Another argument is that the working poor are even worse off because of income taxes. This doesn't hold water either, because no one who is supporting a family on minimum wage is actually paying any income tax. They get it all back on their tax returns.
A third talking point is that, thanks to recent federal and state welfare program cuts, many children are left unattended because their parents now have to go out and get a second job to make ends meet.
But that begs the question, if someone is supporting their family on minimum wage, why are they having more children when they cannot afford to support them?
Many still think that the best solution to this problem is another government mandated raise in the minimum wage like the one proposed by Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts. His recently defeated Senate measure would have increased the national minimum wage to $5.85 an hour in January, and then to $7.25 after two years.
But what they fail to consider is the effect that raising the minimum wage will have on the cost of living and employment. Remember Newton's Law? For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Economics often works the same way. Even though the work force actually making minimum wage is small, the employees who make more will demand to have their pay scale raised to stay farther ahead of the minimum. This in turn will make a workforce more expensive for small businesses and the service industry (typically the types of employers who pay minimum wage). The reaction will be to either raise prices or cut staff, landing many minimum wagers in the unemployment line.
I am sure that those of you who disagree with me are by now cutting my picture out of the paper and attaching it firmly to your dart board. But before you sharpen your darts and paint me as another heartless conservative, hear me out. Remember that at the beginning of this article I said that we can all agree that poverty is a problem that must be dealt with? So let's deal with it. It is time for real solutions and no more Band-Aids.
I believe in the old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Empowerment works far better than enablement. The more effort we spend creating opportunity for poor people to enrich their own lives, the better off everyone will be.
Under President Bush, more people than ever in the history of this nation now own their own homes. Fewer people actually have to pay taxes and there are more high-paying jobs available than there have been since the mid 90s. There are also more high income employment opportunities than ever for women and minorities.
These accomplishments are an improvement of monumental proportions but it is not enough. The real breakthrough will come from higher paying jobs, and the higher paying jobs come from higher education — not raising the minimum wage. The issue we should all be focused on is the opportunity for college.
The fact is, the more educational opportunities that we can extend to the poor and disadvantaged, the more they will be able to pull themselves out of the cycle of poverty, and the higher the country's overall return on investment.
During my six years in college (yes, I took the long way home) my tuition increased an astounding 35 percent, nearly 11 times the rate of inflation. As the son of poor missionaries, I carried a massive debt load. Some will be even less fortunate and have to drop out, or miss out entirely.
I am not suggesting that the government pay for everyone's college. But I am suggesting that we begin to find innovative ways to provide more scholarship opportunities and lower tuition costs.
I am also suggesting that we look to the private sector to help fill the gaps. Warren Buffet just gifted $37 billion to charities. Unfortunately for conservatives, a large portion of that money is earmarked for abortion rights and environmental activist organizations. Wouldn't it be better spent sending inner city children to college?
Before we consider forcing employers to pay two dollars more an hour across the board, I think we should stop and think. America is a place where opportunity abounds, and innovation is everywhere. Don't we owe it to ourselves to be a little more creative than that?