Saturday, April 7, 2012

"The Living Wage Campaign"

The left always gets attracted to ideas that sound good regardless of their real impact. The "living wage campaign" is just such an idea. This is essentially a minimum wage rule that advocates claim would help people pull themselves up out of poverty. In fact, it does just the opposite. Not an uncommon outcome for moral sounding initiatives put forward by wealthy, entitled college students designed to help the disadvantaged.

Even if one buys into the general idea, you have to wonder why the students and the advocates of the "living wage" don't simply dig into their own pockets and give money to workers who they think have inadequate income. The idea of making a personal wealth sacrifice never appeals to advocates of these schemes, who are invariably drawn from among America's wealthiest families. No, their idea of charity is to have someone who doesn't agree with them foot the bill for their ideas. Charity begins across the street for such advocates, it never begins at home.

A living wage is equivalent to putting up a sign saying "low skilled employees need not apply." All you are really doing is reducing the number of jobs available to poor folks and eliminating any shot of those at the bottom of the skill spectrum from getting a job. Imagine that the living wage was raised to $ 20 per hour. What would happen to the person now holding a $ 10 per hour job? He/she would have no chance of getting the $ 20 per hour job. First of all there would be many fewer such jobs simply because of costs. But, secondly, and more significantly, the new wage level would attract much higher skilled employees and eliminate from consideration the kinds of folks that now can compete for those jobs.

What the "living wage" people are really advocating is: 1) reducing the number of jobs available to low skilled employees; 2) upgrading the skill levels of those people that occupy those jobs by eliminating any real chance that low skilled employees can compete for such jobs. How noble! Why not simply put up a sign: "poor people need not apply here!" The living wage campaign amounts to the same thing.

Notice that the employees that currently hold these jobs are rarely in the vanguard of the "living wage movements." Instead wealthy and privileged college students, who are largely sheltered from the vicissitudes of the economy, are trying to show the world how caring they are. As the living wage campaign advocates bask in the mirror extolling their personal morality, low skilled Americans take one more step back into the economic morass.

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