Dwight Lee: A Higher Minimum Wage—but Not for Interns in Congress
By DWIGHT LEE
President Obama called in his State of the Union for an increase in the minimum wage to $9 an hour by 2015, from $7.25, notwithstanding the evidence that it will increase unemployment among young, entry-level workers. This push by Mr. Obama and his congressional allies is especially difficult to understand because they clearly appreciate how valuable it is for young people to gain workplace experience and make connections that can lead to career opportunities.
Internships at the White House, on Capitol Hill and elsewhere in Washington introduce thousands of young people to working in government and to the discipline and industry needed to function in any workplace. Yet these unpaid positions are almost by definition reserved for the offspring of the well-to-do who are least in need of such an advantage.
Consider Barbara Boxer, the Democratic senator from California, who urged the country to "heed the president's call" to raise the minimum wage. Throughout the year, Ms. Boxer offers internships that provide "a valuable opportunity to see how a Senate office functions," according to her website. Interns are advised that they "should dress in a professional manner befitting the representative of a U.S. Senator at all times." Her interns may dress in a professional manner, but they are unpaid.