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Government has no business setting wages for private business

President Barack Obama recently declared that “no one who works full time in America should have to live in poverty.” His proposed solution is to “give” 15 million American workers a raise by increasing the federal government’s minimum wage.

But as the saying goes, “A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take everything you have.”

And that, of course, raises the question that philosophically separates conservatives from liberals: What is the proper role and extent of government in our lives?

To get to the correct answer when it comes to federal legislation, members of Congress would do well to follow the Barry Goldwater rule: “I will not attempt to discover whether legislation is ‘needed’ before I have first determined whether it is constitutionally permissible.”

To that end, I side with another great philosophical conservative, Thomas Jefferson, who wrote that the proper role of government was to “restrain men from injuring one another (but) shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement. … ”

Indeed, nowhere can I find in our Constitution the delegated the power for Congress to tell a willing private employer how much he or she must pay a willing private worker under threat of fine or penalty by the federal government.

In addition, as business/marketing expert Dan Kennedy points out, we should stop referring to these as “minimum wage jobs” and refer to them as “entry-level wage jobs,” because they are “not intended to be lifelong careers and not intended to provide a good wage — just a first rung to climb from.”

My first entry-level job around the age of 14 was mopping floors and taking out the trash in a local bowling alley. At no time did I think of it as career path. It was what it was: an entry-level position (hopefully) leading to better jobs and higher pay.

Indeed, consider these facts as outlined by Kennedy in a recent column:

“More than half of McDonald’s franchise owners and 40 percent of their corporate executives started out as crew working in the restaurants, in the entry-level jobs. … Wal-Mart is currently running TV commercials purely to combat negative media b.s., showing off its managers, area managers and executives who have risen from the ranks of store clerks.”

That’s the difference between being an opportunity society and an entitlement society.

This is America. As such, you have the right to pursue happiness, not an entitlement to it. And as outrageous as it sounds to so many on the left, it is not the government’s job to “give” us everything we want. Instead, to borrow the John Houseman phrase from the old Smith-Barney commercials:

“We make money the old-fashioned way. We earn it.”

Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a conservative grass-roots advocacy organization. He can be reached at chuck@citizenoutreach.com.

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