The Corner

An American Story

I got a letter from a reader, with some fundamental things on her mind. I thought that others would like to see it:

Dear Mr. Nordlinger,

With tonight’s State of the Union likely to focus on income inequality and the minimum wage, I wanted to share a personal story, which also ties to the recent Wendy Davis stuff.

I actually did live in a trailer, and I lived there nearly my whole childhood (age 2 to age 17). I got my first job at 14 — well, 12, if you count the paper routes. I worked at a local camp that paid $2.20 an hour. This first job paid for my clothing — once I hit the teen years, I refused to have only mismatched St. Vincent de Paul items (Goodwill was too pricey) — and it helped pay for my college.

More important, though, it taught me how to work and to be a good employee. It did the same for my brothers. Today, I’m a lawyer, as is my older brother. And our younger brother is a doctor. We’re likely in the top 5 percent now. But I look with pride at my Social Security “updates,” which show my first year’s earnings in 1981 as $25.

Things aren’t equal now, just like they weren’t back then. But you don’t address income inequality by raising the minimum wage and depriving young people of jobs. You address it by making the economy grow and by having intact families. And you address it by stressing the importance of hard work. Not by fanning envy.

Oh, and my brother was accepted into Harvard Law School, but his wife didn’t want to move for the three years. So he went to the local law school, as opposed to leaving his wife and son behind. I applaud him for that.

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