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Maas: To create jobs, don't raise minimum wage - eliminate it (column)

10:30 PM, Sep. 5, 2013  |  Comments
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Daily Herald Media posed the questions, "Is $15 an hour too much to ask for flipping burgers? In this economy, should the working poor just be glad they are working?" The answer to both questions is yes!

Some Wisconsin workers in low-level positions recently went "on strike" to protest income inequality.

These workers aren't really up against big corporations or CEOs. They face resistance from customers, who patronize fast-food restaurants, not just because they serve food fast but also cheap!

I must point out that wherever you see a drink dispenser, it has replaced a teenage worker with a device likely made in China at far below the U.S. minimum wage and which requires no paperwork, tax forms or Social Security payments.

Is this part of a trend? Well, think about it. Not only do we pump our own gas, eliminating an attendant, but we can pay at the pump, eliminating a cashier. In some stores, we can bag our own purchases as well as ring up our own sales.

In Europe, McDonald's announced it was installing touch-screen ordering terminals at 7,000 locations, making a cashier position obsolete. It isn't the only company adopting this technology.

A San Francisco company announced a new automated burger-flipper that does the work of three full-time kitchen employees; no benefits, paperwork or strikes, and it pays for itself in a year at the present minimum wage. So not only might it eliminate kitchen help but also a bookkeeper. I don't know if they have it manufactured in China.

Be careful what you ask for.

Has anyone noticed any restaurants or other service type companies with "for sale" signs out front? The idea of asking for a government-mandated raise is not only arrogant but it also flies in the face of all logic and reason, as well as the economic law of supply and demand.

Recently, Daily Herald Media Editor Mark Treinen called for improved civics education in our schools. Obviously, a basic understanding of economics is lacking as well, and not just from our youth.

Teen employment (for which a "living wage" is meaningless) has hovered around record lows. In 1999, about 52 percent of teens between the ages of 16 and 19 worked a summer job. It was only 33 percent this year, according to a recent report by the news service McClatchy. There are 16.8 million teens in this age group in the U.S., according to McClatchy; slightly more than three in 10 of them actually worked a summer job.

Wisconsin had only 20.4 percent of its teens between the ages of 16 and 19 employed, according to the Employment Policies Institute. It was even worse for minority teens. What will be the prospects for employment for those who have no job histories on their resumes or any experience going to work and learning basic job skills?

I have hope. State Rep. Mandy Wright has said that any idea that creates jobs deserves our consideration. Great! The Legislature should eliminate, or at least reduce, the Wisconsin minimum wage.

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