Press-Republican

Read

December 8, 2013

Raising living standards a worthy goal

Corporate profits are approaching record highs. Some Fortune 500 executive salaries are almost astronomical. The 1 percent is getting richer, and the real income for a household at the 50th percentile is actually dropping. The minimum wage in this country would be the lowest among industrialized nations if it weren’t for Mexico. Certainly the minimum wage is embarrassingly low. Even the Pope believes so.

Surely we have to raise the minimum wage substantially. Perhaps not. If our goal is to provide a living wage to working households, there are better policies to accomplish that goal.

Our first problem is to determine the income necessary to ensure households and children don’t live in poverty. The poverty level is not the best guide. The U.S. determined a measure of poverty in the 1960s that corresponded to a sufficient income so that no more than one-third of income could support an adequate diet. This threshold was correspondingly larger for large families. And, it is adjusted annually for the cost of food.

An alternate measure is based on a family’s income relative to other incomes in the country.

Both measures are imperfect. If rent, energy costs, insurance, sales and property taxes, and other essential components of spending rise faster than food costs, a low-income household is pinched more than the dietary threshold would suggest. And, if a rising tide indeed lifts all boats, a measure tied to relative incomes may keep a family in relative poverty even once they can meet nutrition needs.

In fact, a family considered poverty-stricken in the U.S. may be considered to be affluent in the eyes of families in other countries. Or, a family at the poverty threshold and living in one region of the country may live much more comfortably than a family at the threshold in another region of the country. More work needs to be done to determine how much a family needs to survive.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Read
  • colin_read.jpg Good organizations lack drama

    Groups that accomplish their objectives do so with a minimum of distraction and politics, focusing instead on creativity and a dynamic vision, according to columnist Colin Read.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Parking fines a short-sighted policy

    Tourists should be encouraged to do business downtown without fear of getting tickets, according to columnist Colin Read.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Technical training a key part of education

    Recently honored, Champlain Valley Educational Services offers meaningful careers for those not heading for college, according to columnist Colin Read.

    July 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Constitution withstands test of time

    The nation's founding document is a delicate balance that we should continue to nurture, according to columnist Colin Read.

    July 6, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg This region helped shape a new nation

    As we celebrate our nation's history, we must also appreciate the key role the North Country played in the founding of two countries, according to columnist Colin Read.

    June 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Diversity of views a key to progress

    With today's mobile society and 24-hour media, like-minded people tend to congregate together stifling diversity of opinion, according to columnist Colin Read.

    June 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Local heros needed to inspire us all

    It takes individual talent and initiative to truly move a community forward to fulfill its economic destiny, according to columnist Colin Read.

    June 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Fee on carbon needed

    Creating incentives to curb emissions is critical to containing climate change, according to columnist Colin Read.

    May 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Governor inspires renewed shared-services effort

    Tax-cap plan has provided incentives for municipalities to get together to try and increase savings and efficiency, according to columnist Colin Read.

    May 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Pipeline issue has no simple answer

    If Alberta oil is not transported through Keystone, it will cause more pollution to send it to China, according to columnist Colin Read.

    May 11, 2014 1 Photo