Letters to the Editor

Wage trap

May 12, 2008


To the editor:

A May 8 letter to this paper titled "Shameful wage" calls Kansas' minimum wage "shameful" and says "raising the wage is the only way to bring thousands of full-time workers and their families above the federal poverty line." There are many problems with this kind of thinking.

First, the highest aspirations for worker income should not be a minimum or living wage. Second, this presumes personal initiative and free market economies do not work. Third, the worst situation for a worker is being dependent on a politician's vote for their livelihood. Fourth, a minimum wage maintains the vicious cycle of poverty; it is a trap.

To increase your income, improve your wage value to an employer through education and marketable skills development. Your income will increase if the results of your work improve their profitability and or sales revenue.

A free market economy where a worker can sell his marketable skills to the highest bidder is always the best way to maximize one's income potential. This is also the only way a worker has the potential to become independent of government and their dependency programs.

Today, the minimum wage program is viewed as an entitlement. Entitlements create dependency. Entitlements do not create sustainable earnings growth potential.

We should demand and expect workers to improve their marketable skills to increase their income, not demand more worker dependency through the minimum wage trap. We should also demand our community provide an expanding diverse employment base for those skills.

David Reynolds,



georgeofwesternkansas 9 years, 8 months ago

"hawkperchedatriverfront (Anonymous) says: Mr. Reynolds, I wonder just what he would propose I do to raise my education level. I am working at night for $8.00 an hour. I graduated from the local Lawrence school system. Where do I go to get this new found edcuation mr reynolds wants me to get? Am I supposed to drive to Johnson County when gas is $4.00 a gallon. I got a better plan for Mr. Reynolds. I will work the system and Mr. Reynolds can support me unless he wants to further my education at his expense."News Flash!! If you don't like your life, you will need to get off your a$$ and do somthing about it. No one in government will be riding in to save you. Go ahead and work the system, and teach your children by example. What a legacy, "the welfare hawks".

bettie 9 years, 8 months ago

I'd just like to address one of mr. reynolds' assumptions: "Your income will increase if the results of your work improve their profitability and or sales revenue." I've not seen that happen in any of the minimum-wage jobs that I've worked. I'm talking about the $2.15 minimum wage. In my years as a server, I never heard of any of my colleagues getting a raise, even ones who had worked in the same restaurant for years. Here's an example from one restaurant. I definitely improved its profitability through my hard work. The restaurant was able to reduce the number of servers on the floor by at least half (if not send everyone else home) because they knew I could and would handle all of the remaining work. Certainly they were saving money by paying me and not five more people. How was I rewarded? Not with a raise. Not with a promotion. What the restaurant did do was, I think, more indicative of the environment in which minimum-wage earners are working. At the end of one busy 12-hour shift, I sat down in the breakroom to roll silverware (a 30-45 minute project). My manager informed me that "corporate" had learned of a study suggesting they might reduce the number of hours paid by not allowing servers to sit to roll silverware. (If they're standing, tired, and their feet hurt, after all, it would go a little faster and we could pay for 30 minutes instead of 40...at $2.15 an hour, mind you.)

Jason Bowers-Chaika 9 years, 8 months ago

In the case of servers just eliminate the min wage and make the waiter/waitress pay the employer for the opportunity to work out of their tips? Would that protect the interests of the poor business owners?

Tom McCune 9 years, 8 months ago

Don't like the pay and conditions at your job? Fine. Quit and start your own business. That's the only way you'll ever make any money. If you work for other people, you'll always be a wage slave, minimum wage or not.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 8 months ago

What a load of crap.The notion that raising the minimum wage to some minimal subsistence level, or even requiring payment of a living wage from industries who request corporate welfare or government contracts, will instill widespread sloth and complacency in workers is just plain stupid, just as is the notion that it will destroy the free market.

TopJayhawk 9 years, 8 months ago

LIke I said before. The minimum wage was never intended to be a "livable wage." You cannot raise it enough to be a "livable wage." I would like to hear of one job in Lawrence that actually pays minuimum wage. Then I want to hear from one, just one person who is on minimum wage, and really is trying to support a family.. I think even burger flippers make a lot more than the minimum. So this really is just feel good legislation for all of the bleeders out there.--It's kind of like all of you guys who want facts to back things up.. Gimme some facts man. Just name one person.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 8 months ago

We're discussing a very paltry minimum wage, imastinker, and everything in your little list is completely irrelevant to that conversation.

kansas778 9 years, 8 months ago

You don't even have to drive anywhere. A friend of mine got her degree from Fort Hays State over the internet and got a job make $40,000 after that.

