Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Regarding The Minimum Wage Question

Regarding The Minimum Wage Question

When I hear of young people complaining about the minimum wage, I have to laugh. The minimum wage is a starting wage for beginning workers, not a wage that will dog them for the rest of their days. What beginners fail to recognize is that they must take a positive attitude and apply themselves in a meaningful way that will develop their true worth. In today's society, too many young people fail to acquire a positive attitude towards work. They tend to overvalue their contribution. The economy is based on a large complex of interconnected parts, but one of them (the minimum wage) cannot be inflated without an ancillary effect. The higher the minimum the less likely it will be for beginners to find work. The system will adjust by less hiring, actual jobs will become more scarce because of more automation, and/or prices will rise to negate the higher wage. Minimum wages must reflect job supply and demand.

A sign of the times? Many parents today fawn over their offspring in such a way, that youngsters are made to believe that they are so special that they can be considered outstanding just by showing up. Others lack the basic minimal training that is absent in dysfunctional households. In both cases, nothing is asked of them. They are not taught that they need to help out in the household. They fail to ever have the opportunity to gain satisfaction that comes from being a small but important contributor to the family's efforts.. They are not taught that they are needed and appreciated; on the affluent side they are pampered and sheltered from early life's lessons about what it takes to be a contributing part of the well functioning family. Self-esteem is favored over self discipline. On the other extreme they are often neglected and grow up in poverty situations that reflect hopelessness. In both extremes they are disadvantaged,

This is such a change from the way things were in my early years. From my earliest beginnings I knew we had very little compared to others. My mother raised me alone, as my father abandoned us soon after I was born and he died a few years later. She worked as secretary at our church. As you can imagine, it was not a well paying job. Government aide was not available then. So from early on, she would assign me chores and I realized she desperately needed me to help out. It came early to me that there was a reward called pride in being part of the household effort. I was expected to do my part. starting dinner, doing dishes, cleaning house, taking out the trash were my jobs from early on. At twelve years of ages I managed to take over a newspaper delivery route from an older boy who was moving up the job chain. I was thrilled at the thought of making $5.00 a week for this job. It took about an hour and a half of each day, six days a week. And on Saturdays, I spent the better part of the day, collecting for the service, door to door. I remember clearly how many folks would not be home (or would not open the door because they didn't have the money that week). It was the first important management challenge I encountered, because if I could not manage to collect, I had to take the loss. My weekly earnings were closer to $4.00 due to non-collections. I quickly learned to stop deliveries in short order for non-payment. And my customers learned to leave the payment under the door mat, with a neighbor or pay in advance if they wanted their subscriptions to continue.

I really wanted to earn more but route sizes were limited to the amount of weight I could manage to carry. So I started offering a greeting card service. While collecting for the newspaper each week I offered subscribers via a printed hand-out, an opportunity to buy a selection of distinctive greeting card collections and magazine subscriptions. I carried samples to show the quality and diversity of the selections. This worked out to an additional revenue stream, and now I was a budding businessman, keeping records at home, not only paying the newspaper company for the bulk papers each week, but managing the card and magazine orders.

As we were in the midst of the great war, there was a standing need for scrap paper and metals of all sorts. So part of my spiel while collecting for the newspapers was to ask for donations of scrap paper, magazines and metal. Soon I had our shed filled with scrap that I sold periodically to the local scrap dealer. My little red wagon was known on my route and when folks saw me coming, oftentimes they would call out for me to come get some scrap that they wanted to donate.

Using the proceeds of these endeavors, I was able to purchase a new power lawn mower and started offering my services to my customers. I would push the mower all over the neighborhood as I could not drive at this point in my young life. But I was on my way! During the Missouri winters, I earned additional money with my snow shovel, clearing walks. I do remember on occasion complaining to my mother about the scant amount of money some wanted to pay for yard mowing. She would always say “Just do your very best and don't worry too much about the pay. Your customers will notice this and the rewards will come in due course.”

Subsequent years brought new challenges and opportunities. The one thing that stuck with me was to not complain about what I was getting for my efforts. It seemed to me that it all depended on what I was able to figure out for myself. Life was always interesting and a challenge that I welcomed. Before I was 15 years old I worked in a bowling alley setting pins, worked in a hotel as a bell hop and elevator operator, caddied at the local golf course and took odd jobs helping a building contractor. Attitude, I now realize, is what made the difference. Fortunately, attitude has made a great difference in my life as I have gone on, without a college education, to an exciting life that included military service, commissioning as an officer, and later a career in real estate. I have always managed to find challenge and reward in doing the best that I could at whatever task was at hand. This is an attitude that employers crave. I can assuredly say from experience that those that learn to embrace this attitude will not long be employed at minimum wage. Those that lack this attitude will cry foul at their lack of rewards, and rail against the system as being unfair and favoring the wealthy.

As to the benefits of a college degree, of course it can help. But not without a proper well developed attitude of service and the willingness to work diligently without regard to reward in the beginning. There are many well educated derelicts in our society. It should never be forgotten that a college degree is not a necessity for everyone. Blue collar jobs can be very rewarding and many are going unfilled. Think of what it costs to hire a plumber, carpenter, electrician or bricklayer? For anyone so inclined with interest in the manual trades, it is open season on opportunities for apprenticeships and technical training. But without the proper attitude, success will be elusive.


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