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GOLIS: Too much politics, too few jobs

By PETE GOLIS

Let’s begin this morning with a show of hands.

Raise your hand now if you think everyone should be paid a living wage.

I thought so. Except for the guy in the Ebenezer Scrooge T-shirt, we all share the belief that every last one of us deserves the wages necessary to provide food and shelter for his or her loved ones.

Now, raise your hand if you think government can make this happen.

Pete Golis.

Anyone?

This is the problem, isn’t it? It makes everyone feel good to demand jobs that pay a living wage, but it doesn’t move the needle. It’s more symbolism than substance, more politics than real-world economics.

In Sonoma County, these familiar controversies also become a distraction. Right now, we don’t need politics as usual. We need a grown-up discussion about our economic future.

Last week, the Santa Rosa Planning Commission was asked to reconsider approval of a Target store because a spokesperson for the retail chain admitted that he overstated the percentage of full-time jobs that the new store would provide.

Enter the usual suspects.

The Living Wage Coalition of Sonoma County declared that the store shouldn’t be permitted until the city completes something called a community impact report.

The Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce endorsed the project with a spokesman saying, “We support any and all jobs.”

We are left to ask: Does the Living Wage Coalition think it would better to have 250 people unemployed than to have have them working at a Target store? Does the Chamber of Commerce think prosperity is around the corner if we just build enough chain stores?

Are we going to keep hearing these same simplistic arguments over and over again?

On Thursday night, the Planning Commission approved the Coddingtown project but not before another contentious debate that brought more heat than light to the choices the city will face in the coming years.

It is in Sonoma County’s interest to have all of its workers fairly compensated. Income inequality is on its way to becoming a national scandal. Higher wages mean more money circulating through the local economy. More people with health insurance means fewer uninsured patients who become a financial burden on health care providers and the community-at-large.

But saying it doesn’t make it so. The best of intentions alone cannot create wealth or repeal the basic laws of market economics.

For the sake of argument, let’s say that the Target company agrees to pay its local employees $25 an hour and to buy their health insurance, too.

What would happen? The store would raise prices to cover the cost of higher rates of compensation. Faced with higher prices, shoppers — many out of necessity — would take their business to a chain store that doesn’t pay as well but charges lower prices. Wal-Mart, perhaps. Or maybe an online store that doesn’t pay any wage, living or otherwise, to local workers.

So here we are, left to a lousy choice — between a store that doesn’t pay as well as we would like, or a store that can’t survive, leaving more people out of work, plus an empty building gathering dust and casting a long shadow on its neighbors.

How is this a good outcome?

While locals were arguing about living wages, a Field Poll last week found that Californians are profoundly discouraged about their economic prospects. In a state that once embodied optimism about the future, 88 percent believe the state is living in “bad times,” the survey said, and only 31 percent expect the economy to improve in the foreseeable future. Twenty-four percent expect things to get worse.

In Sonoma County, fewer people are employed today than were employed a decade ago. In a world that is reinventing itself at light-speed, we need to organize to help workers wherever we can, but we don’t have the luxury of revisiting the same old controversies.

If we are serious about standing up for the rights of workers (and business, too), we will find a middle ground. For conservatives, it may mean embracing new taxes that pay for the improvements necessary to make local communities competitive with the rest of the world. For liberals, it may mean agreeing that a reflexive opposition to every kind of viable economic activity won’t make life better for working people.

We also must go to work on building the foundations of an economy that rewards workers. That means a school system that prepares kids for 21st century jobs. That means transportation and communications systems that allow hometown employers to compete with their rivals around the world. That means learning to make it on our own, independent of the train wreck we call state government.

And that means creating a common-sense, hometown government ready to move beyond the old politics and look a new world square in the eye.

Pete Golis is a columnist for The Press Democrat. Email him at golispd@gmail.com.





20 Responses to “GOLIS: Too much politics, too few jobs”

  1. keith rhinehart says:

    I believe a two-worker household can make it on $13-15 an hour, plus benefits, as I mentioned several times during my (brief) campaign. The County should take the lead by reducing pay, pension and excessive overtime costs rather than raising taxes by initiative – Lead by example.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  2. Grey Whitmore says:

    Blah, blah, blah.

