In his weekly address last Saturday, President Barack Obama described his proposal to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour in language suggesting this would not be a tax increase.
"It would lift millions of Americans out of poverty, and help millions more work their way out of poverty, without requiring a single dollar in new taxes or spending," said Obama.
Perhaps he is right. "Tax" may not precisely describe Obama's proposal. "Attack" might be more accurate.
Who is targeted by this assault on free enterprise? Industrious young people -- those who, historically, have been on their way up in America -- and the entrepreneurs who employ them.
On average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 143,929,000 people were employed in the United States in 2013. Of these, 75,948,000 were paid an hourly wage, and 3,300,000 of those earned at or below the minimum wage. That means only 2.3 percent of American workers earned at or below the minimum wage.
These were concentrated in certain age groups and industries.
1,663,000 -- or 50.4 percent -- who earned at or below the minimum wage were 24 years old or younger.
Another 436,000 were 25 to 29 years old. The combined 2,099,000 workers 29 or younger who earned at or below the minimum wage accounted for approximately 64 percent of all workers earning at or below minimum wage.
The 1,201,000 workers 30 or older who earned at or below the minimum wage accounted for 36 percent of the 3,300,000 in that wage bracket and only about 0.8 percent of the 143,929,000 Americans employed in 2013.
Call them the less-than-1-percenters.
It remains a fact in the United States that if you start working and keep working until you are at least 30, you will almost certainly get paid more than the government requires an employer to pay you.
So, where do the predominantly young people who earn at or below the minimum wage work?
According to BLS data, one industry dominates. It is what the government calls the food services and drinking places industry -- or restaurants and bars. (This is not surprising given that workers who get tips on the job can be paid less than the minimum wage so long as their combined hourly wage and tips at least equal that wage).
In 2013, 1,610,000 of the workers who earned a wage at or below the minimum earned it in a food service or drinking place. They accounted for about 49 percent of the people earning at or below the minimum wage.
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