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Another View -- Nick Pappas: NH teens, young adults will be hurt by a minimum wage hike

April 10. 2014 10:51PM

Young people in New Hampshire have always been raised to “Live free or die.” We don’t like when other people, least of all Washington politicians, try to tell us what to do. As a lifelong resident of this state, I was really disappointed to see representatives in our House push for a bill to raise the minimum wage.

We just passed a bill on this issue less than three years ago, but, as special interests make a national push for another wage hike, some in Concord evidently feel that we should be taking our cues from Washington and not listening to New Hampshire’s own young people. We’re already dealing with ridiculous amounts of student debt and the highest sustained youth unemployment numbers since World War II. My generation in particular simply cannot afford a minimum wage increase.

If the upper chamber passes its own version of House Bill 1403 without changes, it will become law. Young people should be especially worried because this bill disproportionately affects us; we’re the ones most likely to lose our jobs when businesses can no longer afford to employ as many workers. Politicians often try to pretend that most minimum wage earners are trying to support families while working these jobs full-time. This is just not true — the vast majority of minimum wage earners in our state are young citizens working part-time or entry-level jobs to make some extra cash after school or just gain work experience. In case you haven’t noticed, it’s tough out there for young people trying to break into the labor force; a minimum wage hike only serves to raise the barriers to entry.

We often hear politicians paint a picture of millions of workers toiling away for years and years at low-paying jobs while trying to support their families. While there are undoubtedly some older Americans struggling to make ends meet, raising the minimum wage would do very little to help them, and it would do a whole lot to harm young people. Nationally, about two-thirds of minimum wage earners are under 30. The majority of minimum wage earners receive a raise within the first year. Young people looking to enter the working world have a considerably harder time doing so in states with higher minimum wages. These same young people will also go on to earn less money for the next decade because they were deprived of opportunities earlier in life.

Doesn’t my generation have it tough enough already? Youth unemployment is nearly 16 percent and has remained at historic highs for the past five years. Seventy-four percent of New Hampshire college graduates are saddled with student loan debt — $32,698 on average, the second highest in the country. We’re also being unfairly asked to subsidize an older, wealthier generation’s health care though the Cover New Hampshire state health care exchange.

Young people in the Granite State take great pride in our freedom and independence. We are skeptical of big government programs that supposedly work to our benefit, especially those that emanate from Washington with little regard for our state’s unique needs. A minimum wage hike falls into this category — it is nothing more than a tax on our future dressed up as a raise. Young people are fed up with politicians pushing legislation that takes advantage of our generation. If you’re a crony politician who cares more about advancing a national agenda than representing the young people of our state, don’t be surprised if you learn a lot more about unemployment yourself this November.

Nick Pappas, 28, of Manchester, is the New Hampshire state director for Generation Opportunity, a youth advocacy organization.

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