By Arnold Kling
Waiters and waitresses, a janitor to push the improved vacuum cleaner or power waxer, the cleaning service that comes once a week. That may be true, but there’s nothing inherently demeaning about those jobs. What’s demeaning in some dimension, or at least sad, is the idea of a 50 year-old mother or father of four doing that job and being barely able to put food on the table for the two kids. What’s sad is doing a job like that for 60 years with no change in what you do or what you get paid. And that phenomenon will disappear as we get more productive due to better education.
…here and now, the problem of what to do about the current 50 year-old in a menial job is a tougher question. It’s usually too late for better education. Raising the minimum wage could end up putting the person out of work altogether, a fate even worse than a low-paying job. Would a poor person today find comfort in the fact that his or her children are likely to have a much better life as long as they stay in a decent school?
For Discussion. Some economists have recommended that the government provide wage supplements for low-skilled workers. What makes this a better idea than raising the minimum wage?