Reader's view: A rich nation must address the needs of the poor
At his second inauguration, President Obama said simply that a great nation acts "together." To some, this decoded as, "Government will reach beyond its limited mandate."...
At his second inauguration, President Obama said simply that a great nation acts "together." To some, this decoded as, "Government will reach beyond its limited mandate."
The president's State of the Union speech proposed raising the minimum wage and federally funding state preschools for all children. These proposals generated startling responses. According to some Obama opponents, many studies have found higher minimum wages have no effect on the rate of poverty because employers adapt by reducing work hours and take-home pay. Wage increases therefore perversely lower pay.
These opponents also claim that most of a permanent welfare class below the poverty line does no work. Most workers earning the minimum wage live in households above the poverty line. The Federal Earned Income Tax Credit already boosts earnings of low-waged single parents to more than $9 per hour; therefore, minimum-wage adjustments are mis-targeted and futile.
With every child attending preschool, some suspect we will create an entitlement monster; and any academic gain in science, technology, engineering and mathematics will fade after the third grade. Income disparity takes its own lamentable toll, but we also pay a price for disparity of educational opportunity ("Rich-poor spending gap on schools hurts kids, report says," Feb. 20).
Many of the well-off compete for limited openings in private preschools, but the prospect that public preschools might deliver similar advantages stirs the specter of hiring more skilled union teachers, producing exactly the opposite effect of the limitless gush of lobbying dollars influencing many state education systems.
Are studies supporting universal pre-K programs merely cultural speculations, or could pre-K eventually lower special-education costs and crime and raise income tax revenues?
The future we face together in addressing the needs of impoverished families should not divide a rich and exceptional country.