Does Obama really make the “right call” with an executive order raising the minimum wage, as columnist Taylor Rexrode claims? (Baylor Lariat, Mar. 7)

In fact, though raising the minimum wage sounds like a simple, easy way to fight poverty for single parents, its good intentions are beset by simple realities.

First, Obama’s executive order cannot constitutionally raise the minimum wage for all workers. Peter Kirsanow at National Review notes that the president’s executive order must be implemented “consistent with applicable law.” That means most of the executive order is literally powerless – it’s just a great talking point.

Furthermore, the executive order only affects some federal contractors that don’t have existing contracts. This means the order could affect only “hundreds of thousands” of people over the next “three to five years,” according to a Feb. 12 press briefing by Secretary of Labor Tom Perez. But when pressed, Perez admits, “we don’t have a precise figure.”

Let’s assume for a moment that the executive order somehow convinced Congress to raise the national wage.

Raising the minimum wage across the board is not the best way to help single parents. “Minimum-wage earners are actually less likely to be single parents working full-time than is the average American worker,” says James Sherk of the Heritage Foundation. Only 4 percent of full-time minimum wage workers are single parents. That means 96 percent of the people affected by a national wage raise don’t fit the description outlined in Rexrode’s article.

In fact, Sherk demonstrates that the average family income of someone earning the minimum wage is over $50,000 a year. Over half of those earning the minimum wage are 16 to 24 years old, often suburban teenagers.

It appears that for once, Congress gets this one right. Passing a massive minimum wage hike does nothing to help poverty, especially for the single parents Rexrode mentions.

If Obama wants to score political points, then sure, he made the “right call.” But if he actually wants to do something to fight poverty, he might want to hang up and try again.


Danny Huizinga | Baylor University | @HuizingaDanny