• WisBusiness

Friday, January 29, 2010

Minimum wage regulations harm job market


By Jim Maas
Numbers released by the Department of Labor show a rise in the unemployment rate for Wisconsin. Bad news is the 8.7% unemployment. The good news is that we don't live in Michigan, Illinois, or even Samoa.

Samoa? Remember the American territory in the South Pacific? It comes to mind because in a recent CBS 60 Minutes program on Samoan football and football players in the NFL, it mentioned that, because of a 2007 U.S. minimum wage law, their tuna industry has been devastated.

Congress insisted that the $3.76 for canning fish would increase to a minimum wage like we have in the United States. Wasn't that generous of them?

Samoans understood economics better than Congress and didn't want the increase since their canneries compete with Thailand, which pays 60¢ an hour. Congress didn't listen and Chicken of the Sea flew the coop soon after. That is a job loss of 2,041 out of a total population of around 65,000 (about the size of Eau Claire). Samoans don't have a lot of other options. And the only other cannery is laying off.

Washington acted, being the thoughtful, caring, Borg Collective that it is, and the Samoa News reports American Samoa received a grant of $925,000 from the U.S. Department of Labor for the Disaster Unemployment Program.

Time Magazine recently reported that, "In a Tough Job Market, Teens Are Suffering Most." According to people who should know, "Proportionally, more kids have lost jobs in the past few years than the entire country lost in the Great Depression."

My dad was a teen during the Depression, working in the kitchen at Camp Tesomas (Boy Scout Camp). He worked for just room and board since he had three siblings back in Wausau and times were tough. That wouldn't be possible now. We have minimum wage laws -- so workers can get a "living wage," if they can get a job at all.

Samoans, American teens, and displaced workers need jobs! Jobs they are willing to work for a rate the employer is willing to pay. Having government mandate that they can't work during a recession unless the employer is able to pay an artificially established "minimum" is insane. It is absurd to argue that unemployment is better than employment at a low wage rate. What workers need to succeed is freedom.

Today, even if a worker wishes to work, he or she is prohibited from doing so in Wisconsin and American Samoa. Potential employers go without another employee willing to work at a mutually satisfactory rate. This is not the way to get the economy restarted.

Neither employees nor employers benefit from minimum wage legislation. A minimum wage law cannot achieve its intended goal because it prevents those who need extra income from working at all. It should be clear to anyone who wants to help the economy and the unemployed that the sensible course of action which must be taken is a rollback of misguided minimum wage laws.

Who would it hurt?

-- Maas is vice chairman of the Libertarian Party of Wisconsin.

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