Several days ago I read an editorial in the Commercial Appeal (Tennessee’s paper of record) in favor of fast food workers making $15/hour. (link) Aside from the typical class warfare argument — McDonald’s CEO makes millions — the editorial writer finds a case study in a single mother of three trying to make ends meet on $7.25/hour.
She’s behind in her rent. She’s had her car repossessed, and her utilities and phone cut off more than once. She’s forced to rely on food stamps and predatory lenders.
With three kids and shifting hours, she doesn’t have time to look for a better job. With just a high school diploma, she doubts she’d find one anyway.
She doesn’t want our pity or our righteous indignation.
I’m sure it’s tough trying to raise three kids on your own, and I admire the young lady for wanting to work instead of just demanding handouts from the taxpayers. Good for her. But there’s one question I can’t get out of my head, and it’s a question not asked in the editorial, and it’s rarely asked anywhere else. Where is the father(s)?
The root problem, you see, is not minimum wage fast food jobs. The problem isn’t corporate greed. The problem is far too many children being born to single mothers. The problem to many of society’s ills is the absentee father. The poverty rate of children living with a single mother is something like seven times greater than the poverty rate of children living with a mother and a father. So let’s get dad involved and quit making McDonald’s the scapegoat.
Aside from the obvious, minimum wage was never considered a “destination” wage. I personally made minimum wage or close to it during high school and college. These were mostly part-time jobs. But I knew I wouldn’t be making that wage for long because I aspired to something much greater. That’s why I got an education. Rather than demand a higher wage, I simply made my self employable for a higher-earning job. That’s what you do.
I would even argue that setting the minimum wage at $7.25/hour legitimizes that wage. It is possible that without government-mandated minimum wages, some jobs that currently pay the minimum wage might actually pay a little more without government getting in the way.
Fast food restaurants aren’t going to willingly pay their workers $15/hour. Sooner or later, cashiers making $7.25/hour won’t be making anything at all because they’ll be replaced by kiosks that don’t demand anything from anyone.