Like Mike Rowe, I’ve worked at minimum wage jobs—it doesn’t get any more glamorous, folks, than busing tables and washing dishes at a Denny’s. It teaches you a lot about never thinking you’re too good to put in a hard day’s work at a dirty job, and never failing to appreciate it when you rise up to a better job. I’ve also spent enough time as a free-lancer and entrepreneur to know that the real minimum wage isn’t the $3.65 an hour I got paid at Denny’s. The real minimum wage is zero. Actually, it’s less than zero: the real “minimum wage” is going into debt just to have a shot at doing the work you love.
But I’ve never seen a politician who can explain this sort of thing so clearly, so simply, so powerfully.
The idea that the minimum wage just serves to put young and unskilled people out of work; that it prevents them from gaining the very basic skills and experience they need to go on to better jobs; that it encourages employers to replace pimply-faced kids with machines; that it cuts off the first rung of the ladder for the people who need it most—all of that is Free Market Economics 101. But you can’t explain it to the public like you’re lecturing in a classroom. More to the point, it can’t just be something you learned about as an abstraction during your second year at Yale. It has be something you’ve seen, and better yet lived, first-hand.