Sometimes it seems there is nothing so dangerous as being a friend of this administration – dangerous in terms of how the administration treats you.
I am not sure I had ever heard the term “throw under the bus” until, during the 2008 campaign, candidate Obama did exactly that to his deceased grandmother, suggesting she had been racist for expressing uneasiness about an aggressive panhandle. But the president’s recent drive for a substantial minimum wage increase sets a new standard for throwing friends under the bus.
Which groups have supported Mr. Obama most strongly and fervently? Young people, young women and minorities would have to rank at the top of the pile.
Why then would a president concerned about the well being of his supporters decide now, in this economy, to champion an increase in what can fairly be termed the Youth Unemployment Wage or the Female Youth Unemployment Wage or the Minority Youth Unemployment Wage. Take your pick.
It is not as if the higher wage will have much impact on the income inequality, the administration’s current chew toy. A vanishingly small percent of the American workforce receives the minimum wage – between 1.1 percent (http://bit.ly/1g1mb3R) to nearly 3.0 percent (http://bit.ly/QA9aCi), depending on the data set you use.
But the higher mandatory wage will have an impact on unemployment. Cato Institute scholar and Johns Hopkins professor Steve Hanke recently (http://bit.ly/1geeTu4) compared nearly a decade of annual unemployment rates of European countries without a minimum wage to those with one. He did the same for youth unemployment numbers, too.
In 2012, overall unemployment rates were nearly 50 percent higher in countries with the minimum wage. The gap was nearly as large among young people. Youth unemployment was 27.7 percent in 2012 where the minimum wage was in force; 19.5 percent where it was not. Hanke quotes Milton Friedman as saying, “A minimum wage is, in reality, a law that makes it illegal for an employer to hire a person with limited skills” – which sums up the problem with it.
Now who receives the minimum wage in the United States?
According to the Pew Research Center, “[p]eople at or below the federal minimum are: Disproportionately young: 50.6% are ages 16 to 24; 24% are teenagers (ages 16 to 19)… fully half are white women.” (http://bit.ly/RAqx6P). you can be sure that young minorities are heavily represented in that group, too.
And it isn’t as if the country were swimming in jobs. Perhaps the most alarming data I have seen recently comes from the Shadow Government Statistics website, which adds discouraged workers (not counted in official statistics) to the government’s count of the unemployed (http://bit.ly/1mOcFUW). As of May 2nd, SGS put the actual jobless rate in the United States at nearly 25 percent. And far from going down, it may even be rising slightly.
There has been a great deal of talk about the perversity of the president’s current push on income inequality and the minimum wage. Any number of commentators have noted that not enough people receive the minimum wage to have an impact on national earnings differentials. And to the extent that a higher wage will have an appreciable impact, it will be through lost jobs. Why raise it now?
I have a slightly different question. Mine is, why come out with a proposal that would destroy the jobs of your most loyal supporters?
But, then, isn’t the answer clear? From celebrating as major victories job growth numbers that in other times would be greeted with yawns or dismay to pounding the income inequality drum, the administration has been doing all it can to draw attention away from the miserable state of the American economy and our job market. The push to increase the minimum wage is just part of all that.
Once again, to further his political agenda, the president is pushing those closest to him under the bus.