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Archive for Sunday, March 30, 2003

Balancing needs

March 30, 2003

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To the editor:

Since three letters to the editor attacked my pro-living-wage advocacy, a reply is called for.

A day's work deserves a fair day's pay. Is it really too much to ask that businesses who operate with taxpayers' money pay living wages, or should our public funds be used to bring into town and subsidize industries that pay poverty wages?

Limitations on the lengths of letters to the editor prevent a detailed discussion of economic ramifications. Let me just say that, so far, 103 localities in the United States have adopted living wage ordinances, including St. Louis, Boston, Tucson, San Jose and Minneapolis, apparently without any detrimental effects on employment or price levels. However, there is no economic policy that is good or bad for all. Low interest rates are great for people who need to finance a home or borrow for a business venture but can be quite disastrous for elderly for who interest constitutes the major part of their income. But isn't general prosperity good for all? Not for pawn shops or bankruptcy lawyers, to be sure.

More often than not, there are not "right" or "wrong" answers. In the final analysis, what matters most is who can exert the greatest influence in the legislative, administrative and executive halls in Washington and in the state capitols. But unfortunately those whose needs tend to be the most precarious -- the children, the sick, the poor, the disadvantaged -- are all too often the ones least able to make their voices heard. It then becomes a moral imperative for others, better equipped to do so, to speak for them and plead their cause.

Harry G. Shaffer,

Lawrence

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