Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

"Living Wage" Insanity Continues in Moscow

"Living wage" socialism continues to rear its ugly head in Moscow, making the "Heart of the Arts" more business-unfriendly all the time. Most stores in Moscow already pay above minimum wage to compete with Washington state's nation-high minimum wage. Why the urgency? How many people in a town where half the residents are students make minimum wage and support a family of four?

Keep it up Moscow City Council, and you'll drive every business over the border into Pullman!

From today's Lewiston Tribune:

While the federal minimum wage remains at $5.15 an hour, Moscow City Council members are exploring the possibility of coming up with a "living wage" to pay employees and serve as an example for the private sector.

"Don't know," Councilor Linda Pall said Tuesday when asked what the living wage might be. But she said she and other council administrative committee members Aaron Ament and John Weber will further explore the issue.

"We want to make sure that we are not taking advantage of our employees," Pall said. "And it goes back to this issue of the city setting an example."

Ament at an earlier meeting expressed support for establishing a living wage figure. Weber balked, saying he realized city employees may start at relatively low pay, but wages and benefits increase with years of service.

According to city records, the lowest paid full-time employee makes $10.75 an hour, or $21,328 annually. The lowest paid part-time employee makes $6 an hour.

Pall said she wanted to clear up confusion that the city might try to impose a living wage on the private sector. "We want to be able to set an example," she said, "but we're not trying to create a city-wide minimum wage."

In 1968, Pall said, the federal minimum wage was $1.60 an hour. Adjusted for inflation, that would convert to $8.89 an hour in 2005, she said. If the minimum wage had kept pace with inflation, Pall said, a person working full-time today should be making nearly $8000 more, for an annual minimum wage salary of $18,491.
According to federal records, the poverty level for a family of four living in the contiguous 48 states in 2005 was $19,350.

Pall said more than 100 cities nationwide have passed some sort of living wage measure. Such ordinances, she said, are often expanded beyond city employees to include employees working for companies that contract with the city to provide services.

"One of the major goals of living wage ordinances is to help working families achieve a decent standard of living," Pall said. Indirectly, she said, establishment of a living wage will also send a message to prospective businesses hoping to locate in Moscow. Oh, it'll send a message alright.

"It's a question of who do we invite to come in?" Pall said, explaining that the city, along with the Moscow Chamber of Commerce, for example, could court only companies that meet or exceed whatever living wage might be established. She's joking, right? All kinds of high-tech companies are beating down the door to move to an area 80 miles from the closest interstate and where the cost of living and housing is so high already.

Pall said it's not her intent to discourage businesses that might hire people at the federal minimum wage, "but I'm not going to celebrate that." Oh, there won't be much celebrating if this goes through.

Some have argued, Pall said, that living wage laws tend to eliminate jobs and must eventually be subsidized by higher taxes. But she said studies show there's little or no impact on the whole of a city's economy. Baloney. Plenty of studies how devastating "living wage" ordinances are.

By paying less than a living wage, Pall suggested, Moscow could be "subsidizing poverty."
Not subsidizing. They will be creating poverty instead.

1 comment:

April E. Coggins said...

My crystal ball tells me that Moscow will see a living wage ordinance with in a year. I wonder if it will be set at B.J. Swanson's $38.00 an hour suggestion?