It’s time to focus on issues, stop bickering

Published 6:26 pm Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Dear legislators around the nation, it’s time to stop bickering over partisan beliefs and, instead, focus on helping your constituents.

Bills to raise the minimum wage are working their way through the U.S. Congress and Alabama Legislature.

The U.S. Congress bill, authored by U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 from its current $7.25 level. In the Alabama Legislature, our own Rep. Darrio Melton, D-Selma, proposes an increase to $9.80. Melton’s proposal would also provide periodic increases depending on cost of living changes.

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Unfortunately, many Selma residents who live below the poverty line also have full or part-time jobs. Though the poverty level may rise with an increase in minimum wages, yearly income would surely increase for workers in minimum wage jobs.

Liberals and Democrats alike argue that an increase in yearly income would provide a better quality of life for the millions earning a minimum wage job.

In January, State Rep. David Colston, D-Hayneville, used a single parent’s story as an example of how the change would be beneficial.

“It’s hard to make it right now when you’re a single mother, single father, or just to take care of yourself when you’re making $7.25 an hour,” Colston said.

Conservatives and Republicans argue a minimum wage increase would cause payroll increases for thousands of businesses across the nation and eliminate thousands of jobs across the nation.

Earlier this month, the Congressional Budget Office said raising the minimum wage would boost earnings for 16.5 million people and lift 900,000 above the poverty line. At the same time, an increase would reduce total employment by about .3 percent by 2016.

Though partisan arguments will certainly shape whether a minimum wage increase is successful, legislators have a responsibility to provide a certain quality of life for their constituents. If our representatives believe that losing .3 percent of jobs around the nation would reduce the overall quality of life for Americans, then an increase in the minimum wage is unlikely to pass. Similarly, if lifting Americans out of poverty is of utmost importance, then a minimum wage is likely to pass.

It’s hard to believe that boosting earnings for 5.5 percent of our nation’s population is less important than preventing a loss of approximately 500,000, but, If the increase results in a loss of well-paying jobs and an increase in minimum wage jobs, then perhaps an rise in wages isn’t warranted.

The discussion is really up to the men and women we elected to represent us in the U.S. Congress and Alabama Legislature.

But rather than bickering over partisan politics, I’d prefer to see meaningful conversation about how a rise in wages would affect each legislator’s district.

Melton should argue for Dallas County and the Black Belt. U.S. Rep Terri Sewell, D-Selma, should do the same. Our U.S. senators Jeff Session, R-Ala., and Richard Shelby, R-Ala., should focus the effect on the entire state.