to the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2011 “the industry with the highest proportion of workers with hourly wages at or below the Federal minimum wage was leisure and hospitality (22 percent). About one-half of all workers paid at or below the Federal minimum wage were employed in this industry, primarily in restaurants and other food services.”
We need to diversify our economy and find new industries and business sectors in which we can excel, and in which current low-wage earners can fit.
That’s a start to finding out the answer to poverty, if there is one. The answer is not to force business owners to foot the bill for the government’s inability to legislate a national commercial climate that is welcoming to high-quality, high-wage industries and jobs. The government in this country is not responsible for actually creating jobs outside the public sector bureaucracy, and it never has been. But it is responsible for creating laws that strike a balance between protecting both the businesses that drive the healthy portion of our economy and the labor that makes it possible. And up until this point, in that effort, it has failed time and again.