This article comes from our electronic archive and has not been reviewed. It may contain glitches.

The U.S. Senate this past week rejected, by a 55-44 vote, an effort by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., to approve a $1 increase the minimum wage. This would have been an increase of 19.4 percent and is entirely unjustified. Both of Missouri's Republican U.S. senators voted against Kennedy's proposal.

This is an issue which, despite its having been thoroughly discredited on economic reality, the liberals simply won't allow to die. We went through it a couple of years ago when, during the presidential election campaign, President Clinton and congressional Democrats succeeded in pushing through the last large increase. Now comes another election year, and another proposal to raise the minimum wage.

Let's review: Why stop with small increases? If we accept the proposition that government can and should wave its magic wand to establish the price of labor, why not make it $12 an hour, or $25 an hour, and eliminate poverty altogether? Absurd? So is the idea that government can establish the price of labor in a competitive marketplace at any level.

The overwhelming majority of minimum-wage earners are young people out working at their first job or folks who are otherwise grabbing the first rung on the economic ladder. Arbitrarily raise the minimum, and you cut that first rung off the ladder of opportunity. Almost none of these minimum-wage earners are heads of households with children at home. For most, the minimum wage is strictly a probationary wage for beginners, who are then increased above the minimum after they prove to their employers that they will show up every day, be punctual, work well with associates and generally display decent work habits.

Indeed, the stark facts of today's competitive labor market are clear: Even beginners are frequently offered jobs above the minimum, especially in the restaurant and hospitality industry, where finding good workers is often difficult. One can hardly expect Senator Kennedy to have a grasp of such basic economic reality, given the fact of his inherited millions, his 36 years on the public payroll and his never having worked in the private sector. Still, it was good to see sanity prevail in a U.S. Senate enough of whose members do understand the job-destroying effects of increasing the minimum wage.