Low wages in Mesa County argue for a living-wage law

Both the Greg Ruland story in Sunday’s Daily Sentinel and the Sentinel’s editorial on the wages paid in Mesa County make the point that low wages are a fundamental economic problem in Mesa County.

Chamber of Commerce President Dianne Schwenke told Sentinel reporter Greg Ruland, “We have had historically and, unfortunately, still have wages that are considerably lower than some other similar-sized communities and yet our cost of living is high because we live in Colorado.”

But this is not just another consequence of the boom-and-bust western Colorado economy. Low-wage jobs are the economic result of structural changes in the American economy that may be irreversible, at least in the near future.

Oxfam America reported in late 2012, “While the president can rightfully claim that nearly five million private-sector jobs have been created on his watch, what we don’t see in the numbers is that a disturbingly high proportion of these are less than desirable jobs paying less than livable wages.”

The result of low wages in Mesa County, Schwenke reports, is that many people in the county are forced to work “two or three jobs” in order to survive. “And that,” she said “is not a situation we want our citizens to be in.”

Schwenke’s response to this untenable situation for low-wage workers is economic development. “At the end of the day,” Schwenke says, “we need to work harder to bring in the types of employers who pay higher wages.”

In this case, hard work is unlikely to produce the desired result.

According to former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, “Jobs are slowly returning to America, but most of them pay lousy wages and low (or) non-existent benefits. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that seven out of 10 growth occupations over the next decade will be low-wage — like serving customers at big-box retailers and fast-food chains. That’s why the median wage keeps dropping, especially for the 80 percent of the workforce that’s paid by the hour.”

Luring enough high-paying, high-tech jobs to Mesa County to make a significant dent in these low-wage job numbers is unlikely. Based on the numbers quoted in the Ruland story, we are talking about many thousands of low-wage workers in Mesa County.

Increasingly, these low-wage jobs are becoming permanent. According to Reich, “These workers are not teenagers. Most have to support their families.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median age of fast-food workers is over 28; and women, who comprise two-thirds of the industry, are over 32. The median age of big-box retail workers is over 30.”

A few of these workers might find new jobs for which they are qualified or can be retrained for, but many workers currently holding jobs in food service, janitorial services, home care, store clerking, office work, agriculture and other traditionally low-end jobs face an employment future not substantially different from their present.

According to the Pew Charitable Trust, “Americans raised at the top and bottom of the income ladder are likely to remain there themselves as adults. Forty-three percent of those who start in the bottom are stuck there as adults, and 70 percent remain below the middle quintile. Only 4 percent of adults raised in the bottom make it all the way to the top, showing that the “rags-to-riches” story is more often found in Hollywood than in reality.”

While helping the capable and worthy out of the low-wage trap is an appropriate goal for Mesa County and Grand Junction, it should not be an excuse for ignoring those destined to fill those jobs for the foreseeable future, if not in perpetuity.

With President Barack Obama’s proposal to raise the national minimum wage stuck in Congress, the only prospect of improving the lot of the low-wage earners in Mesa County lies with local authorities.

Certainly Mesa County needs to help those who can escape the low-wage trap, but it should not ignore those whose future is less bright.

Since the federal government has failed to raise the minimum wage, local government must fill the gap by enacting, as many cities and counties around the country have already done, a living-wage county ordinance to bring up the bottom.

Bill Grant lives in Grand Junction. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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Not Freida Cook:  Am a relative (Ltpar) - Government has absolutely no business sticking it’s nose into the job market.  They already complicate things for small business owners with a multitude of rules, regulations, fees and taxes.  Salaries should be determined by the market place, where employees are compensated based on their job skills and what the market for their skills will bear?  If a person wants a higher wage, let them become better educated, develop new job skills and move up the chain to become a more skilled and valued member of their employeer’s team.  In the end, there are no free lunches or free wage increases and John citizen will be the recipient of those higher costs. Are you willing to pay more in this economy?

Companies should bring back on-the-job training programs. Why should a low wage earner always have to return to college, incur more debt they will have to pay off which will take a chunk out of any increased wages a higher education may bring them? Granted, some career areas need college degrees, but many fields would actually be better off with focused, job specific training of their current employees. Once they gain the required skill level, give them the raise they deserve.