    Grumble, grumble, grumble.

    Left wing this. Republicans that.

    No jobs. Too many jobs.

    Blah, blah, blah and more blah.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 6

  3. Jean Anderson says:

    Although I’d prefer a Nordstrom store that increases the quality of goods in Sonoma County, another Target that produces entry-level jobs is better than nothing, especially if it provides a second income for people who need to cover expenses, or for students trying to pay for their educations.

    As for the left-wing whiners who routinely post here, try starting your own company, invest your own money, provide employment for others, pay high Federal state and local taxes, and create wealth and abundance for yourself and others. Then you can pop off with your idiotic sophistry. But if all you’ve done is leech from the taxpayers, then go complain to the mirror because no one else cares.

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  4. Skippy says:

    “Although deeply sympathetic to the French in general and the revolutionary cause in particular, Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) deplored the excesses of violence that took place even before the implementation of the Reign of Terror. Still, he believed that many of the steps taken by the French, such as deposing their king, had been necessary, and claimed that most North Americans supported the French. The Terror would later make him reconsider still more, though without renouncing the Revolution entirely. ”

    That’s what the word “reality” means to me.

    Thumb up 12 Thumb down 2

  5. Canthisbe says:

    ‘If we are serious about standing up for the rights of workers (and business, too), we will find a middle ground. For conservatives, it may mean embracing new taxes that pay for the improvements necessary to make local communities competitive with the rest of the world. For liberals, it may mean agreeing that a reflexive opposition to every kind of viable economic activity won’t make life better for working people.”
    So the conservatives need to agree to more taxes so that the people will be forced to hand more of their money over to the governing class and the liberals have to agree that their reflexive opposition to every kind of viable economic actively won’t make life better for the working people.
    Doesn’t seem like an equal sacrifice. How about the liberals agree to more tax cuts and less government and the conservatives agree that their reflexive opposition to every kind of restriction on our constitutional rights won’t make life better for all people?

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  6. Reality Check says:

    A labor group did a study that found a significant number of Walmart employees–young single moms–qualify for food stamps and other benefits. Ipso facto, if only Walmart would pay more, govt would save money.

    True, but . . . . most of these people, if not for Walmart would have no job and thus qualify for more benefits, many (most?) use Walmart as start in life and move on to better jobs, which saves govt money because Walmart gave them a chance.

    In any case, the consequences of single parenting and poorly educated high school grads is the responsibility of Walmart (or Target), or so such thinking goes.

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  7. Canthisbe says:

    Juvenal, Do you have any backup to the claim that the Target jobholders means a net loss for us once food stamps, welfare payments and ER-adminstered medical treatment are added up?
    I am assuming that people will not be moving here from outside of Sonoma County for Target jobs. Those jobs will be filled by local people who are either unemployed, already have one other job or were making even less than what Target pays. How will they create a net loss even when we add up the entitlements?

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  8. Tom says:

    “Does the Chamber of Commerce think prosperity is around the corner if we just build enough chain stores?

    Are we going to keep hearing these same simplistic arguments over and over again?”

    It’s hypocritical to denounce their stance when the PD keeps endorsing them over and over.

    (And for the right-wingers here, the PD doesn’t endorse Living-wage coalition types.)

    But hypocritical is the name of the game here. You blather on about pensions, yet never take Mr. Olivares to task for spiking his pay his last two years and who now gets a hefty pension. Hands off, right?

    Thumb up 20 Thumb down 8

  9. Tom says:

    “The left despises the American Revolution and always has, as it established our republic and the freedoms therein.”

    Wow. Does the world “reality” mean anything to you at all?

    “No, real leftists long for and admire the French and Russian Revolutions,”

    You mean like Thomas Jefferson?

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  10. John Galt says:

    “Raise your hand now if you think everyone should be paid a living wage.”

    (My hand remains plastered to my side).

