by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
I worked a “dirty job.” On my 14th birthday, I cleaned toilets, for the then-minimum wage of $3.35. That’s how I know Mike Rowe is right about them.
Over the weekend, while promoting his new Discovery Channel show “Six Degrees,” Mike Rowe shared some thoughts on the push to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour. Appearing on Fox Business, the former “Dirty Jobs” star said he wants “everybody who works hard and plays fair to prosper.”
As the host, executive producer, and creator of “Six Degrees,” which focuses on the interconnectedness of the world throughout history, Rowe added:
“I want everybody to be able to support themselves. But if you just pull the money out of midair you’re going to create other problems, like there is a ladder of success that people climb and some of those jobs that are out there for seven, eight, nine dollars an hour, in my view, they’re simply not intended to be careers. They’re not intended to be full-time jobs. They’re rungs on a ladder.” …
… Reading now over Rowe’s S.W.E.A.T. pledge, I see I followed it. It wasn’t a pledge “to gratuitous abuse and disenfranchisement.” What Johnson, who mocked the pledge as “bourgeois propaganda” marketing “very basic human needs” misses, is that hard, honest work genuinely satisfies basic human needs. Indeed, that five-cent raise I earned at 14 still brings me more pride than most of my later white-collar job achievements.
My story is not an isolated one, but I also recognize it is not universal, which is why policy and policy debates should not focus on the anecdotal but the reality of economics and unintended consequences. Rowe raised those points, and he is correct.
Minimum-wage jobs are rungs, and if the government offers an “artificially high wage for unskilled jobs,” it takes away the incentives for “more people to learn a skill that’s actually in demand” and are careers that do support families.