The Star recently editorialized that teen jobs "are
shriveling in the summer sun," and offered several explanations for why this is
the case before concluding that teens wasting summers away without working is
undesirable. I agree.
The main causes of teen unemployment, as I see it, have to
do with progressive policies instead of some unforeseen force at work.
First, and probably most important as far as teen
unemployment is concerned, is that progressives keep raising the minimum wage
in a misguided attempt to help poor people. Progressives fool themselves into
thinking they can set a minimum wage, when in reality it can't be changed from
zero. In other words, employers won't hire someone at $8 an hour if a person's
labor is only worth $6 an hour.
The group whose labor is worth the least is inexperienced students
looking for a summer jobs. They might be happy to work at $6 an hour so they
can build enough experience to someday make $8, then $10, then $15, then $50.
But they can't take the first step up the ladder of success because
progressives have raised it five feet off the ground to try to lift up poor
Ironically, their attempt to help has the opposite effect,
especially for minorities who have not benefited from a good education.
Two prominent black conservative economists make this point
better than I. Thomas Sowell says, "The real minimum wage is zero:
unemployment." And Walter Williams, writes, "Reduced employment opportunities
is one effect of minimum wage legislation. The minimum wage law has imposed
incalculable harm on the disadvantaged members of our society. The only moral
thing to do is to repeal it."
Conservatives will also point out that some blacks, other minorities,
lower and middle class whites, as well as teenagers face competition from
rampant illegal immigration. A job in the fast food industry, traditionally a
rite of passage for American teenagers, became dominated by people who spoke
English as a second language during the recent waves of illegal immigration.
All is not lost for teenagers, however. The Star wrote about
a correlation between how much money a teenager's parents make and the teenager's
prospect for summer employment.
these are teenagers from relatively well-off families and they are also the
most likely to find summer employment. Last summer, 44 percent of white
teenagers who come from families with income between $100,000 and $150,000
who need the work the most, both for the money and the experience, fare the
worst: Only 14 percent of black teens from families making less than $40,000
found work last summer.
We can again thank progressivism for that. Through guilt,
liberals have been so eager to give tax dollars to minorities, but are
undermining family cohesiveness. Traditionally, a father's role is to bring
home money, pay for the electricity, discipline kids when they get out of line,
and serve as role model. When Uncle Sam becomes the breadwinner in the family,
there is no need for a father anymore. No father means no discipline, no
training, no role models. It means broken homes, especially when progressives
give perverse financial incentives to women to become single moms and not marry
the fathers. Why lose out on all those benefits? The result is higher poverty,
higher crime rates, and children who are less prepared to enter the workforce
than their counterparts in other families where Uncle Sam isn't the head of
Ironically, the progressive's response to the rather
sensible arguments I've laid out in this post will be to disregard it, repeat
the cry over teen unemployment, and advocate for more progressive policies to
fix it. Good luck with that.