Solving inequality (or not) one city at a time

2014 The NYT April 7 has an article about the city of Seattle debating raising the minimum wage to $15.00, a city described as having politicians who are left and far left. The absurdity of cities, even states having their own minimum wage in an attempt to fight inequality should be obvious, but it’s not. imageThis article and many others point out the economic gains of the 1% or top 10% or some other supposed elite group. Well duh, is it merely a coincidence these people are better educated and most often working in parts of the economy such as technology that reflect the 21st century? Then there was this paragraph in the article; a comment you don’t see very often in the trendy throwing around “inequality” business.

But local officials — and economists — said that the federal government would be better at alleviating some of the effects of income inequality than state or local governments, given its capacity to touch inequality’s root causes, like globalization and technological change.

Imagine root causes! One has to ask, will arbitrarily raising minimum wages or redistribution of wealth address these root causes, which are very real, and have nothing to do with greedy one or ten percenters? The article talks about a single mother earning $9.50 an hour at a fast food restaurant and working two jobs to make ends meet. How does a big jump in the minimum wage help her? Sure she has a little more in her pocket, but such a jump must increase the cost of goods and services in the area and there is the real possibility of her work hours being reduced. But most important, then what? Has her value as a worker changed, has her skill level changed, is she qualified to compete for 21st century jobs or have we made ourselves feel good and relegated her to a slightly higher level of poverty? This is like health care, we add government subsidies to premiums and call health insurance affordable and we mandate 100% coverage for many services and call them free. Likewise, redistribution of wealth in the face of a changing (changed) world economy does not address inequality which, of course, has been with us since time began.  Before we jump on the problem solving bandwagon, we should understand the actual problem; ask why❓ more often.

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