Walter E. Williams

Such opportunities for early work experiences are all but gone for today's teens living in Richard Allen homes. A major reason is the minimum wage law, which makes hiring low-skilled workers a losing economic proposition. In 1950, only 50 percent of jobs were covered by the minimum wage law. That meant the minimum wage didn't have today's unemployment effect. Today nearly 100 percent are covered. Today's child labor laws prevent youngsters from working in perfectly safe environments. The minimum wage has destroyed many jobs. That's why, for example, in contrast with the past, today's gasoline stations are self-service and theater ushers are nonexistent.

Then there are super-minimum wage laws, such as the Davis-Bacon Act, which were written for the express purposes of excluding blacks from government-financed or -assisted construction projects. Labor unions have a long history of discrimination against blacks. Frederick Douglass wrote about this in "The Tyranny, Folly, and Wickedness of Labor Unions," and Booker T. Washington did so in "The Negro and the Labor Unions." To the detriment of their constituents, black politicians give support to labor laws pushed by unions and white liberal organizations.

Then there's education. Black youths are becoming virtually useless for the increasingly high-tech world of the 21st century. According to a 2001 report by Abigail Thernstrom, "The Racial Gap in Academic Achievement," many black 12th-graders dealt with scientific problems at the level of whites in the sixth grade; they wrote about as well as whites in the eighth grade. The average black high-school senior had math skills on a par with a typical white student in the middle of seventh grade. The average 17-year-old black student could only read as well as the typical white child who had not yet reached age 13. That means an employer hiring the typical black high-school graduate is in effect hiring an eighth-grader.

Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
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