It is a common error among people attempting to solve a problem to identify the symptom and offer a solution, without knowing what the actual problem is. Usually the solution involves spending money. An example would be a company has reduced sales and a sales executive decides that more must be spent on advertising, without ever seeking to find the root cause of the decrease in sales. What follows are two current “problems” where politicians have identified the financial solution without discovering the root cause of the problem.

There are Americans working full-time yet living in poverty, and the solution is to raise the minimum wage. A closer examination of those who do work at the minimum wage identifies three types of workers. There are students who have jobs to pay for their car or college costs and there are entry-level workers who start at minimum wage. The former group are not real bread winners and the latter group, once they show prowess at their jobs, will see an increase in pay. The third group is where the real problem exists, they are unskilled and must settle for jobs with low pay.

The problem is not the minimum wage but the lack of skills, and this can be solved without legislating the elevation of the minimum wage. The federal government, with contributions from the appropriate industries, should offer training programs to upgrade workers’ skills that will lead to significant wage gains. This program must provide child care for those being trained who are parents. Those with the training will have enhanced income and those who do not will see an increase in wages as the supply of low-skilled workers dries up.

A second problem is college debt which is a financial burden to many young Americans. The question that is not being asked is why was the college loans needed? Were all the funds spent on tuition, fees and books, or were some monies used to buy a car or pay rent? Did these folks seek to start a less expensive two-year college, live at home and work to cover costs, or did the lure of the four-year college with its activities prevent students from making fiscally-wise decisions?

Why should college debt be canceled but not credit card debt or auto loan debt? It makes no sense. Perhaps a solution is to cover the debt of those who use their education to help solve real national needs such as working in rural hospitals, teaching in underperforming schools, or entering national service, be it military or some other pressing need? We must demand that political leaders seek the core problem BEFORE offering financial solutions.

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