Four Ways Government Is Imperiling the Future of Our Teens

Gary Shapiro
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Posted: Sep 11, 2015 9:42 AM
Four Ways Government Is Imperiling the Future of Our Teens


Being a teenager is tough. Acne, hormones, dating, school pressures and living with parents are challenging. Perhaps that’s why today's teens seem oblivious to government policies jeopardizing their future.

The following are four ways government is hurting the adulthood prospects for our teenagers. Though legislated with good intentions, bad government policies are resulting in:

1. Fewer internship opportunities. Internships not only help teens figure out what they like and don't like, they also help build resumes to get jobs. Employers also make full-time job offers to their top interns, since hiring a capable intern for a full-time job cuts the risk of making a bad hiring decision. Some 20 percent of our full-time employees at the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)® started as interns.

Regrettably, that number may well fall in the future. First, the Obama administration eliminated some unpaid internships in the private sector unless they meet six new criteria.

Worse, under Obamacare interns employed for more than three months must be offered health insurance. At CEA, we estimate this will cost us $90,000 and obviously affect how many internships we are able to offer. Good intentions spell bad results for those who want real experience, and employers who want to offer experience and seed a talent pool.

2. Fewer jobs before graduation. Like many in my generation, I started with minimum-wage jobs. They helped build my character, provided varied working experiences and gave me some spending money. They also started building my resume and led to other jobs, which in turn led to a great career.

But because dramatic increases in the minimum wage mean higher costs, businesses will have to raise prices, and/or cut hours and jobs, and/or invest in capital to replace workers. Of course, employees deserve a living wage – but roughly half of minimum-wage workers are secondary wage earners in their families.

By not distinguishing between inexperienced part-time teenagers and adult full-time workers, an across-the-board minimum-wage increase forces employers to think carefully about the hours and experience of those they hire.

While it’s tempting to celebrate the government’s gift of more money per hour, the money must come from somewhere. Most economists agree that big across-the-board increases in the minimum wage will ultimately hurt the number of entry-level jobs.

3. Fewer jobs after college. The Obama administration is about to mandate a big change in overtime rules seriously affecting those beginning their careers. Like the minimum wage rules, this seems like a huge gift to young people starting out. But, in truth, it’s a startling change affecting the desirability of hiring recent graduates.

Under existing law, as part of the salary threshold, employers must pay workers at least time-and-a-half for each hour they work beyond 40 hours a week, if they earn $23,660 or less per year. The proposed rule would more than double the salary threshold to cover all overtime-eligible workers making $50,440 or less per year.

This means the American path of starting out in a junior position, putting in long hours to learn, prove yourself and stand out will be blocked by government fiat. Employers will be forced to hire fewer employees and start them at $50,000, or put rules into place blocking junior employees from burning the midnight oil to excel.

This is a deadly plan, harmful to youth and to American business, and it will especially hurt young entrepreneurs and startups who simply don’t have the money to pay higher salaries or overtime. So, recent graduates who are not exempted from the law will be working at fewer startups.

This mandate seems counter to the American ideal of working hard to get ahead. The sad truth is employers may require college degrees to hire young people, but recent graduates need actual experience to get real job knowledge. The Department of Labor accepted comments on the proposal through Sept. 4, but the Obama administration has made it clear the new overtime rules are a top priority.

4. Reduced basic services from government. My generation has repeatedly stolen from our children. We have not invested in bridges, roads and airports. We have promised ourselves Social Security, medical care and other benefits so costly they’re bankrupting the government.

At the federal level, we have spent so much money we didn’t have and made promises so big that unless changes are made, by 2025 – in just 10 years – the entire federal budget will be consumed by entitlements and interest on the federal debt. That means zero spending on the environment, education, research, parks, defense and diplomacy.

In most states, it’s equally dismal, as politicians promised state and municipal employees pensions and benefits that cannot be paid. Detroit’s bankruptcy is a start.California and Illinois are also in trouble.

The problem is only getting worse. Since President Obama took office, the national debt has nearly doubled. We are in trouble, as almost every candidate for president is promising either no tax raises or no benefits cuts—and some even promise increased benefits. They all are in denial of the mathematical certainty of the problems we face.

Although I represent makers of the cutting-edge technology, services and apps that teenagers consume, my industry has no grand plan to churn out games, social media, video and music as a strategy to distract teens so they don’t rebel against bad decisions their government is making. Rather, we want a strong economy and good jobs, so Americans can afford to keep buying all these great innovations. But if today’s teens don’t object loudly and strongly to poor decisions by the government, in 10 short years they may not have the jobs and income to buy the products and content we make.

So, unless you want to keep living with your parents, join us in fighting for innovation and insist on a government that makes better decisions and confronts the big issues.