One politician’s minimum-wage hike is a young worker’s poison

By Jim Waters - Bluegrass Beacon

The Pardachirus marmoratus, also known as “Red Sea Moses sole,” is a small fish secreting a poisonous milky substance allowing it to swim with sharks in biblical waters.

The poisonous paradaxin irritates predator fish and, in some cases, even temporarily paralyzes their jaws, keeping them from making Red Sea Moses a bite-sized appetizer.

While some well-meaning, bleeding-heart marine biologist out there would suggest, if it were possible, removing those fins that allow Moses to spill paradaxin into the water (it’s poison after all!), I doubt it would just be PETA radicals protesting that removing the one defensive mechanism allowing sharks and soles to swim together is cruel and unusual punishment – despite the good intentions involved.

So, where’s the objection to minimum-wage laws that not only force employers to pay more but also prohibit workers from accepting jobs they deem worth their effort if the pay falls below some arbitrary level determined by politicians, most of whom never met payrolls or bottom lines?

Not all who support hiking Lexington’s minimum wage by a whopping 39 percent to $10.10 within three years are like the community dividers who shouted judgmental slogans about what Jesus would do to anyone who disagreed with them at recent public hearings.

Yet while council members who push government-mandated wage hikes may not intentionally be dividers, their policies can make them destroyers in the same way Moses sole would become Catch of the Day if he lost the ability to secrete paradaxin.

Proponents claim their proposal to raise the minimum wage from the current $7.25 to $10.10 per hour is meant to collectively raise the boats of those on lower rungs of the economic ladder in the face of big, bad employer sharks.

Why don’t proponents of helping the economically disadvantaged instead permit the poison to return by removing wage mandates and letting workers lacking the skills and experience to produce $7.25 per hour – much less $10.10 – regain their competitive edge in employment seas?

Doing so would allow 16-to-24-year-old employees, who comprise the majority of Kentucky’s minimum-wage workforce, to release the kind of poison that keeps technical experts and veteran laborers from throwing them to sharks named “Unemployment Jaws” and “Lack of Opportunity.”

It’s the only competitive advantage many young people have, which would – like the Red Sea Moses sole – allow them to survive in the current marketplace’s choppy waters.

Give a porcupine his quills or a deer her speed and you help animals that otherwise would be completely defenseless successfully compete for their lives.

Loyola University economics professor Walter Block notes there also are “weak economic actors,” including the young, disabled, minorities and untrained.

“But like the weak animals in biology, they have a compensating advantage: the ability to work for lower wages,” Block writes. “When the government takes this ability away from them by forcing up pay scales, it is as if the porcupine were shorn of its quills.”

Just like price increases result in consumers purchasing fewer goods, employers forgo the “purchase” of unskilled labor when the cost of that labor rises.

University of Kentucky economics professor Ken Troske predicts the council’s planned minimum-wage increase will cost Lexington 2,000 jobs.

University of Michigan economist Mark Perry writes that Seattle, which last year passed a $15 minimum-wage mandate, lost 700 restaurant jobs between January and September while “restaurant employment in the rest of Washington state is booming this year” with the addition of 5,800 such positions during the same time period.

Block surmises the result of government-forced wage increases “is unemployment, which creates desperate loneliness, isolation, and dependency.”

No wonder a former colleague of mine concluded: “the minimum-wage law is one of the cruelest in the land.”

By Jim Waters

Bluegrass Beacon

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at [email protected] Read previously published columns at

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at [email protected] Read previously published columns at

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