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Debate Over 'Living Wage' Plan

March 02, 1997

* Re " 'Living Wage': Noble Idea but Bad Economic Policy": Your Feb. 24 editorial is typically long on theory and short on the realities involved. It contains a gentle admonishment to the business community, a supposedly "no cost" solution, as in earned-income tax credits, and a call for more "incentives," read reduced taxes, for business to create well-paying jobs.

What are the realities you ignore? For openers that full-time jobs need to pay a living wage. Moral considerations aside, it is obvious that a family whose main wage-earner brings home a living wage will be less of a burden to all levels of government and society in general. To the larger society as well as the individuals beneath the statistics, paying a living wage is good economic policy.

Next, that government as well as many large private employers, The Times included, bear responsibility for the present situation by the rush to "outsource" service and even white-collar jobs in some instances, strictly on a bottom-line cost basis. In this rush to the superficial, short-term lure of the bottom line, longer-term economic, social and work quality consequences are ignored.

The central reality is that most employers, public and private alike, will pay the lowest wages possible, especially in an environment that condones it. Why is there any reason to believe that steps short of legislation will even begin to right this situation? Theories and statistics are a totally inadequate response to the social and economic problems faced by the ultimate subjects of this editorial, real people.

TONY BARNARD

San Pedro

* Your thoughtful, well-written opposition to the living wage proposal reminds me once again that there is no limit to human ingenuity when it comes to finding ways to avoid doing the right thing--in this case paying someone what their labor is worth.

GEORGE M. LEWIS

San Luis Obispo

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