Re: “Commentary: U.S. has duty to help blue-collar workers, but they have obligations, too” (Dec. 28):

Michael R. Strain of the American Enterprise Institute is wrong. Salary subsidies are no help to blue-collar workers.

In a free market, employers who do not offer a living wage for a job and cannot find workers have two options: They can offer a decent wage, or they can decide that the job doesn’t need to be done. In the first case, a wage subsidy is merely a subsidy to the employer, who can continue to offer an unacceptable wage, at taxpayer expense. In the other case, workers do jobs that don’t need to be done and will eventually be eliminated.

It’s far better policy to raise the minimum wage and spend taxpayers’ money on training any unskilled workers who can’t find jobs at the new, higher wage. When an unskilled worker’s salary is subsidized, he has no incentive to invest in improving his skills. Training is expensive, and a higher salary would merely reduce the subsidy rather than increase his paycheck.

Equally, employers have no incentive to invest in their employees when low pay is subsidized. They don’t need to increase productivity. The cost of their inefficiency is borne by the taxpayer.

A dynamic economy is never developed by subsidizing dead-end jobs.

Sigrid Olson

Cape Elizabeth

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