TopJayhawk 9 years, 8 months ago

Bette, everytime prices in resturaunts go up, usually tips go up too. Half the wait staff means double the tips... for you!! If they wouldn't let you sit down to roll silverware, you shoulda taken a walk, find a better job.. That's free enterprise, it works both ways.

Corey Williams 9 years, 8 months ago

Don't even bother. They don't like it when you point out how the free market actually doesn't work without some government oversight.

imastinker 9 years, 8 months ago

I'm really shocked at the attitute people have towards business. They somehow think they they should be willing to pay all kinds of taxes, support underperforming workers, be sued for anything and everything, allow unions to get twice what they are worth, and not move overseas when they cannot afford to do business in the states anymore. What do you guys think makes a business outsource overseas?

Corey Williams 9 years, 8 months ago

"To increase your income, improve your wage value to an employer through education and marketable skills development."Somewhat helpful, but more of a "Tell me something I don't already know" statement."We should demand and expect workers to improve their marketable skills to increase their income..."But now they want to demand that everyone raises their knowledge or skill level. Where? Ku? get a semi-worthless business degree like everyone else? There aren't any trade schools within 30 miles so there is no real chance to learn a real skill. And to everyone who points and screams "Socialist!" if they dare say anything against the wonder of the "free market", why isn't our market free now? All those tax breaks to oil companies...airline bailout after 9/11...Bear Stearns bailout...another massive bailout concerning mortgages coming up...selling mineral rights on government lands for pennies...corporate welfare...How can we expect citizens to stand on their own two feet when our corporations can't?If you really want "free markets", start at the top and work your way to the bottom. "I even landed my 14 and 16 yr old boys a summer job at our two dogs' vet and even THEY are making $8.50 an hour"How many hours are they going to be working a week? Do you think your vet would be able to afford to keep them for 40 hours? Will they make enough to help you pay for gas?"No one in government will be riding in to save you."George, you don't have to be so bitter. Just because you haven't gotten your coveted power plant yet. Here is an idea: find all those companies that are dying to start up in western KS and get them to pitch in on a small power plant.

Bruce Bertsch 9 years, 8 months ago

Worse than a load of crap. The wage floor in Kansas is set so low that it applies to nearly no one. Raising that floor to match the Federal floor will effect all of 19,000 workers statewide. The minimum wage is not an "entitlement" it is what it says, the minimum wage an employer can legally pay to a worker. If Mr. Reynolds truly believes his comments about workers selling their labors to the highest bidder, perhaps he should take a class on the history of the labor movement in the US and discover why there are things like labor unions and minimum wages.

Tony Kisner 9 years, 8 months ago

Leon & Bozo,With all the excess profits in the industry which would be targeted for a hike in the minimum wage (restaurants) why don't you invest some of your own capital and start your own bar grill? Here is a free name, The Peoples Republic Tap Room.You can pay your wait staff the federal minimum wage, or what ever you define as a living wage. (Won't wait on a number from you on what a living wage per hour is.) You would soon have flocking to your business all the most talented wait staff. This would leave your competitors at a disadvantage as all those wanting to sell their labor would be now working for you guys. As the competitors close their doors you could snap up the assets at lower than market rates, and expand without limits. Thus you would provide to the exploited masses a living wage, reduced excess profits for the fat cats (who stick them under their mattresses or spend them in a distasteful way) and provided for yourselves a nice living. But of course if you provided a living for yourself in excess of a living wage you very own employees would start their own businesses thus turning the tables on you. Beware the capitalist pig for it could be you.The kicker in my plan for you two is that you would be using the very free market system embraced by your enemies to do them in. Sweet justice.

HeyManNiceShot 9 years, 8 months ago

Poor people are lazy idiots and the world will always have a need for ditch-diggers.Smart people are beautiful, always justified, wise, go-getters who definitely earned all the money they apportion to themselves. I mean, what are you talking about??? They deserve their Bugattis, $200/wk coke habits, hookers, vacations (I had to look that one up, it's barely in my vocabulary anymore), 1/2 mil. dollar homes, locally-grown organic food, summer homes, private jets, cruises, masseuses...these built-up empires just waiting to be handed down to their progeny who have also obviously earned my money through their birth-right.Just because you have the power to give pay yourself more and more by re-apportioning wages into your own pocket...that's not called 'earning' That's called 'stealing'.Poor people have about as much of a say in bettering their lives as someone trying to avoid a rear-end collision. And business owners/shareholders, left unchecked, would do as much for the people (who are actually making their money for them) as a Chinese mine owner.Silly me. Hold on, let me go pick up a book and do some learnin' because I've NEVER met an idiot that made too much money sitting on their a$$ throwing around words like "realignment" and "involuntary termination".Used to be, the man of the household could potentially work one job for 50 years, provide for his family, and retire comfortably.But now, both parents (if they're even together anymore) have to work 2 jobs just to scrape by and either afford macaroni & cheese or medication. You don't see an unfair disparity here?Your "capitalism" argument doesn't hold water either. Because this is not a capitalistic system. For it to be capitalistic, there needs to be real competition not this fake competition used to stave off anti-trust lawsuits."Our price on milk is 5 cents less than down the street.""Our over the limit fee is $25 instead of $30.""We own 90% of the media in this town. But it's legal now because we had the money to lobby our policy-makers."Who's holding you back from paying your workers more money? No one's stopping you. Nobody's holding a gun to your head.

