This commentary originally appeared in the Austin American-Statesman on July 28, 2015.

The minimum wage is a perennial failure, harming most the very Americans its proponents seek to help: those on the lowest end of the wage scale. Congress should stop mandating unemployment for millions of Americans by eliminating the minimum wage.

Freer labor markets benefit everyone.

Despite evidence showing workers — particularly those with less education and skills — suffer under a minimum wage, Congress has increased it 22 times since its inception in 1938, with the last round being from July 2007 to July 2009.

The Obama administration and several presidential candidates now argue that it should be raised to $10.10 or higher to provide a “living wage.”

Minimum-wage supporters forget or ignore the law of demand that states the quantity demanded of a good will decrease from an increase in its price. The labor market is no different.

By artificially raising the wage without expecting more value from workers, employers have an incentive to fire them.

Who will the employer fire first? The least skilled, of course.

In a 2014 paper, Jeffrey Clemens and Michael Wither found that the latest minimum-wage increase explained 14 percent of the 4.8 percentage point drop in the national share of the population employed from December 2006 to December 2012. This is after accounting for the effects of the Great Recession and other factors. But the largest adverse effect was to teenage employment.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a quarter of the 1.7 million Americans earning at or below the minimum wage were 16- to 19-years-old in 2006 — the year before the minimum wage increase. That year, teenagers had a 43.6 percent labor force participation rate, 15.3 percent unemployment rate and 37 percent employment-to-population ratio.

Though the effects on teenagers are longer lasting than just the year after the last wage increase, the 2010 data reveals the costs of the minimum-wage increase, along with the Great Recession and historically weak recovery.

In 2010, their share declined to 22.8 percent of the 4.4 million paid at or below the minimum wage. The participation rate fell to 35 percent, the unemployment rate increased to 25.9 percent and the share employed declined to 25.9 percent — all at or near the worst levels since record-keeping started in the late 1940s.

Even harder hit were black teenagers during the 2006-2010 period. Their participation rate dropped 8.4 percentage points to 25.6 percent; the unemployment rate increased from 29 percent in 2006 to 43.1 percent in 2010; and the employment-population ratio fell by 5.9 percentage points to 14.6 percent.

A one-size-fits-all federal wage is terrible policy because states have different costs of living. For example, private sector measures of these costs by C2ER show that California is 50 percent more expensive than Texas.

The late economist Milton Friedman may have put it best: “The rise in the legal minimum-wage rate is a monument to the power of superficial thinking.”

The 3 million workers earning at or below the minimum wage today, which is less than 5 percent of all workers paid hourly, deserve more than to be mandated toward unemployment and on the government’s dole.

End the federal minimum wage so freer labor markets can best meet the desires of Texans and all Americans.

Ginn is an economist in the Center for Fiscal Policy at the Texas Public Policy Foundation; vginn@texaspolicy.com.