Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Saturday, August 26, 2006

"Moscow councilors have only begun"

Another hilarious column from Michael Costello in today's Lewiston Tribune:
The Moscow City Council missed a real opportunity earlier this week. The councilmen and women purchased themselves a little self-congratulation with somebody else's money.

By raising the city's minimum wage to $10.25 per hour for contractors wishing to transact business with the city, the council may now parade around its compassion for the working man without individually costing themselves a dime. There's nothing original in that. In fact, wealth redistribution is what many politicians consider as government's primary function. And many people define compassion as forcing somebody else to contribute to the benefit of another. Some politicians even manage to award themselves a handling charge. Such compassion deserves earthly rewards, I'm sure.

Moscow made little waves by making itself the first city in Idaho to adopt a living-wage ordinance. Previously, such policies were the exclusive dominion of California cities populated by the Hollywood stars, like Malibu and Internet-nouveau riche Santa Cruz. For reasons I've never quite grasped, the denizens of those affluent communes could not bring themselves to pay their servants a living wage without an ordinance telling them that they must do so. I'm still trying to figure that one out.

And so Moscow's claim to fame is that it represents an island of economic enlightenment in a state otherwise known for its laissez faire economics, where jobs that do not generate more than $10.25 of value in an hour's time are still legal. In other words, the city council let a real opportunity for self- aggrandizement get away.

If Moscow really wanted to make a name for itself, then it should have instituted the luxury wage. Why should Moscow's social progressives be satisfied keeping what Pullman's liberals call "undesirable social elements" barely afloat?

I mean, figure it out. Moscow's new living wage barely permits its beneficiaries to pull down 1,800 bananas a month before taxes, Social Security, bar tabs, cell phone, high-speed Internet, cable and widescreen plasma television payments. The lifestyle that one may afford on a mere $10.25 per hour is not commensurate with the expectation that one would have for the Northwest's premier workers' paradise. On top of that, there is no provision to force employers to pay for health care. So medicine comes out of that income.

I wonder how many on the council could make ends meet on $1,800 per month. Danged few, I'd bet.

And so, it's time for Moscow to get off its duff, get serious about its social progressivism and raise the minimum wage to $40 per hour. That would elevate the lowest paid Muscovite to the upper middle class.

Just think of all the economic benefits that would rain down on Moscow. Car sales would shoot the roof as the newly prosperous checkout clerks and hamburger flippers went out and bought new luxury cars and four-wheel-drive pickups so high off the ground that to get in, they would need stepladders. Certainly there will be a sudden surge in demand for chardonnay and Bordeaux. Those who distinguish between French Burgundy and Gallo Burgundy might buy stem glasses too. And as most minimum wage earners are young entry-level types holding their first job, we can expect an enormous surge in video game and comic book sales. Or at least we'd better, or the businesses that sell those things will go out of business.

Yes indeed, then Moscow won't just be the first city in the Gem State to require a living wage; it would be the first city in the Western Hemisphere to outlaw poverty. Moscow could become the first city this side of Dubai where only the well-to-do live.

Of course, undesirable side effects would be include sales of foie gras at Moscow's most politically incorrect restaurant, West of Paris. The newly prosperous will probably buy the wrong kind of cars, big gas-guzzling SUVs and the like. And they might not be far-sighted enough to equip their new homes with carbon-neutral solar panels.

But Moscow's social engineers will certainly get around to banning foods they disapprove of in their own good time. And of course, the next step will be to require certain approved expenditures, such as tofu and hybrid cars, while banning nonprogressive consumerism, such as ATVs, tobacco and coffee not verified as organic, and fair trade.

This can all be dealt with at the next meeting.

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