It’s really sad that I have to explain to people how things used to work, back when minimum wage actually did what it was supposed to do. Lots of people who just want to turn the minimum wage into a living wage are far too young to have been around when the things I’m going to talk about were true, that’s the problem, they just don’t know what the hell they’re talking about and it shows.
See, there was a time in American history where kids were expected to get jobs when they turned 16. They were expected to both do their school work and hold a part-time job to make money. I know that’s hard to believe but it’s true. They got jobs at McDonalds and the like, jobs that paid minimum wage and they learned their way around the business world, just like they learned their way around the educational world in school. It was a learning experience. They didn’t make a lot of money because they didn’t have a lot of expenses, they lived with their parents, they got virtually everything taken care of, this was just extra pocket money. They learned a work ethic, they learned how to be on time, how to get things done, how to earn money instead of just being given money, how to be a valuable employee so that by the time they got out of high school, by the time they were an adult, they knew how to hold a job and they had enough experience and enough skill to move up the employment ladder. This is how it used to work and it worked very, very well.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t without problems for the employers. Underage workers needed work permits, their schools had to agree that the teenager was doing well enough in school to be able to handle a job and kids could only work so many hours a week, they couldn’t work before a certain time and they couldn’t work after a certain time and it was somewhat tedious for managers to make schedules for kids who didn’t have open availability. One of the claims made by liberals today is that it could never have worked that way because teenagers couldn’t work during school hours and therefore, this was a complete fantasy. That ignores the fact that people in college still worked these jobs and college flexibility is a lot better. People who went to school at night could work during the day, people who went to school during the day could work at night. It all worked out, maybe not as smoothly as companies might have wished but it still worked.
The change started when many state and local governments started applying much tougher regulations to student employment. As society got more liberalized, more parents didn’t want their kids working and there were more adults who were willing to work for minimum wage, mostly because they had never learned the lessons they needed to learn when they were teenagers. Therefore, the companies that had previously hired teenagers now hired adults. It was easier for them, they didn’t have to deal with laws regarding hiring minors, they didn’t have to deal with work permits, they didn’t have to deal with limited schedules, they had people who could work as much as the companies wanted them to work without having to jump through hoops or pay attention to regulations.
It all sounds great until you realize that these new workers, the people who don’t have the skills to move up the ladder, the people who don’t know how to hold a job, also come with a lot of baggage. No longer are the workers just trying to make some pocket money, they’re trying to live on these low wages and raise a family on these low wages. This problem is only going to get worse because more and more people are refusing to take a serious job until they are not only out of high school, but out of college. Many college graduates have never held a job in their lives, they have never learned the lessons that the work world requires you to learn. They think that holding that degree in their hand ought to give them a high-paying job without going through any of the intermediary stages. It doesn’t. However, since they didn’t learn what they were supposed to learn when they were supposed to learn it, since now they have serious expenses hanging over their heads, not only living expenses and maybe a family, but tons of school loans, and they just don’t qualify to have a high-paying job because they haven’t paid their dues at a lower level, they get screwed and rightfully so. Work and school are two totally separate worlds. Getting an education does not allow you to jump past all of the introductory work experience, it allows you to go farther up the employment ladder than you might have done otherwise. It doesn’t cut the low end, it expands the high end. It’s really unfortunate that so many students think that time spent in school ought to apply to time that they should have spent at work. It doesn’t and it never will.
Today’s students, and a lot of liberals, need to realize a simple lesson. You are, almost without exception, going to spend at least some time at a minimum wage job, learning the basics of the working world. There is no real way around that. You have a choice, either do it early, when you have the time to learn without the expenses, or do it later when you are going to get yourself into trouble. It’s an unfortunate reality that most will simply party their way through college and get a degree, expecting it to be a magical document. It’s not. It might open doors but it won’t allow you to fly.
I know that this will largely go over the head of people who expect to be given things on a silver platter, but this is why the minimum wage exists and why it was never intended to be used to support a family or anyone with major expenses. Reality. You’re just doing it wrong.