EDITORIAL: Raising minimum wage not the way to American Dream


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Everyone wants to make more money. It’s the reason why millions of people decide to invest their time, money and energy in higher education and specialized training.

Nobody wants to be at the bottom of the pay scale, and one could argue that minimum wage in and of itself is motivation for U.S. workers to aim higher and strive to achieve more than the earning $7.25 per hour ($7.75 in Alaska).

As cost of living increases nationwide, minimum wage should also be adjusted to reflect the change, but micro-managing and over-regulating the business sector isn’t good for private and small businesses. If not kept in check the repercussions could be more far-reaching than expected.

What President Barack Obama proposed in his State of the Union address last year, raising minimum wage to more than $10 an hour over the next few years, is a one-size-fits-all approach that will force every American business owner, big and small, to adapt to a government-induced spending plan.

A cost of living increase is a good thing, but government meddling in private businesses’ affairs by guaranteeing wage increases for years to come goes too far.

Businesses and consumers alike know that you get what you pay for. If a business pays its employees too little, it will constantly be forced to deal with high turnover, unmotivated workers and in the end its bottom line will feel the impact. Businesses that aren’t well managed and staffed struggle to stay competitive.

On the flip side, if government forces businesses to pay under-skilled employees above market value for that skill set, business owners will have no choice but to hire fewer employees or raise prices, which in turn will change the quality and number of services offered.

Those factors have a negative impact on well-managed, local businesses that are trying to stay competitive. And let’s not forget about the federally-mandated health care that businesses are now required to provide to employees. The term “free market” is becoming an oxymoron.

A push by voters in SeaTac to increase minimum wage for airport employees to $15 an hour is an example of what we don’t need to see happen in Alaska. Washington already boasts the highest minimum wage in the country at $9.32 per hour.

If minimum wage were raised by more than 50 percent there, the message being sent to its younger generation could be that there’s no need to attend college or trade schools because they can make almost as much money but without the diligence and ambition to strive for something better.

The initiative being pushed in Alaska would increase minimum wage by $1 to $8.75 per hour in 2015, and then to $9.75 per hour the following year. From there Alaska’s minimum wage would stay ahead of the nation’s minimum by $1.

The increase to $8.75 per hour is reasonable, but Alaska shouldn’t be making guarantees beyond that. Alaska businesses could find themselves in deep water should the federal government decide in the next year or so that $10, or perhaps more, should be the minimum.

Most minimum wage jobs are filled by teenagers, those wanting only part-time work or extra money on the side, and individuals who have not taken steps to increase their skill set or value in the workforce.

Minimum wage jobs aren’t intended to be long-term career choices. And even those who can’t find a better paying job still have the opportunity to work up the ranks. That’s not to say it’s easy — hard work and dedication are required — but it’s hard work and dedication that built this country.

Bumping up minimum wage won’t incentivize the potential in workers to rise above the minimum and strive to achieve the “American Dream” of going from rags to riches.

Minimum wage may be where some people have to start, but the American way is to work hard, move up the career ladder and to never stop striving for something greater.

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