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Democrats’ Minimum Wage Credibility Problem

Updated: Apr 13

We’ve written recently about the rising teenage unemployment rate in Arkansas and how a proposed ballot initiative would exacerbate this problem. As previously reported here, a group called Give Arkansas A Raise Now is currently attempting to get an eventual minimum wage increase up to $8.50 an hour. A plan to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour is also under discussion. In recent months, Mark Pryor and various other Democratic politicians have signed onto the Arkansas plan — which would likely make it harder for youngsters to gain valuable, entry-level experience at a minimum-wage job. Indeed, a recent study from the Employment Policies Institute sheds light on the negatives of a minimum wage increase:

Baum and Ruhm find clear evidence that part-time work as a high school senior translates to future career benefits that include higher hourly wages, increased annual earnings, and less time spent out of work—not just in the short-term after graduation, but also roughly 25-30 years later for individuals now in their 40s and 50s. The study’s key findings include: • For a young adult in high school at the turn of the millennium, 20 hours per week of part-time work in their senior year resulted in annual earnings that were 20 percent higher 6-9 years after graduation, as compared to their fellow students who didn’t work. • Millennial high school seniors who held a part-time job were employed an average 42 weeks per year after graduation, as compared to 37 weeks of employment per year for those who didn’t hold a job. • The positive impact of entry-level work lingers for years: Even for workers who were high school students in the late 1970s and early 1980s, 20 hours per week of senior-year work experience is associated today with annual earnings that are seven percent higher as compared to those who didn’t work. “Entry-level jobs play an essential role in teens’ career development that continues to pay benefits for decades,” said Michael Saltsman, EPI’s research director. “Given the study’s findings, lawmakers should think twice before pursuing a minimum wage increase that puts these invaluable opportunities further out of reach.

Such inconvenient facts aren’t stopping Democratic politicians in Arkansas who hope to use the minimum wage measure as a hammer to bash Republicans in November. Democrats’ AR Victory 2014 campaign recently sent out an email, saying: With the current minimum wage, a parent who works full-time all year still doesn’t earn an income above the poverty line. But as the Washington Free Beaconnoted recently about Democratic Senate candidate Bruce Braley in Iowa, Democrats have a credibility problem on this issue. You see, while Braley advocates for a minimum wage increase, he also relies on the labor of unpaid interns in his current House office. Maybe Braley is just a red herring, you say? Well, you’d be wrong. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), which is working to elect Democratic House candidates in Arkansas who have signed on in support of the minimum wage measure, doesn’t feel too strongly about the minimum wage when it comes to their interns. Mark Pryoruses unpaid interns during the fall and spring. The Democratic Party of Arkansas, which has been the most self-righteous of any group about the proposed minimum wage increase, also advertised this summer seeking the labor of unpaid interns. All of this isn’t to say I’m against unpaid internships. If a young lady wants to spend a semester getting coffee for Democratic Party of Arkansas officials (maybe she can make 73 percent less than her male colleagues!), more power to her. Internships and other entry-level work can lay a foundation for career successes down the road. Indeed, it is fair to say that a significant amount of the compensation that first-time, minimum-wage employees receive lies in the lessons they receive about workplace expectations and comportment. A minimum wage increase would make it harder for younger workers to begin laying that foundation.

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