Sunday, Dec. 17, 2006
Time for SC to act on increasing minimum wage
SC Statehouse Report
17, 2006 - -South Carolinians are a warm, kind and generous
Just ask Jermaine Husser, head of the Lowcountry Food Bank.
At this time of year, people open their hearts and wallets
to collect and give 400 tons of free food for thousands of
hungry people along the coast.
But getting donations and help around the holidays isn't
too tough. It's the rest of the year that poses challenges,
especially in South Carolina, now recognized as the hungriest
state in the nation.
"It's feast or famine for us," Husser said. "Around
the summertime when people's minds are on vacation or their
leisurely life, they forget about the people who are not getting
any food or the kids who are not getting lunch or breakfast
States in green have a minimum wage higher than the
federal $5.15 standard. States in blue are at the federal
standard. States in yellow like SC don't have a minimum
wage law. Oklahoma (red) has a minimum wage below the
federal standard. More: U.S.
Department of Labor.
According to a November report by the U.S. Department of
Agriculture, 15.5 percent of South Carolinians are "food
insecure," which means they aren't able financially to
guarantee they will avoid hunger without help or charity.
The study also showed some 6.3 percent of South Carolinians
- - about 100,000 families - - experienced hunger between
2003 and 2005. This most recent federal data translates into
another dubious South Carolina first - - number 1 in hunger.
Just eight years ago, the Palmetto State ranked 21st.
About the same time in 1997, the federal government increased
the minimum wage from $4.25 to $5.15. Since then, inflation
has erased the buying power of the wage increase. $5.15 today
buys the equivalent of only $3.95 in 1995, according to the
Economic Policy Institute.
Another set of facts: South Carolina has about 64,000 working
poor families with children - - families where parents work
most of the year, but who live at or below the poverty level,
which is $20,000 a year for a family of four in 2006.
So if you mix all this information, it's easy to draw the
conclusion that a significant number of South Carolinians
are working, but don't make enough money to get out of poverty
or hunger, at least for part of the year. Again - - they work,
but they don't earn a living wage.
In the last few weeks, two similar bills, one in the Senate
and another in the House, have been prefiled that call for
South Carolina to set a minimum wage at $6.15, or $1 above
the federal standard. Currently, the state is one of six without
a minimum wage law. Half of states have minimum wages at or
above the federal minimum.
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Husser, the head of the Food Bank, says raising the minimum
wage is a great strategy for South Carolina's charitable people
to do something for poor people throughout the year. A $1
increase in the minimum wage would translate to $8 more per
day or $2,000 per year. It would raise living standards and
Sen. Darryl Jackson, the Richland County Democrat pushing
the Senate bill, said South Carolina needs to raise the minimum
wage to send a clear message that it is time to break the
mindset that hard-working people aren't appreciated.
"I would ask anyone whether they would be able to survive
today on what their salary was 10 years ago," he said.
"Most people would say no."
A common argument against raising the minimum wage is that
it would put a burden on business, particularly small business.
But in North Carolina, which this year voted to boost the
minimum wage by $1, businesses aren't relocating because of
the new law, Jackson said.
In fact, raising the minimum wage might be good for the economy,
according to Sue Berkowitz of the S.C. Appleseed Legal Justice
Center. Why? Because poor people spend their money on surviving,
"That money gets put into the economy. It gets spent
in our state. If wages go up, we will see it helps South Carolina's
State leaders need to consider seriously the proposal to
raise the minimum wage to help lift working people out of
poverty. It's a practical way to help smooth the rough edges
that the working poor experience most of the year. By doing
so, there might be plenty of food, a basic necessity, throughout
the year, not just during holidays when food banks are overflowing
Send your comments to Andy Brack at email@example.com.
His book of commentary, Bugging
the Palmettos, is available for
here for more.
12/17: A simpler
Another great cartoon from Bill McLemore:
12/13: Cell phones
making her livid
To the editor:
PLEASE TELL me how I can start the paperwork to initiate
a cell phone usage bill in SC?? I am livid at the number of
people on the phone and NEVER concentrating on driving.
-- Brenda Sweat, North Charleston, S.C.
Thoughtful piece on voting by mail
To the editor:
I enjoyed your thoughtful column on vote-by-mail. But one
question I havent heard a good answer for on vote-by-mail
is the issue of information asymmetry.
I think you and I would agree the voters should have as much
information as possible about the candidates before they vote.
And we both know that campaigns often hold information (usually
bad or negative information) about their opponent until the
last days of an election. Hence there is an information asymmetry.
So my concern has been what happens to someone who voted
by mail, but than new information comes to light that changes
their mind? They cant go back and change their vote.
Its the same reason why I have concerns about expanding
absentee and early voting.
Any thoughts or arguments to shed some light on my concerns?
-- Jay Ragley, National Federation of Independent Businesses,
Editor's reply: A change should force candidates
to get information to the public sooner. The "October
surprise" could turn into the "September surprise."
Other voting ideas
To the editor:
As you point out, Oregon had an easy time doing this due
to a lack of past electoral corruption and a high rate of
voter interest. It might not be as easy to implement here,
but there are certainly some ideas that we need to look at
in the meantime:
1) Early Voting: Weve changed absentee voting
rules so that anyone can do it for any reason, so why not
open up early voting precinct locations, say the Saturday
before an election, especially in rural and suburban counties,
where a lot of people have long work commutes which might
keep them from voting?
2) Referenda simplification: The ballot questions
this year produced long lines as people tried to read and
figure this stuff out. The plain English explanations
were as difficult to read for many voters as the actual
legal language, especially in rural areas where voters had
a lower level of education. Maybe we need to establish some
sort of time limit for referenda questions, maybe by determining
an average reading and decision time, and give the Legislature
a limit on how much they can put on the ballot, say five
or seven minutes.
3) Employer participation: We expect employers to
accommodate military service and jury duty. Why not encourage
employers to adjust their election day work schedules?
-- Earl Capps, Summerville
Thoughless column on voting.
South Carolina rates very high in adult illiteracy. Depending
on which source you use the number of illiterates is between
one fifth and one third. (We don't need to feel like the Lone
Ranger on this, either. We are not lapping the pack.)
So you think it would be a good thing if all these people
voted? These same people who cannot venture more than 10 miles
from home because they cannot read street signs; these same
people who cannot read a newspaper; these same people who
cannot find the Atlantic Ocean on a globe; these same people
who think the Civil War was fought between the Americans and
the Redcoats . . . ? You get my point....
I do not encourage people to register or to vote. On Election
Day, I pray for sleet and freezing rain driven by high winds
to keep this crowd from the polls. I no sooner want to be
governed by the types the illiterates elect than I would want
Jim Clyburn operating on my gall bladder. He already has his
hands in my pockets and that is quite enough.
You should be ashamed of your thoughtless article which you
are passing off as reasoned journalism.
-- Ken Fanning, Florence, S.C.
Editor's note: Thank you for your comment.
We live in a representative democracy. That means everyone,
regardless of their reading level, has the right to vote.
Just because someone can't read doesn't mean they're stupid.
Someone could read the ballot to them and they could then
vote. (They don't have to read to watch TV to learn about
candidates.) If you don't like the system, move out of the
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