Letters to the Editor
In and around Springfield
A FRIEND TO ALL
Kudos to Lawrence Crossett for his excellent story about Pat O’Neill from Lincoln [“To persevere,” Aug. 17]. I’ve known Pat since he first started at Kroger. He is an outstanding individual and a great asset to the Lincoln community. He always has a smile on his face and is a friend to all!
ASK US WHAT WE THINK
Being a regular reader of Jim Hightower and [cartoonist Tom Tomorrow’s] “This Modern World,” I have noticed that these contributors spend plenty of time and space identifying and defining the problems of modern-day society. What I do not see are suggestions for improving people’s lives. One article that would prove my point about soliciting views was a recent Illinois Times poll, in which the homeless were asked for suggestions on how to solve the homeless problem [Fletcher Farrar, “Homeless suggestions,” Aug. 3].
Sure, I know that some readers will call me a “left-wing fanatic” or “terrorist sympathizer” for challenging President George W. Bush’s radically narrow view of the world, but at least his predecessor, President Bill Clinton, like Illinois Times, was open to alternative views. I think that I quote a Clinton campaign ad nearly exactly when Mr. Clinton asked the public to share our views with the White House so as to create a national consensus. Mr. Clinton encouraged the public to share ideas.
Beyond any doubt, I know that President Clinton reviewed my own letters, because I have postcards from the White House as proof. Sure, Bill Clinton was not perfect, but neither am I. For that matter who is?
At least Bill Clinton sought and respected the views of the American people, just as Illinois Times does. Can W. say the same?
If you want to think for yourself instead of having the White House tell you what you must think and what you must believe, I invite online correspondence directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A WASTEFUL AND HARMFUL PLAN
I had no idea that Mike Suhadolnik’s plans to raze South Grand Avenue neighborhoods were being taken seriously [R.L. Nave, “Opportunity or ‘flimflam’?” Aug. 10]. Personally, I can’t imagine a more ridiculous, wasteful, and harmful plan. I live five blocks south of South Grand, although not in the neighborhood boundaries as specified by Suhadolnik. Suhadolnik states that his plan is a community initiative and not a developer’s way of making money, but it seems that the opposite is most likely true. This plan smacks of gentrification and seems a very effective way of destroying neighborhoods.
It seems our city movers and shakers are looking at ways to clean up the city before Abe’s big bash. Getting rid of the homeless and poor people and putting up attractive façades may be a way to impress tourists, but it is not an effective way to revitalize neighborhoods for the long term or increase security and enjoyment of life for Springfield’s poorer citizens. A lot of housing on the East Side could use some fixing up — there’s no denying that. What is wrong with just giving homeowners money to fix up their houses? This seems a more effective use of money than handing it over to Suhadolnik, letting him destroy neighborhoods, and building new housing that former residents cannot afford. Personally, I welcome streets without huge potholes, usable sidewalks, bike paths, and community parks. It seems like these things can be accomplished without lining Suhadolnik’s pockets — I deeply question giving a man who has filed bankruptcy any tax money. These kinds of concrete things can revitalize a neighborhood’s appearance, quickly and easily.
One of the more difficult subjects is the question of East Side housing ownership. There are a lot of rental properties here, which does not make for a very stable neighborhood. Houses listed for sale on the East Side are almost always advertised as an “investment opportunity” or “cash flow,” not “affordable for poor families.” I do not understand how families can afford their monthly rent of $400 to $500 (what the average rundown house rents for) but do not qualify to buy a house that would cost them $250 to $300 in a mortgage payment. If homeownership were increased, I don’t think we’d have such a problem with slumlords and crack houses in our neighborhoods. Redlining by banks is a huge problem here; redlining means a bank denying a home loan based on the physical address of the house. This has happened to me personally, although we did succeed in buying our affordable and comfortable home on the East Side.
Springfield’s Vachel Lindsay had different ideas of beautifying Springfield. He said that “Fair streets are better than silver. Green parks are better than gold.” He also stated that “A crude administration is damned already.” I believe he was correct.
Carey Smith Moorman
LIVING-WAGE LAW HURTS THE POOR
“This is going to hurt the minority community,” said Mayor Richard Daley about the living-wage act, which was passed last month by the Chicago City Council [Mischa Gaus, “Big box bucks,” Aug. 17]. Mayor Daley is rightly concerned that by imposing price contrLawrence A. Hunter, Ph.D.
Institute for Policy Innovation
Washington, D.C.ols on the city’s workforce, the legislation will chase away jobs and businesses.
In his 17 years in office, Daley has yet to veto a bill passed by the council, but if there was ever a time to do so, this is it.
Specifically, the bill would force large retailers like Wal-Mart and Target to pay employees at least $10 an hour in wages plus $3 per hour in benefits. The minimum wage in Illinois is currently $6.50, already $1.35, or 26 percent, higher than the federal minimum.
To the casual observer, a law that artificially boosts wages might seem like a fantastic idea. After all, those who work full-time for Illinois’ current minimum wage of $6.50 end up with less than $14,000 per year. Pushing their hourly pay to $10 would clearly help them escape poverty — right?
Unfortunately, the answer is no.
Ask yourself, if $10 is such a good idea, why not raise the living wage to $50 an hour? Obviously because not all jobs produce enough to be worth that much. Require employers to pay it, and employers will simply eliminate the jobs.
The same principle holds no matter where the “living wage” is set; it is only a question of how extensive the damage is and who gets hurt the most.
The fact is, even a relatively low minimum wage law punishes low-skilled workers by barring them from underbidding their higher-skilled competition, thus taking away their one competitive edge in the marketplace.
Government wage controls are no different than government price controls, and they never work as intended — invariably harming the very people they’re supposed to help.
So why do living-wage advocates persist in pushing such tried-and-failed economic policies? Because of a very persistent myth: the family breadwinner struggling to make ends meet on the minimum wage.
But if we look at national statistics, most American minimum-wage workers don’t live below the poverty line. In fact, the largest cohort of minimum-wage earners is teenage boys working their first job. More than half are younger than 24.
Most minimum-wage workers live in middle-class households that boast annual combined incomes in excess of $40,000. The majority are under age 25, and three-fifths are part-timers.
When you get right down to it, less than one-fifth of the country’s minimum wage workers are the sole breadwinners in their families. They represent a scant 0.2 percent of the U.S. working-age population. And they’re not even earning the minimum wage for very long — 40 percent will receive a raise within four months, and two-thirds will receive a raise within a year.
Between 1998 and 2002, median wage growth averaged over 10 percent for minimum-wage employees. Their wage growth was more than five times higher than that of employees earning above the minimum wage.
Like all price controls, living-wage laws distort the relationship between buyer and seller — in some cases to the point where it’s not profitable for employers to pay workers at all.
Living-wage laws don’t reduce poverty. They perpetuate it. And no politician can alter that fact — no matter how well-meaning his or her intentions.