Tag Archives: New Mexico

Cities should stay out of living wage business

I feel that a “living wage” is a noble concept, but that it is one that is much harder to pin down as to specifics.

Places like Santa Fe, New Mexico, who attempt to regulate business by forcing them to pay higher wages, or who put a heavier burden on their local taxpayers by raising the wages of their own municipal employees based on an arbitrary non-contractual concept like the living wage are out of line.

The principles of universality as espoused by John Stuart Mill in seeking the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people, also known as utilitarianism, can be used to support fewer regulations of this type.

A living wage should be considered as one that would allow employees to earn enough income to be able to afford adequate housing, food, and other life necessities in order to enjoy a satisfactory standard of living.

It is sometimes also referred to as a minimum wage. However, what may be the minimum wage by law might not constitute what some consider a minimum “living wage” for workers. And the question of what constitutes a satisfactory standard of living is hardly agreed upon by the public.

In January, 2006 in Santa Fe, New Mexico the city raised its minimum wage above the federal level of $5.15 per hour to $9.50 per hour, which at the time made it the highest such rate in the United States.

The issue in Santa Fe was the same as that raised all across the country by proponents of increased minimum wage laws: Should an employer be allowed by pay a full-time employee a wage that is no longer enough to live on?

Though in the beginning supporters of the law espoused moralistic ideals such as those previously put forth in other sections of the country such as “work should be rewarded” and “no one who works full time should have to live in poverty”, in the end these supporters had taken on a more cynical tone. They mostly see the issue for what it can garner them politically.

Beginning in 2002, the Santa Fe city council passed a wage law raising the hourly pay for city employees and contractors. The law required that any company receiving a contract with the small city of 66,000 residents would have to pay its workers a wage well above the federal minimum.

Some of the officials hoped that Santa Fe would become a test case for the rest of the United States on this issue. They saw the city as almost a perfect storm scenario with a high cost-of-living, large community of low-paid immigrants, and a politically liberal city council. They saw wages raised from $5.15 an hour as a minimum up to $10, $12, or even $14.50 per hour and extending to private as well as public-sector workers.

Opponents of the law, in particular the business community, believed that it is in the best interests of both business and labor to let the market set wages, not the politicians. This opposition believed that a rise in the minimum wage hurts employment in that forcing business to pay higher wages would be followed by business hiring fewer workers.

Business never eats its costs, so raising costs on business would mean that they would cut back their business in some way, or raise their prices, or both. Any of these outcomes would hurt many of the people who were supposed to be helped by the wage increase.

From a moral point of view, I believe that you can look at things in two ways. You can say that when people work hard, and it costs a certain amount of money to live in a reasonably comfortable fashion, then the only morally acceptable position would be to pay workers a wage that would allow them to live in such fashion.

If a business needs to make less of a profit in doing so, then so be it, that is a cost that needs to be paid and should not only be expected by the business, but should almost be embraced by them.

Another way to look at things from a moral standpoint would be that a business owner takes a great deal of risk in establishing and growing their business. They take financial risks and risks to their personal reputation, and thus are entitle to great rewards when their ventures are successful.

Also, these businesses do not only have current expenses, but ideally many would like to expand or otherwise better the business, and being forced to accept less in profit would cut into their ability to do this.

If you make it too difficult for a business owner to operate and make a strong profit, then you will take away not only that particular business owner’s incentive, but also the incentive of others to start a business venture and have to deal with the increased interference and costs, and thus would hurt the entire community.

Increased prices, fewer choices, inferior service, and increased unemployment are just some of the proven effects over time of government regulating business. The free market has almost always proven far better at sorting out the issues and providing quality to tax-paying consumers.

In Santa Fe, living wage proponents changed their fight from a more morally conscionable one of financially helping the poor and working-class to a less heroic political battle. They found that framing the issues morally, even though there would be a cost in unemployment and business failures or struggles, drove voters out to the polls.

Though a strong proponent of free-market based solutions for business, I do feel that there is a place for a minimum wage.

The fact is that there was a time in our nation’s history when business took advantage of workers, and made huge profits on the backs of those workers. They expected hard work, got it, and then paid a substandard wage that few folks could live on, let alone prosper in any reasonable way.

