It isn’t about race:
Think of the path to successful middle class living as a ladder; the lower rungs on that ladder are not nice places to be, but if those rungs don’t exist, nobody can climb. When politicians talk about creating jobs, they always talk about creating “good” jobs. That is all very well, but unless there are bad jobs and lots of them, people in the inner cities will have a hard time getting on the ladder at all, much less climbing into the middle class.
Many sensitive and idealistic people in our society work very hard to keep from connecting these dots and admitting to themselves that bad jobs are something we need. Quacks abound promising us alternatives (“green jobs” is the latest fashionable delusion), but ugly problems rarely have pretty solutions. We need entry level jobs that will get people into the workforce, and we need ways that they can learn useful skills at affordable prices that will help them climb the ladder and move on.
To get these jobs, we have to change the way our cities work. Essentially, we have created urban environments in which the kind of enterprises that often hire the poor — low margin, poorly capitalized, noisy, smelly, dirty, informally managed without a long paper trail — can’t exist. The kind of metal bashing repair shops that fill the cities of the developing world are almost impossible to operate here. Plumbers, carpenters, electricians, pushcart vendors and day care operators need licenses; construction work has to comply with elaborate guidelines and city bureaucracies disgorge the required permits slowly and reluctantly.
The minimum wage is part and parcel of this problem.