Much attention was paid to this year’s presidential State of the Union address, as is the tradition. The annual speech means less today than it has at perhaps any other point in the nation’s history, but at least it gives all those aged Senators a chance for some good exercise, what with their incessant standing ovations. The television networks treat it as though it’s a good bit more important than it is — just an hour of political tripe sewed together with applause lines.

Much attention was paid to this year’s presidential State of the Union address, as is the tradition. The annual speech means less today than it has at perhaps any other point in the nation’s history, but at least it gives all those aged Senators a chance for some good exercise, what with their incessant standing ovations. The television networks treat it as though it’s a good bit more important than it is — just an hour of political tripe sewed together with applause lines.


But while the news stations spent Wednesday rehashing the drivel, the President delivered another, more telling speech the day after his address, at a Costco store in Maryland. It was a speech on why Congress should raise the minimum wage by 28-percent in order to, as the President put it, "speed up economic growth, (and) strengthen the middle class."


That is ridiculous logic.


First of all, people making the minimum wage are not members of the middle class. They are people making the least amount of money possible, which makes them, by definition, not a part of "the middle" wage earners.


What those people are, however, is chiefly involved in three industries: food preparation, personal care and building or grounds maintenance. In other words, they have jobs providing services for the middle class. Raising the minimum wage will increase the cost of those products and services, meaning people in the middle class will have to spend more to procure them.


So raising the minimum wage doesn’t transfer wealth to the middle class, quite the opposite. And it doesn’t transfer wealth from the President’s favorite bogeymen either; millionaires and billionaires aren’t the ones keeping sandwich artists in business.


One could argue that raising the lowest wages does expand the middle class, but only by moving the mean income lower by sapping spending power from Average Joes. Who wants a larger middle class if it’s also a substantially poorer middle class?


So there’s that. But my real problem with the "Let’s give America a raise!" logic is that it assumes people aren’t being paid commensurate with skill or experience. Or, in the President’s words: "If you work hard, you live up to your responsibilities, you can succeed."


I hate to be bearer of bad news — scratch that, the bearer of reality is more appropriate — but if a person works hard and lives up to their responsibilities, then they get promoted, and they don’t make the minimum wage anymore. And if they don’t get promoted, they leave and find another job where their talents will be appreciated. That’s the beauty of a free labor market.


Especially irksome in the President’s appeal is the fact that people don’t make minimum wage their whole lives; it’s typically just starting pay. Among the 1.6 million American workers making $7.25 an hour right now are very few people who will be making the minimum wage five years from now. As they gain experience and become more valuable to their employers, they’ll receive raises and a new group of entry-level workers will slide in behind them.


And that’s the real fallacy behind the President’s logic. Increasing starting pay from $7.25 to $10.10 simply means there will be fewer entry-level jobs to be had, and, as a result, those who do receive entry-level work will have more asked of them.


The irony is that individuals who can’t meet those higher standards — the youngest and most disadvantaged among us — won’t be able to find and keep any jobs at all. The least skilled and least experienced workers will essentially become wards of the state, entirely dependent on the government and wont to elect politicians who will maintain and expand welfare.


Wait, I think I’m beginning to understand the President’s logic after all.


NATE STRAUCH is a reporter with the Herald Democrat. Email him at nstrauch@ heralddemocrat.com.