The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

The War on (Minimum) Wage Payers

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


Our nation’s Founding Fathers never intended to put the government in charge of picking winners and losers, but as citizens look more and more to Uncle Sam for special favors and handouts, that is precisely what is happening. In the process, the storied American character that once valued hard work and venerated self-reliance has itself been impoverished.

On February 12, 2014, as he signed an executive order raising the minimum wage for federal contractors to $10.10 an hour, President Obama stated, “In the wealthiest nation on Earth, nobody who works full-time should have to live in poverty – nobody, not here in America.” An idea with (arguably) the best of intentions is instead a misguided outlook that has echoed throughout the administration and seeped its way into the halls of Congress, transforming the minimum wage debate into a guiding force behind the deconstruction of the American dream.

This skewed sense of entitlement has evolved into a full-fledged movement with the protests of food-service workers and other low-skilled employees demanding a minimum wage increase from $7.25 an hour to $15 – more than doubling their pay.

While advocates of a minimum wage increase cite “democracy” and “equal rights” as relevant factors in the living wage equation, what proponents fail to acknowledge is that a substantial increase would defy the basic rules of economics and decrease opportunity for all Americans.

Every time President Obama proclaims that an increase in the hourly wage in any form would “aid a dishwasher at Randolph Air Force Base making $8.91 an hour, and a laundry worker at Camp Dodge in Iowa making $9.03 an hour,” he forgets about the nurse’s aide at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Indiana who embarked on months of training to make $10.20 an hour, or the rehabilitation counselor in Westbury, New York who acquired a Master’s degree to obtain that position, making $16.29 per hour – a mere $1.29 more per hour than that being demanded by food service workers.

Regardless of the political, financial, or economic intentions that drive the minimum wage debate, supporters are ignoring the consequences. There is no equality or democracy when the government arbitrarily decides to depreciate the value of one man’s education, skills, and training over someone less qualified. Rather, it simply ends up picking winners and losers.

Businesses hire employees based on skills and experience. Employers then pay their employees based on the value of the work they produce. The minimum wage debate has nothing to do with inequality, but everything to do with how much certain people are able to produce, as well as what a certain product is worth. Do some people produce more than others? Absolutely. Is this unfair? Of course not.

Instead of wagging his finger at Congress’s failure to “give America a raise,” President Obama should instead give America a chance.  In an economic climate where 9.5 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed, the President would be much wiser to promote more robust, market-based economic growth, not risk even more job loss by interfering in the wage market.  During his proclaimed “year of action,” President Obama would accomplish much more by persuading the Senate to pass one of the more than 30 jobs bills that currently lay idle in the Democrat-controlled chamber.

As the White House prepares to give its final review  to regulations requiring the wage increase of federal contractors, it is important to remember a crucial element in the establishment of our nation that seems to be all but forgotten. The U.S. Constitution was drafted with the vision of a nation that was protected by a limited federal government: a government that preserved liberty while encouraging purposefulness and efficiency, not a government that manipulates its citizens into believing the minimum wage is the most they can hope for.

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