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How the Minimum Wage Harms the Intellectually-Disabled

A wide range of research demonstrates a dearth of employment options for individuals operating at an IQ below 87. A great many psychologists have staked the claim that society must work to address this problem. 

Given that 15 percent of the population operates below this level, this is a pressing issue meriting serious consideration. Fortunately, we could resolve a great measure of this problem overnight, but unfortunately political considerations will prevent us from doing so. 

How could we do it overnight?

Simply, by abolishing the minimum wage

Persons with IQ below 87 would stand a far greater chance of securing employment if the minimum wage were simply eliminated. 

While many intellectually-disabled individuals are exempt from the minimum wage, many are not — for a lack of eligibility or for unawareness of their respective disabilities — while those who are exempt are often placed in group employment settings by vocational rehabilitation service providers that furnish their own bespoke minimum wages by anchoring to the local minimum wage. 

For example, intellectually-disabled groups are often assembled to offer employers unskilled labor at sub-minimum-wage rates; however, those groups consist of several individuals who are collectively less productive than one intellectually-average individual. 

The non-profit or government agent generously assigns productivity quotients to those individual group members, expressed as a percentage of what the charitable and low-IQ staff member classifies as full functionality, which is represented by the productivity of that same staff member in the performance of those same menial tasks. 

Her proficiency with those tasks, as measured personally, becomes the benchmark — or the denominator  for those quotients, where her score equals 100 percent.

Given that the average non-profit agent in that space operates from a relatively low IQ herself, and given her lack of incentive to perform at a high level — as her performance is never assessed by any other party — the results are predictable: she will set a low bar for productivity, tilting productivity quotients toward the higher end, which unwittingly diminishes employers' demand by rendering the group's labor unjustifiably expensive; in the long run, the employer eventually discovers that the quoted price is too high for the given level of productivity, or rather for the lack thereof, or the climbing minimum wage eventually makes it so. 

As the minimum wage rises, those productivity quotients render the employees increasingly expensive, whereupon they become too expensive to retain, given the higher-IQ alternatives available at the equivalent price level. 

The agent's poor assessment, then, yields irrevocable incongruence between intellectually-disabled persons who were all the while happy to work for the lower wage and employers who were willing to employ them at that rate, which regrettably works to effectively price them out of the market. 

Individuals struggling with only moderate intellectual disabilities, on the other hand, are ineligible for the minimum-wage exemption, qualifying only for the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC). 

However, this credit effectively saves the employer only a trivial amount, roughly 2 percent of wages, which equates to pennies per hour per hire. 

This discount is especially trivial when considering the inferior level of productivity and the elevated risks of violent, unpredictable or otherwise unprofessional conduct inherent in the behavior of low-IQ, intellectually-disabled individuals. 

Ultimately, society is not independently responsible for the well-being of any individual, and the same is true for those of low intellectual capacity. Indeed, society is nothing more than the sum manifestation of individuals who are responsible only for themselves, insofar as they are not encroaching upon the freedom of others to do the same.

Unfortunately, policymakers and their disciples have ignored this precept in favor of populism and the well-intentioned social policies it has engendered.

However, social policies that intend to improve the lot of those individuals appear to have secured the reverse effect. 

While the free market may not assign a monetary value to the observer's liking, the market for intellectually-disabled employment serves a wholly different end from that served by the higher-skilled counterpart. 

For the intellectually-disabled community, which is largely unproductive in the strictly economic sense, the vast majority are interested in the non-economic values of pride and dignity that accompany rewarding work; they are scarcely interested in the numbers on their paychecks. 

Those numbers are relevant only to bureaucrats and diplomats who are selling something else. 

And those bureaucrats are plainly willing to sacrifice anything for the benefit of their own personal dreams and aspirations, which purely benefit none of the people they claim to help. 

Just don't expect them to be so honest about those sacrifices or aspirations.


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