Workers need to not only be protected, but also feel protected from the possibility that these types of practices will recur in the future.

Men like Henry Ford came along and began to revolutionize low and even non-confrontational labor-management relations. Ford realized that the only way that his automobile company would ever be able to fully realize its ultimate profit-making capacity was to raise his employee’s salaries so that they could afford to buy the very cars that they were helping to build.

Ford realized a basic premise of free-market capitalism: you can’t sell even the best-conceived and created products in the world to people who don’t have the means to buy them from you.

However, there remained many business leaders who held their wallets tightly closed. Labor unions formed to fight for the rights of workers on wages and other issues. There were numerous battles over the years between a business community trying to suck as much profit out of their company as they could make, and workers fighting to gain a bigger slice of the company pie in order to justly compensate their level of labor, as well as to more substantively provide for their families.

Given the situation in Santa Fe, in fact in any situation, I do not think that local municipalities should be setting wage standards. As has been proven over decades wherever it has been tried, overtaxing and over regulating business will drive it out of town to a location where costs are cheaper, thus lowering the overall standards in the community.

It happened right here in my hometown of Philadelphia over the past two and a half decades. Once the longtime, well established fourth largest city in America behind only the behemoths of east coast New York, west coast LA and Chicago in the middle, Philly has sunk under the weight of its business and population losses driven by a variety of liberal policies, particularly taxes and business regulations.

I do believe that the proper place for these types of issues is at the state level, not even at the federal level. The State of New Mexico and other states as well, should set minimum wage standards throughout their state. This is the way that I believe our Founding Fathers wanted issues such as this addressed.

The politicians at the state level in New Mexico would thus be fair to their entire population by treating all within the state in the same manner. They would also would have to answer to that population should business be driven to neighboring Nevada, Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Utah, or elsewhere by their regulations and laws.

With control and regulations coming from the state level, the most important factors to consider for the lawmakers in each state would be the overall health and economic development of their entire state.

The individual states need to balance the needs of their population with those of the business community, and work with both of these communities to ensure that everyone is moving together in the same direction towards the overall prosperity and continued health of the state economy.

Business needs to understand that healthy, fairly compensated employees are an asset to them and the larger community, and in fact are integral to the business’ very survival.

Individuals have to recognize the risk-reward associated with owning and operating a business, allowing for entrepreneurs to make healthy profits, thus contributing to an increased tax base and robust business climate that will draw other companies to the area.

I believe that the utilitarianism of Mill is best set into this viewpoint. If actions are indeed right as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the opposite, then the “greatest happiness principle” would find a kindred spirit in a healthier working relationship between state governments, individual consumers and tax-payers, and the business community.

Keeping governmental costs to business as low as possible in the areas of forced salaries, regulation, and taxation, and allowing the market to drive these types of situations beyond a minimum that is set by responsible state legislators would indeed promote pleasure to a great number of citizens and businesses. It would also promote the lessening or prevention of pain state-wide by keeping unemployment and prices low, while keeping choices and competitiveness high.

In keeping with the spirit of utilitarianism espoused by John Stuart Mill, the politicians of New Mexico, and indeed of every state, would ideally be concerned not with their own election or re-election first, but rather with putting forth ideas and programs that are designed for the betterment of the people.

The politician might feel that his being elected is what will make the people happy, but that is only a part of the truth. The people will indeed by happy if he is elected and then helps enact legislation that promotes their good as often as possible.

In the end, I believe that places like the city of Santa Fe should stay out of the minimum wage business, and that these types of issues should be handled at the state level.

In this way, the rights of each state as framed by our Founding Fathers would be emphasized with the federal government and local governments out of the picture. The state would then be left with their politicians, acting on the concept of what is best for the people and would make them most happy.

The voters would ultimately then decide these issues at the ballot box, electing those who continued to make them happiest.

(THIS article represents a term paper that I turned in at St. Joe’s in my Sociology class this semester)

Immigration nation bordering on insanity

For two hundred and thirty years now, the United States of America has been a beacon of hope for the rest of the world. As we have grown up as a nation, that reputation has only grown greater, has only become more solidified.