KsTwister 9 years, 8 months ago

Hmmm..., so any going to college to better your future are going to have to survive on a macroni and cheese diet and live in a slum. By all means try buy books and pay your bills for four years with this paltry paycheck until graduation. Then move far away from Kansas.

Jay_Z 9 years, 8 months ago

Well said citizen1. A lot of people like to b#tch and moan these days, but don't want to put forth the effort to change things for the better. There are many examples of people coming from nothing, working their @ss off, who end up having very successful careers. It can be done!

Orwell 9 years, 8 months ago

Anything, just so long as we don't increase anybody's biz costs even a dollar, eh? That way as we've seen over the last eight years all that extra wealth will come flowing down to the hard-pressed.Yeah. Great theory. Let me know when it kicks in.In reality, when government responds to business demands for lower costs, or lower taxes or pretty much anything, the only effective result has been more demand from business to do more for business. Them that has, gets.

situveux1 9 years, 8 months ago

How did this letter get past the JW editors?The best LTTE I've read in the JW. This has to drive the Lawrence socialists mad (as noted by many posts above.)

David Reynolds 9 years, 8 months ago

I think some of you missed the point. He did not say do not raise the minimum wage. He said relying on a job that only pays a minimum wage as your permanent job will only keep you poor. Thus do something to better qualify yourself to not have to rely on minimum wage jobs for your lively hood.So what if you have to pay $4.00 per gallon for gas to go to KC to improve your self. Ride the "T" or the KU commutter bus. If you are going to achieve in life there are many obstacles to overcome. If $4.00 gas is your only problem then you will have easy sailing. It would be good to hear an excuse to improve yourself versus just hear excuses as to why you can't.I think you should read the article in the Journal World several days ago about a young women named "Willow" and reflect on the tragedies she had to overcome to succeed. It seems some of you could use Willow & others like her to motivate yourselves to succeed or maybe you just want to complain and not put out any effort to improve yourself.I know when I went to school I was married with 2 children. My wife & I worked full time at low wages while going to school. I worked 80 hours a week in the summer to get enough money to go back to school. We borrowed money ate cottage cheese & tuna. We sacrificed in many ways. Today we can say we were successful.I would suggest you change your expectations for yourself and look for roll models to learn how to succeed. It will change your perspective and help you succeed.

LeonTrotsky 9 years, 8 months ago

This guy sure used the word "economy" a lot for someone who seems to have very little understanding of the field of Economics. His notion of "entitlement" is laughable as well. While it is true that an increase in the minimum wage, at least to a point above an "equilibrium wage", will lead to greater unemployment, this doesn't seem to have so much of an effect on businesses. It is more between minimum wage workers--those who keep their jobs are better off, but some have to lose theirs in order to return things to an equilibrium.Oh, but then there is the problem of the unemployed and we all know what those who don't quite understand modern economics think about unemployment. Forget that it is an automatic stabilizer for the economy (workers lose jobs, apply for government income supports like unemployment insurance, government spending goes up which stimulates aggregate demand at exactly the time when aggregate demand is insufficient to maintain full employment). Oh, yeah, it is just another "entitlement" for those who are lazy and stupid and wanting to live off the efforts of others--like minimum wage laws, social programs, and the like. $2.65/hr. That's what we're talking about here. $5300/yr. Seems silly that folks making from ten to one hundred times (or more) this amount are bemoaning is "impact". Certainly they have earned every penny and never wasted a single second of their time at work (involved in activities like posting on the ljworld site during business hours).

temperance 9 years, 8 months ago

It's too cute how the conservative regulars are quick to chirp "free market! free market!" when discussing a minimum wage, but could care less about no-bid reconstruction contracts in Iraq and New Orleans. Why bailout Bear Stearns if the free market is so awesome? Where was your condescending advice then? I've got your campaign slogan:McCain/Hagee '08! Fighting to Eliminate the Socialist Minimum Wage

jonas 9 years, 8 months ago

IHaveA Bit OfTroubleEmpathizing with Other people That areHaving a more difficult time Efficiently adapting in the free market.Regardless of their particular skill set,People still need to understand,Every person needs to Only use the system that I use,Problematic as it may be.Look, it's pretty simple really. Every person must always fend for themselves.

