- Associated Press - Monday, February 17, 2014

Holland Sentinel. Feb. 9.

To reward work, increase the minimum wage

Congress should raise the minimum wage to make sure work is worthwhile for all Americans. When it does so, it should also link future increases in the minimum wage to the inflation rate so we don’t have to repeat this political battle over and over again.

The main argument against raising the minimum wage is that it will actually reduce the number of jobs available as employers try to control their overall labor costs. That argument is valid, but history indicates that the impact of a higher minimum wage on job numbers is not dramatic. And while some jobs may be lost, we think it’s a worthwhile tradeoff to give millions of Americans something a little closer to a family-sustaining income. A full-time worker earning the national minimum wage of $7.25 an hour (it’s $7.40 in Michigan and more than $8 in eight states) makes $15,080 a year, less than the official poverty level income of $15,510 for an adult with one dependent. A full-time job should be more economically rewarding than that - no job should pay so little that someone sees welfare or unemployment benefits as an attractive alternative to working.

Opponents of a higher minimum wage also point out that most jobs that pay that rate were never meant to support a family, but were designed for teenagers and others just getting their start in the workforce. That may have been true in the past, but if you look at the face behind the fast-food counter today it’s as often an adult as a high school student. The slow recovery from the recession has led many family “breadwinners” to take jobs that were once the province of students earning a little pocket money. New research by University of Massachusetts Boston economists Randy Alberda and Michael Carr, reported on CNN Money, that factors out students and other non-breadwinners found that 21 million Americans are trying to support households on low-wage jobs (the economists set their threshold at a little more than $11).

In any case, telling workers at the bottom of the economic ladder that they don’t deserve an extra dollar or two at the same time incomes are soaring for people at the top end strikes us as churlish. If a higher minimum wage means paying a little more for a hamburger or for the office custodial service, those are costs we’re willing to accept.

How much to raise the minimum wage is a difficult question. Raising the level to $10.10 an hour, as proposed by Democrats in Congress, would put the minimum wage near its all-time high in inflation-adjusted terms. (California Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed a law that will raise that state’s minimum wage to $10.10; Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has proposed raising his state’s minimum from $8.25 to $10.) Increasing the minimum wage to somewhere in the $8 to $9 range would put the rate near its historic average in terms of buying power, and we believe that most employers could absorb such an increase without major dislocation.

When a higher minimum wage is established, it should be linked to the Consumer Price Index so that it can be adjusted annually without congressional action. We shouldn’t be making this issue a political football every four or five years.

Raising the minimum wage in 2014 is the right thing to do, even if it comes with some drawbacks. Americans willing to work should receive a decent reward for their effort.

The slow recovery from the recession has led many family “breadwinners” to take jobs that were once the province of students earning a little pocket money.


Daily Press (Escanaba). Feb. 12.

Don’t let propane crisis happen again

Many of our neighbors in the Upper Peninsula are facing a real crisis this winter, caused by both man and nature, the astronomical price hikes for propane are causing hardship across the country - and right here in Delta, Schoolcraft and Menominee counties.

Due to a shortage of propane, customers and dealers are having a hard time getting their hands on the fuel. Even when supplies are available, the high cost of propane is leaving it unaffordable to many residents. During one of the harshest and coldest U.P. winters in recent memory, that’s a dangerous combination.

Monday (Feb. 10), a delegation of state officials and elected representatives gathered in Escanaba to discuss how agencies are trying to help residents through the propane shortage. Their efforts have been admirable, and helpful. Gov. Rick Snyder just extended the State of Energy Emergency in Michigan until March 1. That allows people who deliver propane to work longer hours - hopefully increasing propane supplies. More monetary aid has also been made available to people who need help with their heating bills. Local agencies such as the Community Action Agency, St. Vincent de Paul Society and others are helping those who can’t pay their heating bills and are fielding a record number of requests.

We hope that those in need get the help they need and applaud those agencies and individuals that have stepped forward to help in difficult times. You are the backbone of the relief effort. We hope the sub-zero temperatures that have gripped the U.P. for so long give way to an early spring and some relief from heating costs.

When winter does end, this will be just a painful memory. There is, however, a bigger issue on the horizon. What have we learned from what has happened this winter? More important, what are the powers that be going to do to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

This crisis was made by man and nature. Brutal cold nationwide fueled demand. Propane plant shutdowns, transportation troubles, and other logistical woes fanned the fire. Before anyone realized, there was a real crisis at hand.

