If your goal was to prevent young, minority, low income, largely unskilled and uneducated individuals from entering the workforce and gaining invaluable experience (not to mention much needed income), you could not devise a more effective scheme than the minimum wage. And to ensure its efficacy, you would keep raising it, especially in tough economic times. Do Democrats (and - "compassionate" conservatives like President Bush - obsequious on domestic issues) purposely support this regressive policy to oppress the disadvantaged? Well, maybe the Democrats do, to advance the perception that the free market system doesn't work. But their overriding purpose is to protect one of their key constituencies, the labor unions, from lower cost labor and in turn, competition.
Today a Wall Street Journal editorial points out the deleterious effect of the ever increasing minimum wage on teenage employment.