Brinker on Minimum Wage

I would like to thank Norman Brinker ("Real World Experience vs. Washington," Commentary, Jan. 1) for creating 1.5 million jobs since 1938. However, it's obvious he didn't manage that feat because he was good at math. He argues, as most business people do, that raising the minimum wage would cause a rise in unemployment. Using that kind of logic, perhaps we should lower the minimum wage to $3.25 an hour because, according to Brinker and others, this would result in a decline in unemployment. Well, why not lower it to $1.25 an hour and provide jobs for almost everybody?

Let's start with 2080 (the number of hours in a work year) and multiply that by $4.25 (the minimum wage). That gives us $8,840 a year before any deductions. After subtracting any deductions, figure in and subtract the yearly costs for renting an apartment, utility bills and any auto expenses. Whatever miserly figure results is the amount a person earning the minimum wage has left over for food and clothing.

Of course, minimum-wage earners don't have to have cars--they could rely on public transportation. And, using that kind of logic, minimum-wage earners don't have to live in apartments--they could live under the freeway overpasses in cardboard boxes. Rather than focusing on the unemployment figures, Brinker should take a good, hard, compassionate look at the quality of life people are living.



* I respect Brinker's accomplishments as an entrepreneur. Our nation benefits from people like him who make things happen. Brinker International is a true American success story.

However, he created 1.5 million jobs? They would not have existed without him? People would not have eaten those meals elsewhere-- other restaurants would not have existed to serve meals and hire those employees? Come down from the clouds, Norman; you're a good man, but you're not God. You didn't create anything; you supplied meals that others would have supplied had you decided to do something else for a living. Your talent and ingenuity resulted in lower prices, an ambience, something that drew customers to your restaurants rather than to your competitors.

As to the substitution effect, some of his conclusions are dubious. If higher skilled applicants, performing multiple duties, force out lower skilled applicants for his employment opportunities, so much the better for his efficiency. Employment shifts from one group to another. If he invests in labor-saving machinery, the manufacture of such machinery will create employment opportunity elsewhere.

Our economy is being challenged by growing unemployment from technology advances, Third World imports, uncontrolled immigration and other causes. A minimum wage that supplies a minimum living standard is essential to that economy, and it needs to be aggressively enforced. Without it, there will be cheating employers paying cash, and welfare cheats working for that cash, supplementing their substandard wages with welfare. That is the real world, Norman.


Pico Rivera

* Brinker has it right. Just lower the minimum wage to $2.63 an hour. Our economic woes will be solved. Watch our economy grow. All the new happy wage earners will spend us into prosperity.



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