Raising the minimum wage may play well in an election year, but it doesn’t do anything to help those without a job or those who do not have the skills needed to succeed in a 21st century economy. That was the message that U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., discussed on the Senate floor today. Enzi highlighted how raising the minimum wage not only shuts the door to entry-level positions for those seeking employment, it forces small business owners to accommodate another government mandate that results in hiring less workers or raising prices to cover the increased wages. Below are excerpts from Enzi’s speech.
“My colleagues gloss over the fact that the minimum wage is for entry-level employees. Young people and those new to the workforce are those who typically earn the minimum wage because it is their first job or opportunity to gain career skills. This is evidenced by the fact that a majority of minimum wage earners are between the ages of 16 and 24. These jobs are where workers learn to be dependable and how to work with other employees. This is why two-thirds of employees who start at the minimum wage are earning more than the minimum wage within a year.
“The minimum wage does not need to go up for minimum-wage employees to get a raise. The proposal before the Senate throws cold water on job creation and adds to the burdens businesses are already facing under the President’s failed health care program. Instead the Senate should be considering proposals which promote job growth. Let’s consider tax reform, growing U.S. exports and approving the Keystone XL Pipeline as several of my colleagues recently highlighted.
“The problem we are facing is one of minimum skills – not minimum wages. The effect may be low wages, but the cause is low skills. We need to address those workers who have few, if any, of the skills they need to compete for a better job and command higher wages. We need to start thinking in terms of skills, the kinds of skills that will help students support themselves and their families in the future, empower our current workforce to pursue higher paying jobs, and help those without a job become self-sustaining.
“I sincerely hope my colleagues on the other side of the aisle reconsider their plans to continue pushing this effort. There are a number of bills this Senate can consider today that would promote job creation over an arbitrary increase in the federal minimum wage. Our focus should be on small businesses and creating a business environment that is friendly for growth. Higher prices and fewer jobs is not what Wyoming and the rest of the country needs in these fragile economic times.”