    No, I think that everyone should be paid fairly according to the value of the knowledge, work and skills that they provide. If I, as a person, have not properly equipped myself to be a valuable employee, then I shouldn’t be paid an artificially inflated “living wage”.

    What I want is equal opportunity- which is pretty much available. Public education, grants and programs to help just about everyone- and people clamoring to get in- more opportunity than almost any other place in the world.

    What happened to the American ideals of hard work and industriousness? Of improving your self to improve your station in life? At what point did we agree that we want a system that promises “to each according to his need” (where have we heard that before?) We know how well that has worked when tried…….

    How out of touch is Mr. Golis when he assumes that everyone agrees with his idea about a “living wage?” Who determines what a “living wage” is? Government functionaries? Is cable TV with HBO now a “right”, or is that an extravegance saved for “the rich”- apparently now defined as anyone making more that $200,000 per year?

    THe answer is simple- turn the market loose, and teach the value of education and the principles of self-reliance, hard work, and personal responsibility.

    And if you’re not willing to take on the challenge of improving your situation, then you may have to move to a less expensive area to maintain your “quality of life”.

    The more the market is manipulated, the less opportunity exists, and the more drag is placed on the economy and free market corrections.

    Social engineering is not a substitute for healthy and free markets.

    Geez… I think I’m going to move to the mountains…..

    Thumb up 26 Thumb down 6

  11. Snarky says:

    Oh, Poor little Petie. Golis lectures us year after year even upon retirement yet lacks the ability to accept feedback from readers such as….. we’ve had enough of you. Nobody cares. Go fishing.

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  12. R.B.Fish says:

    “And that means creating a common-sense, hometown government ready to move beyond the old politics and look a new world square in the eye.” And, “That means a school system that prepares kids for 21st century jobs.”

    Now that’s funny!

    Poor Pete. (Although a nice person)He’s been trying hard over the year to wean himself over liberalism by bringing salient points and issues to be resolved through intelligent, ethical management but he just caves in to himself.”And that means creating a common-sense, hometown government ready to move beyond the old politics and look a new world square in the eye.” Now, that’s even funnier.

    California, Sonoma County to include all small towns are so blatantly corrupt, administratively inept, and phony ther’s no way of coming out of the coming freight train crash. It sort of reminds me of the Seinfeld gag “Festivus” but politically in the north coast it’s “incestuous for all of us.” Liberal politics have virtually destroyed the American educational system to a point where now we hope most of our kids make it out of high school with some grip on reality let alone a good education. That’s higher education not vocational school.

    Pete, I assume you have had a carreer as a writer/journalist/reporter…I don’t know. When you were young did you ever dream of being a great writer? Did you get paid admirable,handsome wages for every hour you spent writing? Did you ever have a menial job you hated just to eat and have shelter? Did you ever try an activity and fail?

    Where along the rivers of life do liberals learn that they know what’s best for evrybody ese.

    Amen.

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  13. bill says:

    Wages in Sonoma County for service jobs are similar to other parts of the state. But the cost of living in Sonoma County is higher than much of the state. Rent is higher in Sonoma County than much of the state. Yet, roads are in terrible condition, public sector pensions are outrageous and driving the local government to bankruptcy as has happened in 3 other California cities in the past year or 2. A failure to reduce public safety expense as all other services are being reduced and a dismal fiscal outlook for education make this expensive place to live much less desirable. Better wages are needed in the private sector.

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  14. Lets be Reasonable says:

    So government can’t help create well paying jobs? What about this article in today’s paper:
    .
    http://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/20120715/BUSINESS/120719809/1350?p=1&tc=pg
    .
    Every one dollar spent by the tourism bureau brings in $85 in direct revenue, for a total of $209 million for 2010. That sounds like a lot of jobs to me…

    Thumb up 11 Thumb down 7

  15. Snarky says:

    Too much Golis, actually. The epitome of a man unsettled without attention from the public.

    Thumb up 9 Thumb down 3

  16. Skippy says:

    “I assure you that the zillionaires profitting off your loss don’t give a crap about this situation. They haven’t read history – such as the causes and effects of the French and Russian revolutions.”