PART 1. Egad! Here comes old “do-gooder” lefitist Bill Grant again with more of his cockamamie unsustainable ideas. I sure wish he’d bother to read the likes of Ludwig Von Mises (“Human Action”, “Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis”), Frédéric Bastiat (“The Law”, “Economic Sophisms”), Friedrich Hayek (“The Road To Serfdom”, “The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism”), Murray Rothbard (“Man, Economy, and State”, “The Ethics of Liberty”), Edmund Contoski (“Makers and Takers”), and/or Hans-Hermann Hoppe (“A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism”). He might actually learn a thing or two.
Here’s why government-set wages and prices don’t work: You can’t tax most of “the rich” or force them to pay higher wages because to them, taxes and wages are but two items over overhead which they automatically factor into the prices of the consumer goods we all (including “the poor”) buy. The corollary unintended fatal chain of events is that if you raise prices on consumer goods, fewer people can afford to buy them, which in turn means fewer of them will need to be produced to meet the diminishing demand, which in turn means that fewer employees will be needed to produce what decreasing amounts of consumer goods do get bought. It’s not exactly rocket science. It’s a guaranteed downward economic death spiral.
If you use the violence/coercion of government vigorously enough, as most leftists of Grant’s ilk would love to do, “the rich” will move their enterprises to other parts of the country or planet. Witness all the cheap “little-Chinese-slave-girl-made” products sold in big box stores, and the tech “help” from India which you have to wait forever for, and can’t understand them when they do answer the phone.
The reason leftists’ collectivist faux altruism creates a self-evidently unsustainable paradigm is because of the what I like to think of as the third great “human glitch” which I call the “Producer-Consumer Glitch.” The way to identify and define a liar is if he disagrees with this absolute self-evident fact and statement: every single one of us, as an individual, wants to get paid as much as possible for his own labor and products, while simultaneously paying as little as possible (cheap is good, free is better) for the labor and products of “the other guy.” For some reason, we humans tend to perceive the physical effort (aka “work”) required in the material plane to provide food, clothing and shelter for our robes of flesh (aka “bodies”) as pain to be avoided if possible. Hence the inclination to try to live off of someone else’s labor, which is unsustainable.

PART 2. The solution to the economic problems caused by the less desirable traits (aka “The Dark Side”) of inherent human nature is not for everybody to use lies and manipulation to compete for the political power with which group A (rulers) can control group B (subjects) and steal B’s labor. The solution is to use technology, decentralization and self-sufficiency to produce products useful to humans and sell them at a profit in a free marketplace (100% devoid of coercion) comprised of willing buyers and willing sellers making 100% voluntary exchanges. That (honest competition) is the only means by which the cream of human ideas and products can rise to the top, thereby facilitating and enabling humankind to reach its full spiritual, intellectual and material potential.
Because “value” is an individual subjective notion residing 100% in the eye of the beholder, free marketplaces, both of ideas and of products, are the only means by which we can realistically measure the worth of A’s labor in terms of B’s labor.
No person or group is smart enough to control wages and prices in a manner that all of society can prosper. Collectivism is impossible in the real life of the empirically observable material universe.
The so-called “Right” is very little (if any) less daft than the so-called “Left”. In fact the fraudulent “left versus right” duopoly (Democrat versus Republican) dog-and-pony show merely constitutes a type of bread-and-circuses entertainment for those clueless unfortunates who are duped by it and attracted to it.
Grant quotes Diane Schwenke as saying, “we need to work harder to bring in the types of employers who pay higher wages.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. Government partnering with business is accurately (and for very good reason) called “fascism”. We don’t so much need to use government (aka the taxpayers) to attract business to Mesa County from elsewhere as we need to create and promote production and trade WITHIJN the county, thereby pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps of our own production.
When a business leaves some other part of the country to come here, then production and jobs are lost in some other county. The only thing truly gained is the Good Old Boys (aka “Crony Capitalists” on a national scale) in creating an atmosphere in which the clueless freebie-addicted taxpayers of America’s cities and counties are forced to bid against each other for corporations and so-called “economic experts” to come to their county and “create jobs” and promote “economic development”. That corrupt and unsustainable government-based paradigm bears no resemblance to the type of honest free enterprise envisioned by America’s Founders. We must not allow ourselves to be fooled by this taxpayer-funded musical-chairs form of economic suicide — or the ignorant (aka “Left”) and/or corrupt (aka “Right”) types who regularly support and promote it at a local level.

PART 3. The good news is that, as Tip O’Neal famously said, “all politics is local.” The bad news is that most local politicians are in bed with a criminally fraudulent debt-as-money system which is in the process of imploding. Russian, China and India are starting to back their currencies with gold. The world no longer wants created-out-of-thin-air “QE Infinity” American dollars. They are actively taking steps to eliminate the dollar’s status as the world reserve currency. A currency war as already begun which is very likely to reduce debt-ridden America to the status of a second-rate country. 80% “haircuts” on bank accounts and $50,000/oz gold are on the horizon. In the face of all that, a local minimum-wage ordinance would amount to nothing more than a proverbial involuntary expulsion of methane in the wind.
Professor Murray Rothbard said: “At the heart of the egalitarian left is the pathological belief that there is no structure of reality; that all the world is a tabula rasa that can be changed at any moment in any desired direction by the mere exercise of human will.”
The insurmountable core problem with leftist/collectivist ideology is that it is inherently in direct conflict with the most basic characteristics of empirically observable human nature. Collectivism necessarily requires herd/government coercion/violence to control “The Other”, when the individual human critter inconveniently (for so-called “liberals” or “progressives”) just happens to have been created (or “evolved” if our atheist friends prefer that word) — with a survival need for individual self-ownership and self-determination. It is a logically
self-evident fact that Control Over The Other and individual self-ownership are completely irreconcilable and, therefore, anathema to each other.
For any person who wants to understand what is going on, I highly recommend watching Greg Hunter’s excellent interview with world-class economist, investor and gold expert Jim Sinclair at http://bit.ly/17w4Nhx and http://www.jsmineset.com.
While real-world solutions to the economic problems Bill Grant self-evidently does not understand begin at the local level, a local a so-called “living” wage ordinance is not among them.

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