A better path
Both in New Hampshire and nationwide, political efforts to bring back high-paying manufacturing jobs and raise the minimum wage are just that, politics — and bad politics at that.
Of course we want to see everyone’s standard of living rise. It’s just a question of how we reasonably get there.
Some, such as Donald Trump, want to see the government, through the use of high taxes on imported goods, force companies to make more goods here. Putting aside that other countries would increase taxes on our goods, such a move would substantially increase prices on everything, from diapers to cars, as it did in the past when such tariffs were seen as anti-consumer and favoring big business. With little competition, companies were able to raise prices. Do we really gain anything if wages go up but so do prices?
Others, including some in New Hampshire’s house and Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, would like to see the minimum wage increase. Though well-intentioned, this too would have unfortunate consequences that would harm the very people it’s intended to help.
Already technology is cutting into traditional labor markets such as warehousing. More is on the way. Supermarkets will replace stockers and baggers with robots. Fast food chains will continue to reduce staffing levels as machines do more of the cooking and more of the order taking. Higher minimum wages will help larger companies beat out smaller ones that can’t afford the upfront costs of technology. Already we see smaller brick and mortar retailers being put out of business by Amazon. This trend will just increase.
In our current education system, this will just mean many people will be unable to find any kind work. They won’t have the skills for the technological positions.
Though it doesn’t make for pithy campaign slogans, one reasonable solution to stagnant wages is training and education. While some want to make college free, why not make the thing that is already free actually valuable? Why not, as frequent columnist in this space Fred Bramante urges, make sure that every child who graduates high school has some sort of accreditation? You don’t need a college degree to code for high-tech firms. Why aren’t high schoolers being taught that skill? Why can’t most high school graduates solve basic math problems? That would do more for people than increasing minimum wages.
There are millions of people in low paying jobs who want better jobs, and there are millions of jobs that need people with specific skills — that seems like a problem that can be solved. Why isn’t Trump or Sanders talking about that? Why aren’t we?