Minimum Thought Put into Minimum Wage

Mitt Romney panicked the other day. The press was raking him over the coals for saying that he worried more about the middle class than he did about the poor. So he panicked and threw a bone to liberals, some of whom he hopes will vote for him in November.

The bone he threw was a promise to index minimum wage to inflation -- an idea that's not only an insult to those who believe in free markets, but also an insult to the millions of young folks who are out of work because of minimum wage laws.

As the brilliant economist Thomas Sowell pointed out in a column this week, a minimum wage is one of the worst things you can do to young folks out of work.

"When you set minimum-wage levels higher than many inexperienced young people are worth, they don't get hired. It is not rocket science."

The minimum wage is particularly tough on black teens, whose unemployment rate is now over 39%. But it hasn't always been that way. Sowell reminds us that black teen unemployment in the late 1940s was under 10%. Why? Because there really wasn't a minimum wage back then; high inflation had made it meaningless.

So young black men were able to get entry level positions. Sowell was one of them. His first job was delivering telegrams in New York -- not a great job, but for a black, high school drop out in the late 1940s, it was a great start. And he wouldn't have gotten that start if there had been a real minimum wage.

Minimum wage laws prevent that first leg up. And if we index minimum wage to inflation, we'll see teenage unemployment go even higher.