Working poor need hand up (D & C Editorial)

Democrat and Chronicle 01/02/2014 Page : A11

Minimum wage boost is a good start toward helping reduce taxpayer costs

Nearly 50 years after President Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty,
there are few signs of the well-meaning campaign’s success. In fact,
in cities such as Rochester there’s widespread evidence of abject failure.
As 2014 unfolds, there needs to be a renewed commitment to helping
close the still-swelling gap between the haves and the have-nots. A recently
released report by the Rochester Community Foundation found
child poverty in the city at 46 percent, and at an astounding 88 percent
among city students.
Addressing this problem doesn’t necessarily mean more government
“hand-out” programs, such as those bemoaned by staunch conservatives
and those who pander to them. Nonetheless, there is a role that government
can and must play in providing a hand up for the thousands of
Rochesterians and millions of others nationwide who often are jobless or
working but barely making ends meet.
Though it took a lot of wheeling and dealing, minimum wage earners in
New York received a 75 cent pay boost as of Jan. 1 despite stiff opposition
from mostly Republicans in the state Legislature. As usual, for decades
whenever there’s talk of increasing the minimum wage, GOP lawmakers
complain loudest that the boost could lead to job losses. Never mind the
people helped are the same ones that are most likely to wind up on taxpayer-
funded public assistance rolls. These lawmakers and powerful
special interest groups actually want people to live on $290 a week, which
for a working family of three is $3,000 below the poverty level.
Responsible leaders like U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand want to increase
the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour or $21,000 a year. Such an
increase would help working parents of an estimated 23 million children
buy necessities such as food and clothing. Over three years, it also would
increase the nation’s GDP by about $33 billion as workers spend their
higher earnings at local businesses.
Give Gillibrand credit for compiling what she calls an “American Opportunity
Agenda” which in addition to increasing the minimum wage
includes: Providing universal pre-kindergarten, affordable child day
care, expanding family medical leave and equal pay for equal work. The
latter focuses on the finding that typically women working full time are
paid 77 cents for every dollar paid men. Closing the gender gap obviously
will make families more secure.
Gillibrand’s opportunity agenda deserves Congress’ support in the
New Year.

Copyright © 2014 Democrat and Chronicle 01/02/2014 January 2, 2014 5:37 pm

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