So, I’ve heard a bit about Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, and some parts jumped out at me:
And to everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it.
If I was opposing him, my response would be this: if people are trying to support a family on one minimum wage job, the problem is not with the minimum wage. The problem is that people are trying to support a family on a minimum wage job. No one — at least no one familiar with reality — has ever said that they wanted to finish school and get a minimum wage job because then they’d be able to start a family. No couple considering marriage just had to wait for one of them to get and secure a minimum wage job so that they could do so. A minimum wage job is not a job to raise a family on. The typical jobs that people took in order to raise a family didn’t pay minimum wage. Minimum wage jobs tended to be jobs that people took in school, when just starting out while looking for something better, or as a second job to add supplementary income. Minimum wage jobs that stay as minimum wage jobs are jobs where any worker can be easily replaced without needing a lot of education or experience, and are jobs where experience doesn’t greatly improve your ability to do the job. In short, they’ve always been transitional jobs with high turnover rates, so companies don’t feel the need to pay better than they do. As such, no one who wanted a secure job with a good income took them.
So, then, why, if Obama is to be believed, are so many families trying to live on them?
The same thing applies to child care:
In today’s economy, when having both parents in the workforce is an economic necessity for many families, we need affordable, high-quality childcare more than ever. It’s not a nice-to-have – it’s a must-have.
So … why is it that both parents working is an economic necessity for so many people? We aren’t talking about families where both decide to work because it works best for them and their families, but cases where even if one parent would rather stay at home they simply can’t due to economic conditions. Obama’s solution is not to try to make it so that more parents don’t have to work out of economic necessity, but to make it easier for people to do that, and to make that more common and more standard. But, again, surely the real issue is requiring two incomes to make ends meet, not that people are having a hard time doing that.
This is why this stands out to me, because it seems to be trying to solve the wrong problems … or, rather, to paper over them so that the real problems don’t seem like problems at all. I would be more concerned with how society is shifting to require these things than about the shallow solutions proposed here … but then, I’m not a politician, and don’t have to worry about having quick fixes to ensure that people don’t vote for people who promise quick fixes, regardless of the consequences. And make no mistake, raising the minimum wage and expanding money for child care will have consequences, and will likely increase prices in general and for child care in particular. At the end of the day, these quick fixes might be fixes that end up making the existing problems worse, as so many quick fixes tend to do.