    And there you have it.
    The un-subtle hinting of the committed leftist that, if wealth is not redistributed soon, violence will follow.
    Of course, the leftist will deny the inference, claiming he was just reading a history text and thought he found a salient point.
    Horsepucky.
    The left despises the American Revolution and always has, as it established our republic and the freedoms therein.
    No, real leftists long for and admire the French and Russian Revolutions, since they resulted in zillions of innocent people being slaughtered in the name of fairness and equality.
    How many times must leftists demonstrate their love of chaos, slavery and death in order for normal people to understand how dangerous they are?
    For those who poo-poo this analysis, just go back to sleep.
    You may not have any interest in collectivist butchers, but they have a lot of interest in you.

    Thumb up 27 Thumb down 8

  17. bear says:

    I support the Target project, with a few qualifications.

    Yes, we all started working as teens at menial jobs. I started as a pot washer in a Mexican restaurant, then worked my way through college in the food service industry.

    But the editorial ignores 30 years of trickle down economic policy that has resulted in constantly declining real incomes and benefits for the middle class. And a constantly increasing disparity in income distribution. It ignores the fact that the minimum wage, in real dollars, is far less than it should be if it were ever adjusted for inflation.

    Please don’t tell me that graduated, modest increases in the minimum wage are job-killers. Repeated studies have shown this is not the case.

    Modest price inflation is better for the middle class than DEflation. Checked your house value or rent lately? This is because many people can’t afford to live here, especially if they’re working a cash register at Target or Walmart.

    Yes, many people work “off the books.” OMG this is against the law? Plus it threatens future eligibility for SS, Medicare and unemployment benefits, and reduces tax revenue that pays for services we all say we want. It might also be that this practice encourages illegal immigration.

    While we’ve come to accept that two incomes are required for a middle-class lifestyle, it’s another thing entirely to require two jobs PER PERSON. But this is becoming the “new normal.” I pity the children who are raised under these circumstances. You should, too.

    So let’s eliminate extended unemployment benefits and cut the hell out of the food stamp budget. See what that does to the economy! We’re in a downward spiral, which can be explained as “cut and lose” economics.

    There are all sorts of undercurrents at work here. Why get a college education you can’t afford that won’t get you a living wage job? Why develop manufacturing skills for a job sector that is dying? Maybe we’ll all wind up selling cheap Chinese stuff to each other. If that’s what you want. If that’s what you vote for.

    I assure you that the zillionaires profitting off your loss don’t give a crap about this situation. They haven’t read history – such as the causes and effects of the French and Russian revolutions.

    As long as you’re lying down, they will walk all over you and your families.

    “Please, sir, may I have another?”

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  18. George Ren says:

    When your house is on fire, you don’t worry about that little rose growing at the back of the house. You call the fire department and put the fire out.

    The local economy in Sonoma County is depressed and needs to be started not suppressed by side track issues like an artifical inflated wage for employees working in a box store.

    Santa Rosa and Somoma County needs to keep their eye on the big picture, not trying to micro manage the way businesses conduct their business.

    Thumb up 28 Thumb down 5

  19. Juvenal says:

    “It is in Sonoma County’s interest to have all of its workers fairly compensated. Income inequality is on its way to becoming a national scandal. Higher wages mean more money circulating through the local economy. More people with health insurance means fewer uninsured patients who become a financial burden on health care providers and the community-at-large.

    But saying it doesn’t make it so.”

    No, Pete, but rejecting employers whose presence here means a net loss for us once food stamps, welfare payments and ER-adminstered medical treatment are added up WILL make it so.

    Thumb up 20 Thumb down 8

  20. GAJ says:

    On point Pete.

    Virtually every successful person I know started part time at a retail job of some sort.

    Your first job is not your LAST job and if you don’t like a particular job, or a particular merchant, then simply don’t apply.

    One of the Planning Commissioners most viscerally opposed to the project lamented her cut in hours at the non profit she worked at.

    She obviously couldn’t comprehend that she’s a perfect example of someone who could use a part time job until things turn around at her primary employer!

    Thumb up 28 Thumb down 8

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