Saving Ms. Barber

Battle rages over NY’s minimum wage is the title of the article that appeared in the Sunday, February 21, 2016 edition of the Press & Sun-Bulletin.  This article highlights a young woman named Laura Barber as its best example of the need for an increased minimum wage.  We are told that Ms. Barber is 20, lives on her own with an infant and is pregnant.  Ms. Barber uses food stamps to make ends meet on top of her minimum wage job.  The story quotes Ms. Barber saying, ” “It’s still not helping me pay my bills — we need it now,” she said of a proposed $15-an-hour minimum wage in New York.

It seems to me that arbitrarily raising the minimum wage in support of the poor choices Ms. Barber has made in her life incentivises those bad decisions.  Ms. Barber is not even a full-fledged adult and now she is a child raising children.  Where is her family?  That is where this financial obligation should be placed, where it rightly belongs, in the lap of those who helped to create the situation in the first place.  Why isn’t the father or fathers paying child support?  Why is Ms. Barber getting pregnant when she knows full well she can’t afford her own children?

Wages are not defined by the needs of the workers, but by their value to the enterprise paying them.  The more value you add to the employer, the more valuable you are to them and accordingly, the more leverage you have in obtaining increased income as a result.  The notion that people can make really poor choices and then expect others to subsidize their stupidity is yet another example of that entitlement mentality that seems to be breeding as fast Ms. Brown.

Nowhere in any of these pleas for more money for nothing is any mention of more value from the employee.

Now the Ms. Brown’s of the world have painted themselves into a small, story-ending corner of their own design.  She is too busy with work and kids to ever further her education, so she will likely languish in poverty.  Likewise, her kids will too and without a two parent family unit, their social, educational, behavioral and legal issues will be paid for and dealt with by more and more taxpayer dollars in programs and services.  And because mom has set the table by way of example for her kids, it is more likely than not that the cycle of poverty; low expectations and failure are likely to follow them into their adult lives.

Paying Ms. Brown $15/hour won’t address any of the social issues so critical in this equation.  Incentivising delayed parenting, marriage and personal betterment through skill building, a work ethic and taking responsibility for ones own actions and decisions is a much better outlay of taxpayer dollars than our current system of paying for the results of bad decisions.  Let’s plan programs that stop those decisions from being made in the first place.

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