It’s looking like it might be a long summer and for Black youth, and Congress isn’t making it any easier.
That’s because House Republicans (y’know, always with Black boys as a priority) decided to vote down an increase to the minimum wage, which would have raised it to $10.10 an hour by 2016 and possibly set forth a change that could have created real earning potential for disadvantaged young people who may otherwise look to the street for sources of income.
The congressional vote is really a sampling of how there is broad ambivalence on the right to raising the minimum wage as a partial solution in areas where Black boys could use one.
For example, Art Laffer, commenting on Fox News, feels the raising of the minimum wage is a “Black teenage unemployment act.” Others are sticking to the belief that raising the minimum wage would actually cost jobs.
Both perspectives are fallacies.
In January, the Chicago Urban League released findings that showed that 92 percent of all Black teens in that city are unemployed, with a national average of Black teen joblessness trailing behind it at a jarring 83 percent.
An increase in the minimum wage would primarily help working families better their financial footing, particularly as the slow economic recovery continues in America, according to various studies.
But there would be a beneficial ripple effect on urban youth in a couple of ways: First, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has found that hiking minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would raise income levels for families living below the poverty line by 2.8 percent and reduce thenumber of people living in poverty by as much as 900,000.
Second — and this is most important for young Black males — a higher wage represents a incentive to obtain and retain gainful employment, which leads to more advanced job skills, leading to even higher hourly wages and ultimately a reduction in crime because there are fewer youth out there with idle time or what social scientists call “disconnected.” It’s been the conservative line of thinking that raising the minimum wage would only raise unemployment because businesses can’t afford it and would have to shut down or offer fewer jobs.
But the CBO’s research clearly finds that the gains outweigh the risks.
The minimum wage has consistently raised since the 1930s, and it has never been the job killer the right wing swears that it will be. On the contrary, sending manufacturing jobs to other countries is what has gutted U.S. employment. If familes could be taken out of poverty and have more of their incomes to spend on their sons and daughters and if young boys were able to earn a wage that could keep them out of the streets — away from gangs, drug dealing, and hustling — then that would equal a net gain and something that Republicans seem to have yet again overlooked. This summer, as in many summers, cities are anticipating waves of crime and gun violence.
Caught in the center of it all will likely, and unfortunately, be young Black males who we can’t seem to find a way to save from gunfire.
But if those same kids were occupied by something other than the streets — perhaps putting money in their pockets while doing it — they would probably be less inclined to get caught up and more likely to man up.