Indeed, the debate is not so much about whether raising the minimum wage reduces jobs, but by how much. If the increases are small and essentially below the market in a geographic area, so too may be the effects. But raising wages by $3.25 an hour in a place like D.C. (which already has a minimum wage $1 higher than the federal minimum) will have a big effect. Employers looking to expand could set up shop across the Potomac in Virginia and pay workers $7.25 an hour. Jobs are likely to migrate or simply dry up.
If raising the minimum wage is the right solution to closing the income gap, why not raise it to $22 an hour, which was the mean hourly wage in 2012? Then, like Lake Wobegon, "where all the children are above average," no worker would be paid less than the national average.
Income inequality is growing because of complex changes in our society. Well-educated Americans continue to do well. But even education is not the automatic panacea we once believed. Quality as well as quantity of school matters, as does the subject area people choose to study.
Family structure also matters. Yet the president barely touched on the problem in his economic address, offering only that "some of the social patterns that contribute to declining mobility that were once attributed to the urban poor -- that's a particular problem for the inner city: single-parent households or drug abuse -- it turns out now we're seeing that pop up everywhere." What he should have said is that when 40 percent of American children are born to single mothers, the consequences for society are truly alarming.
Uncle Sam can't replace fathers, not even by providing health care and food stamps and other economic benefits. If Obama wants to understand why it is that there is a growing gap between the haves and the have-nots in America, he should look to what's happened to the American family.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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