Will Raising the Minimum Wage Solve Our Problems?

Today Seattle approved a hike in the minimum wage for the city. I’m really torn on whether this is a good idea. My feeling is that there are other ways to help the economic gap, such as rent control/stabilization and improving public transportation. If we can make life more affordable, we don’t necessarily have to pay everyone more. Some may say that is a case of “six of one” but I really feel psychology will play a heavy role in whether a higher minimum wage will be a help or a hindrance.

Also, I see statements like the one below, and I think to myself, “this is an issue between you and your boss, not an issue for legislation.”

Crystal Thompson, 33, told The Seattle Times she has been working at a local Domino’s Pizza for five years and still makes minimum wage. She says her responsibilities have grown, and she sometimes is responsible for opening and closing the store.

“I think I deserve a raise,” she told the Times.

If you’ve worked some place for five years with no raise and accepted increased responsibilities to boot, that, my friend, is your problem. Sure, this is an isolated case, but if it is any indication of the “problem” as a whole, there are better solutions than just forcing employers to arbitrarily raise wages. Market forces, and the individual employees, should help dictate wage increases.

Raising the minimum wage is a mere bandage. Here in Seattle, at least, there are many factors in play that make wages seem inadequate, factors we are not addressing. Developers build apartments unfettered, raising property values to unreasonable levels. Lower wage earners cannot afford to live in the city where they are employed, making their lives even more expensive as they have to consider transportation into their daily costs. It’s great that computer programmers can walk to work, but do they care that their janitors and baristas have to commute an hour each way on an unreliable bus or spend hundreds maintaining a jalopy just so they can serve their pasty selves? (yes, yes, I know not all programmers are pasty)

Anyway, my point is that the issue is way too complex to be remedied by an across-the-board wage increase.

Yet More Words on Marriage Equality

Marriage is, at its core, a social contract. Two adults pledge to be responsible for each other. If they want to add a spiritual or religious element to it, they have the freedom to do so.

If marriage were purely a faith-based institution, the federal and state governments would have no legal basis for enacting any laws relating to marriage. Adults would only be able to file taxes as individuals – at most their spouses would be dependents (a whole other can of worms). Spouses would be obliged to testify against each other (maybe that’s just a TV thing). There would be no divorce – good luck getting your records after the split.

On June 6, will it be legal for all consenting adults to marry each other, regardless of gender, or will there be enough religious fanatics in Washington to force the issue to a popular vote? We’ll just have to wait and see.

My Next Great Idea: Returnable Shampoo Bottles

I’ve been thinking lately about water bottles (who isn’t?) and it led me to thinking about shampoo bottles. The average American surely goes through much fewer in a year than the evil store-bought water bottle, but we still must go through quite a few. So I got an idea. There could be a little return receptacle at the grocery store/pharmacy where consumers can place their empties while picking up their new bottle. When the distributor comes to refill the shelf, they take the empties back to the distribution center, and then they make their way back in bulk to the manufacturer. There they get washed and stuff, and then refilled. If the bottles now are not in a reusable state, they may need a redesign, or maybe they just need to be melted and reformed, I don’t know.

I’d like to start a pilot program with a smaller company – I was thinking Giovanni since I use their product – and see how it goes. It may be an idea that fails miserably, but it may be the start of something much bigger.

My Postal Solution

I recently read yet another article about the US Postal Service hemorrhaging money, and after I successfully blocked awful images out of my mind, I got to thinking. I have a soft spot for the Postal Service, and would really hate to see it go away or become privatized, and so I came up with an idea to keep it around. At the moment, the Service is asking Congress to approve ceasing Saturday delivery. I say cease all residential mail delivery. I got a postcard in the mail with an offer to rent a post office box. But shouldn’t a post office box be free, and delivery service be for a fee? Let us return to the days of picking up our mail at a post office, and let businesses pay to have their mail delivered to their premises. It could be charged on a monthly basis, by the pound. Businesses could include property management, i.e. apartment buildings and condos (sorting for individual residences would be the building’s problem). We wouldn’t need to expand the extant post offices, but could build centrally located, unmanned mail box centers if needed. I haven’t crunched any numbers, nor do I have the numbers to crunch, but I think it’s an idea worth considering.

A Thought or Two on the Election

In the last couple of weeks I’ve been watching Jeopardy! upon my return home from work. In general, it’s been enjoyable, but unfortunately it means I’ve had to watch a lot more commercials than usual. And since the last couple of weeks have been leading up to the general election, it means I’ve had to endure campaign ads up the ying-yang. One commercial break would be dedicated to skewering Dino Rossi, and the next would be skewering Patty Murray, both camps accusing the other of practically the same things. In addition to the personal attacks, there were also the ads for and against the various state initiatives. One initiative in particular really inspired some doozies – number 1098 proposing an excise tax (or income tax, depending on your angle) on larger incomes. Anyway, the point is not really what it was for, it was the substance of the ads “against”. All were saying the same thing – “I don’t trust the legislature” – literally. Think about that. The people don’t trust the very officials whom they voted into office. I think to myself, “so why the —- did you vote them into office?” If we don’t like who’s running, why are we voting for them? And I guess I don’t blame these Doubting Thomases, I have a really hard time finding any politician I feel like is actually doing their job, or even trying. It seems like the “public service” has been taken out of public office these days. The politicians are too busy talking about what they don’t like about everyone else instead of focusing on What Can Be Done To Improve Things. If we really want to shake things up, as citizens, we should invoke a vote of no confidence. Oust the whole Congress. Anyway, we’ll never do that. Instead, we’ll just keep voting for the Lesser of Two Evils, campaigns will continue to be so expensive so as to exclude the normal person who actually wants to do a good and fair job, and everyone will just keep on whining instead of doing anything. And now, I think it’s time for Jeopardy!

Where is All the Money? And Why?

I got an email today from my pal Joe Biden.

Friend —

See? We’re pretty close.

$200 million.That’s what Republican-aligned special interests have pledged to spend on the 2010 election. Just to put that in context, that’s nearly $40 million more than every interest group spent on the 2008 presidential election — combined.

I have to wonder, if those numbers are even half right, what is wrong with this scenario? Why, if people/companies, have such large amounts of cash they are willing to give away, why do they waste it on campaigns (no matter which party)? Wouldn’t it be better served by investing in communities? In real projects to better our infrastructure, grants for schools and libraries, food and shelter for those not able to provide from themselves? They could get their name in giant letters across the face of a public hospital they paid to build, in blinky lights on a much-needed South Park bridge replacement.Millions spent on political campaigns is such a fruitless, impractical endeavor. What’s the expression – pissing in a river . . . (or maybe watering your lawn while it’s raining)

A Shake and a Word

Today I stopped and took that hand. It belonged to a young man going by the name Tristan who was peddling sponsorships through Children International. Although he was cheerful and enthusiastic, I was a bit disappointed that his wasn’t politically-motivated activism. It’s all fine and good to sponsor children in Zambia, but about Seattle? the state of Washington? these United States?We leave the decisions up to our politicians then complain about the aftermath of doing so as if it’s not our fault. I’m just as guilty as the next person of apathy. So wouldn’t it be great if someone with the enthusiasm of Tristan was working to let our representatives know what our people want and need?