When people in other countries dream of a better life for them and their families, it is America to which their dreams turn.

There are no hordes of protesters marching in the streets of Moscow, Beijing, Paris, Tokyo or Mexico City hoping to ease their process of becoming citizens in Russia, China, France, Japan or Mexico.

As Neil Diamond famously sang: “They’re comin’ to America!

For all the negative blather you hear about America from our own liberal press, the foreign press, and the many citizens of foreign nations interviewed on those broadcasts and in their articles, it is America to which they come to escape oppression and infuse hope into their lives.

In our past, we have been an immigration nation. We were born and nurtured through our earliest years as a nation as immigrants from England to a new set of colonies and then a new free country, on what is now the American east coast.

We grew and thrived, spreading across the land from east to west, thanks in large part to massive immigration from other European nations in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

We are an immigration nation at our very core. That is our heart and soul, the accumulated values and experiences of our individual forefathers and our families’ ethnic and racial heritage, combined with the melding into American customs, laws and values that have formed over the centuries.

As America has a heart and soul formed from its people, those many home-born and immigrant citizens, it also has a body. A very real and distinguishable body.

Setting aside Alaska and Hawaii, which pose their own individual circumstances, the recognized body of America is the contiguous forty-eight states, stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and sharing a common border to the north with Canada and the south with Mexico.

For the better part of America’s life as a nation, we have done little of substance to control our intake of immigrants in number, little to ensure the continued quality of immigrants in maintaining basic assimilation qualifications, and little to control and secure those two massive borders.

The America of today has become fat and bloated due to laziness and a general lack of will power.
America has become the fat, balding, middle-aged man who wakes up in the morning, looks in the mirror, doesn’t like what he sees and says “Houston, we have a problem.”

Truth is, we have had this problem, or at least the root causes of the current problems, for the entirety of our existence. We have never properly organized American immigration policy, and we have never properly secured our borders. Not under Republican administration, or Democratic administrations. Not even under Whig administrations.

In times of war and in times of peace, in times of prosperity or times of despair. In all our combined national life, we have not addressed these issues, putting them off for another day.

That “another day” is upon us. The time to make real change is here, now. We are at a critical turning point in American history, and the decisions that we make in the next few months and years on the issues of border security and immigration reform will affect America’s very continued existence as a nation, certainly as an identifiable society.

There are many sides to the immigration issue. First, there are literally hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants living and working in the United States today. Right now, as I type out this article, right now as you read it. It is reality, and it is a massive number that has become uncontrollable. And the problem gets larger and worse for every day that we do nothing to change.

There are many sides to the border issue. Thousands stream across the border with Mexico every single day. Some are Mexican citizens, and citizens of other South American countries, coming to seek a better life for their family. Some are simply seeking to milk our system for handouts.

Some, frankly, are terrorists seeking an easy way into our country, and then plotting to attack us from the inside when the time is right. That is reality as well, and the problem gets larger and worse for every day that we do nothing to change.

My proposals are many, large-scale, and expensive. They require construction, security, manpower, enforcement, follow-up and most of all willpower. They would require full documentation of every single illegal currently in the country, full control and security of our borders, and the ability to easily track and follow-up on every non-citizen that enters those borders.

First, I propose that we undertake two programs simultaneously, addressing each particular issue. Quick planning and construction of a full 2,000 mile barrier along our southern border with Mexico, and the immediate amnesty to all illegals currently in the country combined with their documentation and adherence to new procedures.

Let’s start with the border, because the failure of any nation to properly secure its borders is simply bordering on the insane.

Plans are already available that are feasible. Educated folks who have lived with the border issues in California, Arizona and Texas have already been down this road. Perhaps the best is a proposal for a full wall in many places, enhanced with fencing, ditches, security cameras, increased numbers of border patrol agents, and unmanned surveillance vehicles.

This plan, or one like it, should be approved in the next few months, adopted as necessary by serious leaders of both parties, and then fully constructed within the next few years. This is a goal that can easily be met with a full government commitment. It already has the support of a large majority of American citizens.

