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Readers Respond

News Opinion Readers Respond

Minimum wage hike would hurt young

I applaud The Sun's editorial board for recognizing (at least by implication) that raising the minimum wage is an election year gimmick ("Raise wages — no strings attached Sept. 9).

What concerns me is that you find it "hard to discern" what decreasing the corporate tax rate has to do with raising the minimum wage. I can only guess that you have never had to make a payroll that has a significant number of low-skilled workers.

Quite simply, raising the minimum wage raises labor costs to businesses. Those costs have to be absorbed somehow — by raising prices (which hurts your competitiveness), or, more commonly, by reducing your workforce. Lowering the corporate tax rate would help offset the costs of raising the minimum wage, thereby helping employers absorb the cost — and not lay off workers.

The tragedy of the minimum wage is that it hurts the most vulnerable people in our society — those with few skills. This is especially true for younger, teenage workers who depend on low-skill jobs to learn the basics of having a job — showing up on time, taking responsibility, taking initiative. The teenage unemployment rate, especially among African-American teens, is staggering and in the vicinity of 45 percent, according to some studies.

Your example of Vermont's low unemployment rate and high minimum wage shows that they are not directly correlated. Indeed, employment rates are affected by many factors. But most studies have shown, overall, that raising the minimum wage does negatively impact employment, on average, especially among teens.

Now, to the solution. The Sun would "advocate ... rais[ing] it to a level that is both fair and prudent..." According to whom? Who sets the wage level? How do you determine a fair and prudent level given the consistently changing demand for labor among industries and seasonally? Do you tie it to the cost of living, or to the cost of labor? There's the devil in the details.

Artificially determined price levels always produce shortages or surpluses. I trust the market to determine wages much more than ivory tower economists or worse yet, politicians trying to get re-elected.

At the very least, if we must have a minimum wage, then I urge your pages to argue for a lower teen "sub-minimum" wage. That's a better way to help those most vulnerable to the unintended, tragic consequences of this well-intentioned policy.

Jake Vogelsang, Towson

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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