Monday, October 09, 2006

What are we doing to those we seek to help?

While raising wages seems unassailable ("Minimum-wage proposal most popular ballot item," Sept. 20), it has negative consequences for the very people minimum wage hikes aim to help.

Consider an entrepreneur with a tight budget. If she is barely eking out a profit, she cannot easily absorb a mandated increase in her labor costs - unless she fires workers. Even large employers face this choice. That is why Chicago's Democratic Mayor Richard Daley recently vetoed a minimum wage hike aimed at big-box stores. When we tell employers to pay workers more, we are often telling them to fire someone now on the payroll.

What's worse, these workers are not struggling to get by. They are struggling to make a start. The average household income for Colorado minimum wage earners is more than $50,000 a year. Most Coloradans working for minimum wage are doing so because they need basic job skills more than they need a few extra dollars per hour.

Voting for a minimum wage increase might make us feel good, but it cuts off the crucial first rung of the economic ladder.