Artificial Minimum

I have made it a point in my teaching career to explain as clearly as I possible can to students in history, government or economics classes why increasing the minimum wage is not the panacea everyone thinks that it is. Much to my delight a student I taught nearly fifteen years ago recently told me that she has never forgotten that lecture! Unfortunately, far too many other people have forgotten–or have never bothered to understand–the principle.

An article in the March 8, 2014 issue of WORLD Magazine entitled “Wages of federalism” asserts that as many as seventy-five percent of Americans “support some form of minimum wage increase, according to various polls.” The article goes on to state that Democrats insist that a minimum wage increase would be “a lifeline and a no-brainer for poor workers in this election year, arguing that the extra spending money could be a deficit-free economic stimulus.” That assertion is, of course, a bunch of baloney. The notion that increasing the minimum wage will either improve employment numbers or provide workers with “extra spending money” is ludicrous. The suggestion that raising the minimum wage would be a “deficit-free economic stimulus” is as accurate as suggesting that we can fix the economy by printing more money.

I had the opportunity to see a first-hand example of the foolishness of this suggestion during a recent family trip to the Grand Canyon. Before entering the park from the south rim entrance we stopped at a McDonald’s in Tusayan for breakfast. The cost for my family of four to eat breakfast at that McDonald’s was approximately $40. Those are New York-like prices. And I assure you, we were not stuffing ourselves; we each ordered very basic breakfasts–such as a sausage and egg McMuffin and orange juice. Interestingly, as I was standing off to the side waiting for our order to be ready I noticed a framed piece of paper hanging on the wall. It was an explanation from the restaurant as to why their prices were so high. The reasons given included the suggestion that the cost of having items delivered to that location were higher than normal delivery costs (an assertion about which I was more than a little skeptical) as well as the statement that because housing is so limited and expensive in the Tusayan area the McDonald’s provides housing for its workers. This is a perfect example of why increasing the minimum wage creates as many problems as it solves. Quite simply, when minimum wage goes up the employer’s costs go up. When employer’s costs go up they pass the increase on to the customers. Therefore, if minimum wage is increased companies that pay employees minimum wage will either cut employees or increase prices to compensate for the added expense. All of a sudden any “increased buying power” resulting from the wage increase is gone because the cost of everything has gone up!

According to the WORLD article even the “traditionally liberal” Bill Gates has spoken wisely on this issue, telling an interviewer on MSNBC, “It’s not as simple as just saying, ‘Let’s raise the wage.'” The Congressional Budget Office has projected that President Obama’s proposed increase to the minimum wage would cost 500,000 jobs!

The reality is that a free market economy will create its own minimum wage, though that may well look different in different regions, at different times of the year and/or for different jobs. If companies offer wages that are too low no one will do the work. If they set prices too high no one will purchase the good or service. Leave the free market economy alone and it will eventually work it out on its own; there is seldom any good that will come from creating an artificial minimum.

What About Common Core? (part 4)

I have spent more than enough time and space on the topic of the Common Core State Standards now, and the bottom line is that the debate is not going to go away. As I mentioned earlier, the debate is good. If nothing else, the CCSS have awakened some people to the importance of being informed and involved in education. I could spend more time and space talking about whether or not Bill and Melinda Gates are performing the role of the man behind the curtain in the development of CCSS, I could explore whether or not the federal government is violating its constitutional role by providing incentive funds for states adopting the CCSS, I could go standard by standard, state by state and evaluate whether the CCSS are an improvement or not…in short I could make studying and addressing the CCSS my full time job for the foreseeable future if I wanted to do so. I do not want to do so, and I am guessing my readers do not want me to, either.

In conclusion, then, I would like to share a few final thoughts…

First, the strength of any school will always be its teachers, not its textbooks nor its standards. That raises another topic altogether, of course, given the contracts some teachers unions have negotiated for public educators in this day and age. Ask Michelle Rhee how easy it is to get rid of poorly performing educators….

Second, regarding Glenn Beck and others of his ilk… Mr. Beck is certainly entertaining, and he does, at times, bring a needed and insightful approach to some of the topics he may choose to address, but let us also not forget that he thrives on controversy and alarmism in order to perpetuate his audience. Unfortunately, not everything that Mr. Beck has reported or stated regarding the CCSS is accurate. There is nothing in the CCSS that will strip local schools of their control of their curricular choices any more than there was in previously existing state standards. The CCSS is just one more in a long line of outcome-based education models, concerned almost exclusively with whether or not the skills enumerated are achieved by the students as evidenced through their performance on standardized tests.

Finally, the Common Core State Standards are here to stay—at least until the next movement comes along. The reality is that there will always be debate and conflict over what exactly constitutes a quality education. There will never be unanimous agreement over what students should learn and when they should learn it, over which is more important—facts or skills, and over a myriad of other educational topics.

At the end of the day, it is the right and responsibility of each parent to ensure that their child(ren) receive a quality education. The beauty of it is that different parents will define that in different ways. I have definite opinions about what a quality education looks like, and I am not shy about sharing my opinions. Anyone who has read this space at length knows that in my mind the movement known as “unschooling” does not qualify. Other parents think that that is exactly what their children need in order to have a quality education. I respect their prerogative to think that and to raise their children accordingly.

As a Christian, I believe wholeheartedly that what matters most is how well we measure up against God’s standard. The Bible does not clearly state where children are to go to school, for how long, or with whom, but it does provide clear instruction in plenty of other particulars that will provide clear direction in making decisions regarding the education of children. To those who are all worked up about CCSS I say “bravo for you.” I hope that your new-found passion for ensuring that your local school system operates the way it should and provides the education that it should will not diminish. Whether through CCSS, some other nationwide set of standards, or a multitude of locally-developed standards, the best way to ensure that American children are getting a quality education is to ensure that American parents are informed, involved, and holding educators accountable for the education being provided.