Bradley Kemp 9 years, 8 months ago

The free market is a system for creating winners and losers. When it works, it's because it creates enough wealth that even the losers have enough to manage (and thus don't do untidy things like revolt). The minimum wage is an attempt to ensure that the free market does work.

SettingTheRecordStraight 9 years, 8 months ago

You make a lot of sense, Mr. Renynolds. Thank you for your letter!

David Reynolds 9 years, 8 months ago

MerrilI it appears you do not have all of the facts. Your comment about Mr. Reynolds and big bucks is an unwarranted assumption. From what I hear the city never gave any builder any form of a benefit unless aggravation counts.Let's clarify some thoughts regarding residential construction. Several years ago the "Progressive Lawrence" city commission in 2006 had Tischlerbise do a study on the costs & benefits of construction. The study was never published (a waste of $250,000.00 of tax payer money) because it showed that housing does pay for itself. The study said: A single family home in the suburbs costs the city $26.00; a single family urban (inner city) home costs $65.00; a duplex costs $6.00 & an apartment costs $341.00. The study ignores the multi-thousands of dollar revenue for succeeding years. Now you know why the city scuttled this study because it went against the commonly held perception you espouse.Further when a subdivision is developed the developer pays for all utilities, streets, storm sewers, water, electrical, including the costs to get the utilities to the development, studies, any mitigation requested outside the subdivision, etc. The most probable costs absorbed by the city are two lanes of a 4 lane street (if a 4 lane street is required). The infrastructure is then gifted to the city. The families purchasing the homes pay "Impact" fees to off set water and sewer costs". Where the process goes wrong is the city does not set aside any, or enough, of the property tax revenues to handle future maintenance.Merrill the current budget crunch does not come from housing. It comes from the fact that many industries and retailers have wanted to come to Lawrence & Douglas County and they have been run off by those against any growth. There are many examples if you dig around a little bit. Additionally we have had city commissions spending more than they took in while relying on the ever increasing property tax revenue from housing to support their insatiable spending habits.If anything the current housing problem demonstrates the importance of residential construction to our economy and further demonstrates it not only pays for itself it pays for almost everything else also. As the values of homes go down so does the revenue to the city. The current problem glaringly shows the one dimensional nature of our tax base.The common cry used against new businesses is: Corporate Welfare, traffic, etc., the list is long and distinguished. There is one truism in our economy: "If you want something to happen provide incentives. If you do not want something to happen increase their taxes or costs".We can change our budget if we are willing to work together as a city to change the structure of our tax base. This is a long term solution but it is viable and sustainable. In the mean time the city commission needs to make tough budgetary decisions, something past commissions have been reluctant to do.

beatrice 9 years, 8 months ago

"What do you guys think makes a business outsource overseas?"Well said! We should do everything we can to keep businesses here! We need to deregulate laws against a standard for working conditions, ignore pollution pouring into the air and water from manufacturing plants, and lets not forget child labor. To be competitive with all these nations where companies outsource their labor to, we have to allow child labor! Why should it be our fault that the children's parents weren't smart enough to get an education, just because they were working multiple jobs to put food on the table! Geez. Pay them less, I say, and that will teach them (or others like them) to get an education. America -- with a few more changes in the laws, we could be the next India!

Richard Heckler 9 years, 8 months ago

Mr Reynolds made tons of money on the housing boom so now he has all the answers. Building more and more homes is not diverse employment and costs all tax payers money. So he made his big bucks with local tax dollars subsidizing his company.If residential growth paid for itself and was financially positive, we would not be in a budget crunch. But with increased numbers of houses you have increased demand on services, and historically the funding of revenues generated by single-family housing does not pay for the services, they require from a municipality.

ilikestuff 9 years, 8 months ago

While obviously and, perhaps, intentionally simplistic, Reynolds' letter makes sense to me.I believe the point he is making is that if one is able to develop a solid resume and become more marketable relative to ones peers there is an opportunity to create real wealth. To seperate oneself from the pack, if you will.However, if one is making, say, $15 per hour b/c it's law that everyone make at least $15 per hour then the cost of living rises proportionally and one is in the same spot as if making minimum wage and it is $3.15 per hour.

pomegranate 9 years, 8 months ago

As for not being able to pursue your education because you were too busy working umpteen jobs just to make enough to put food on the table,consider this:Get your education and get a decent paying job before having children. Have some goals for your life and do some planning.

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