Now is the time for propane industry dealers and distributors to join together with our elected officials, state and federal agencies, relief organization and whoever else it takes to come up with a comprehensive plan to make sure another crippling propane shortage does not happen. A plan needs to be put into place at both the state and federal level to improve logistics and availability of fuel so children in the U.P. and the rest of the country don’t have to go to bed in a cold house without heat. Their parents shouldn’t have to make the choice between paying the propane bill or putting food on the table. In the United States in 2014 - this is an outrage. It should not be allowed to happen.

There needs to be a plan in place for the future - a solution.

We have elected representatives to carry out our wishes - to serve the public and find solutions to problems. State Rep. Ed McBroom, state Sen. Tom Casperson, Gov. Rick Snyder, U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek, U.S. Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabinow - here’s your homework assignment. Don’t let history repeat itself.

Should a propane shortage of this degree occur again in the future, it will mean that those who had the ability to prevent it did not learn from history.

It’s time you do your homework.


The Detroit News. Feb. 11.

Boehner spares GOP another black eye

Experience is a great teacher, and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio seems to have learned a valuable lesson from the Republicans’ disastrous decision last fall to let the government shut down.

The GOP-controlled House was on its way to yet another game of brinksmanship with the White House over raising the debt ceiling before Boehner called a halt, saying he’d allow a vote on a so-called clean bill to increase the borrowing limit. And the bill passed the House Tuesday (Feb. 11) with 28 GOP votes.

Republican lawmakers went into the latest default deadline determined to win off-setting spending concessions that President Barack Obama was equally determined not to give.

They were in a similar position last fall over passage of a continuing resolution to keep funding the government. That time, Boehner caved to the most conservative elements of his caucus and allowed the federal government to shut down for two weeks.

Blame was laid squarely on the shoulders of congressional Republicans, and with his party’s popularity plunging, Boehner ultimately capitulated.

Meanwhile, instead of being focused on the bungled launch of Obamacare, public attention veered to the fractures in the Republican Party.

Boehner doesn’t want a repeat of that calamity. Democrats facing voters this fall are split over whether to defend Obamacare or run away from it. Continued implementation problems, soaring premiums and policy cancellations have turned a majority of Americans against the Affordable Care Act, and the Democrats who supported it face an uphill challenge on Election Day.

The speaker wants to keep it that way. Republicans were bound to lose another debt limit showdown, particularly because they couldn’t even agree amongst themselves what concessions to demand.

Spending hawks wanted to tie the vote to deep, bold appropriations cuts, which they had no hope of winning. Boehner countered with a more modest proposal to raise the debt ceiling in exchange for restoring military pension benefits. But he couldn’t get the votes he needed.

The speaker’s move is not only sound politically, it’s also the right policy. The time to address spending is not after the money has already been spent and the bills are due. Cuts should be made up front. And the government should pay its debts.

While the White House may believe it has won a victory here, the reality is that voters know where to lay the blame for runaway spending. Although deficits have declined thanks largely to the sequester cuts that emerged from the messy 2011 fiscal compromise, the shortfall is projected to start rapidly rising again due to the Democrats’ big government policies.

Boehner is smart to keep the spotlight on those policies, particularly Obamacare, rather than to allow his caucus to spear each other as they go tilting at windmills.


Grand Haven Tribune. Feb. 11

Protect Sleeping Bear at all costs

Back in 2011, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore won the title of Most Beautiful Place in America from ABC-TV’s “Good Morning America.”

The visuals the popular morning show aired of the gorgeous sweeping dunes and sparkling blue Lake Michigan water captivated viewers, both locally and across the nation.

Sleeping Bear Dunes, located west of Traverse City in Benzie and Leelanau counties, is a truly magnificent place, and the effect the dunes have on the state’s tourism industry is stunning. The dunes - part of the National Parks system - generates about $132 million annually and helps sustain about 2,300 jobs in the region.

Nearly 1.4 million people visited the park in 2012.

Recently, long-awaited legislation that would help protect Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore has made a significant leap forward in the U.S. House of Representatives.

U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Iron River, noted that the House Committee on Natural Resources recently approved a draft of legislation that would designate about 32,500 acres of the 111-square-mile park as wilderness area.

The bill would ensure recreational access for the area in question, while also taking steps to protect the natural features of the area, such as county roads and historical structures. The right to hunt and fish in designated wilderness areas is specifically protected in the legislation.

“Northern Michigan is very fortunate to be home to this extraordinary stretch of shoreline,” Benishek said. “This bill strikes a common sense, balanced approach between conservation and recreation that nearly all Michiganders will support. I am hopeful that we can get this bill passed and delivered to the president’s desk so that future generations will also be able to enjoy the natural wonder that is Sleeping Bear Dunes.”

We agree 100 percent.

Sleeping Bear Dunes is the jewel of Michigan’s sweeping tourism industry, and every step possible should be taken to protect this stunning natural landscape for future generations to enjoy.

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