While the American Southern Border Project is underway, every resource possible should be in place to support the security of the border and of the construction project itself. Large increases in border patrol agents, modernization of the equipment they use, public and spirited support for entities such as the volunteer Minuteman Project. We can do a great deal more as the Southern Border is being constructed than we are today.

With the border better secured, we are at the same time getting our illegal immigration situation under control. Let’s not kid ourselves, or allow the liberal press to deflect our sensibilities away from the reality that there are two words involved here. Not just the word immigration, but also the word “illegal”.

It is a fact, the United States of America has laws regarding immigration, and these people have purposely and willfully broken those laws.

It is also a fact that the massive arrest, or deportation, or some combination involving hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants is an impossible situation to enforce effectively. What is needed is a system of amnesty, combined with penalties and enforcement measures.

In my proposal, amnesty does not mean outright forgiveness, citizenship, and a hearty “welcome to America”. I propose that we set a time limit, possibly by the end of calendar year 2006 for example. By the end of this time, every single individual in this country who is not a citizen and is not here by some other legal immigration measure must register with an agency to establish their legalization status.

This proposal would mean either creation of an agency to handle this registration, or the expansion of existing immigration personnel and systems. Individuals who register, supply valid proof of their identities, and agree to fully conform with American law into the future would be granted temporary guest worker status, and could get into line for full American citizenship, if that is what they ultimately wish to accomplish.

Any individual who can not properly document their identity to the satisfaction of immigration authorities would be deported, as would, of course, any individual who did not wish to conform to American laws.

Any individual after the cutoff date who is found to be illegal would be deported. Any repeat violators into the future would be charged and imprisoned here in America.

In family situations, the law needs to be changed to reflect that individuals born here to at least one American citizen parent are considered citizens, but that individuals born into a situation where neither parent is a legal American citizen are not granted citizenship.

In family situations, if the parents cannot or will not fulfill the requirements of the new amnesty program, then the entire family will be deported.

The United States of America did not create the problems of the world, and did not create the problems of every individual family, whether citizen or illegal immigrant. The United States government, and thus its tax-paying citizens, cannot be expected to support the bad, improper, illegal or irresponsible decisions of individuals and families within its borders and around the world.

What America does need to do is establish to the best extent possible an example of responsibility, and to setup a framework under which the exercise of that responsible citizenship can be affected.

Into the future, America also needs to educate the business community that the hiring of illegal workers will not be tolerated, and will result in massive fines and penalties against offending employers. This can be accomplished through spot checks and audits by government agencies already in existence.

In 1986, during the conservative Reagan administration, the country passed immigration reform laws that included amnesty programs, as well as sanctions against businesses that continued to employ and support illegals.

These measures proved to be of no value, as business owners then accepted flimsy, incomplete or outright fraudulent paperwork from their employers as proof of citizenship status and identification. There must be simple guidelines this time around that are easy to follow for any business owner, accompanied by strict penalties for non-compliance.

The bottom line is that we must identify every individual currently in the country illegally, give them an opportunity to come clean and get with the program, give business an opportunity to come clean and get on the right track, and effect harsh measures against any individual or business who then disregards these controls into the future.

As we move forward, America needs to make some real changes in our educational system. We need to finally establish, once and for all, that English is the official language of the United States of America, and must see to it that it is effectively taught to every school child across the country. The learning of practical, effective English should be one of the requirements for every single applicant for American citizenship.

Also, we need to more effectively and aggressively teach American history, civics, and law in our public school classrooms. The cultural rainbow that has been taught over the past few decades is fine, on an elective basis, and as a general minor part of any curriculum. But the support through the educational system of a solid American culture, formed over the century’s right here on our shores, needs to be first and foremost.

The failure over our nation’s history to properly secure our borders and the failure to come up with a workable, sustainable immigration policy go hand-in-hand in undermining long-term American values and society. They also contribute to violations of our national security in a time of war, when any number of enemies of our way of life has directly threatened us with annihilation.

America needs to move immediately to fully secure our borders, to fully document every non-citizen, and to require those who wish to join our American family to do so in an orderly and legal fashion. Only in this way can we secure the very benefits that these illegals come to America to obtain: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.