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  • OPINION - Kentucky Derby 139

    Posted by Chris Conley

    2013 Kentucky Derby, Oaks Logos Unveiled

    NEWS BLOG (WSAU) It’s Kentucky Derby weekend.

    For those who don’t mind risking a few dollars, here are my Kentucky Derby picks.

    My pick to win is a longshot: Revolutionary

    The horse’s people-connections are impeccable. The dark bay colt is owned by WinStar Farms, one of the best breeding and racing stables in the country. WinStar’s best horses are trained by Todd Pletcher, who has never won the Kentucky Derby but is among the nation’s leading horse-conditioners year after year. Revolutionary’s breeder is Wil Farish, who is known for preferring stamina over speed. War Pass is Revolutionary’s sire; AP Indy is his maternal grand-sire.

    Revolutionary won his last two races by a head – one circling the field, and one by rallying in-between horses in the stretch. Being able to win “in traffic” is critical in the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field.

    There are knocks against Revolutionary… his regular jockey, Javier Castellano, decided to ride another horse (Normandy Invasion), and Revolutionary’s last two races were run in slow times. No matter. Calvin Borel will ride on Saturday. He’s one of the few jockeys who regularly rides at Churchill Downs for the entire season. He's won the Kentucky Derby three times, each time saving ground and threading through traffic for a seemingly overmatched horse.

    I also like Black Onxy, who will be a heavy longshot. He’s been racing against easier horses on the turf in Florida. His jockey, Joe Bravo, could have been cleaning up at Belmont Park while other riders were out-of-town on Saturday. Bravo and trainer Kelly Breen are a potent team at mid-Atlantic racetracks. I don't think they'd make the trip to Louisville if they didn't think they had a chance.

    Normandy Invasion is also a reasonable choice. The knock against him is that he’s never won against winners.

    I don’t like the favorites in tomorrow’s race. Goldencents is the horse many of the insiders are picking, based on his Santa Anita Derby win a month ago. Many California horses flop in the Kentucky Derby, and I think he’ll be too close to the pace and will wilt before the finish line. Verrazano has never lost, but he has only 4 lifetime starts. Many people will pick him, but he may not have the seasoning to win. Orb has won all three of his races this year, but his times have been slow.



    There are two other interesting story-lines:

    Goldencents’ jockey, Kevin Krigger, might become the first black jockey to win the Kentucky Derby in the modern era. In the 19th century black jockeys were ubiquitous; thoroughbred racing was considered too dangerous for white ‘gentlemen’ riders.

    A female jockey has never won the Kentucky Derby, and Rosie Napravnik has a reasonably good chance of changing that on Mylute. Horse racing is the only sport where females compete against males on even terms. Calling her the best “girl jockey” short-changes her accomplishments. During my vacaction in New Orleans I saw her regularly out-ride the men. She's in the upper echelon of riders in the entire country.



    Lastly, a sad announcement from my horse racing family. For those of you who don’t know, my uncles are small-time thoroughbred owners and breeders in Oklahoma. Slewonderful, the best horse they’d ever owned, was put down due to infirmaries from old age. She was 22, and had been retired for many years.

    No one would confuse her with a Kentucky Derby horse. She was a hopeless bleeder. But she also won $100,000 in her racing career, and finished first in two minor stakes races. Getting your picture taken in the winners circle is a wonderful feeling. Slewonderful got them there.

    Chris Conley
    5.3.13

  • OPINION - GOP to Wausau

    Posted by Chris Conley

    Reince Priebus

    NEWS BLOG (WSAU) The Republican state convention comes to Wausau this weekend. The event will get extra attention because of Governor Walker’s presence, and because GOP national chairman Raince Priebus will be speaking.

    It will also be interesting to see if the two men are on the same page.

    Governor Walker is a conservative darling (and mentioned in presidential discussions) because he’s politically ‘pure’. Other GOP possibilities like Marco Rubio and Chris Christie have made compromises that may make them more palatable to independents but hurt themselves with the political-right. Rubio’s compromise was on immigration. Christie is impure for aligning with President Obama after Hurricane Sandy. Walker has made no such compromise. The perception of him nationally is that he championed Act 10, did battle with the unions, cut taxes, and reduced the state’s debt.

    Priebus is in a more complicated position. To the extent that he wants to re-brand the party, he’s on the right track. The GOP is regularly ‘out-politicked’ by Democrats. Better ways to get the message out, to use social media, to connect with younger voters would all be beneficial. But, to what extent does it change the party's positions? A watered-down, apologetic conservatism won’t win the center, and will weaken the right.

    Priebus faces the question of why Republicans lose national races, but do very well at the state and local level. Mitt Romney won only one battleground state (North Carolina) and lost the rest (Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Colorado). Yet the GOP holds the governorships and at least one house of the legislature in each of those states, except Colorado. Republicans have 30 of the 50 governorships across the U.S.

    I don’t think this is a puzzler; it’s the Santa Claus effect. On the federal level, a politician can deliver anything they want so long as they’re willing to add it into the deficit. That’s an advantage for Democrats. On the state level, where budgets have to balance year-after-year, everyone knows there’s no free lunch. So candidates who offer to control spending and to keep taxes low, usually Republicans, have the edge.

    The explanation may really be that simple. And if it is, a full Republican ‘revamp’ that includes substantive position-changes on the issues, would be foolhardy. That’s the issue for the GOP when they gather in Wausau next weekend.

    Chris Conley
    4.29.13

  • OPINION - Un-sequestering in slow motion

    Posted by Chris Conley

    American Airlines planes sit at their gates while others taxi for arrival and departure at O'Hare International airport in Chicago November 29, 2011. REUTERS/Frank Polich

    NEWS BLOG (WSAU) We’ve been told that there’s no discretion in the sequester cuts. The votes yesterday and today in Congress show that’s not true. The Federal Aviation Administration isn’t being given more money. They’re being given permission to dip into the trust funds that they control for the remainder of the fiscal year.

    Even without being given this authority by Congress, the idea that there are no decisions that managers can make that would minimize or maximize the impacts is a fallacy.

    Suppose a radio station was facing a 10% budget cut.

    In a non-sequester situation, the radio station would pick and choose the areas to cut so long as the bottom line (10%) came out the same. They might cancel the $10,000-free-money-birthday contest, and eliminate their budget for TV commercials and billboards. If they still haven’t cut enough, maybe the receptionist becomes part-time.

    But if the radio station faces sequester-style cuts, they’d be running the $9,000-free-money-birthday contest, and the receptionist would be furloughed 3-days a month. If the budget-line for electricity to power the transmitters was ‘sequestered’, we’d shut down for two-and-a-half hours a day. Even if the station-manager’s hands were tied about sequester cuts, they’d still decide which days the receptionist didn’t work. (Perhaps Tuesdays and Thursdays, which are the least-busy days in most offices.) If the station had to go-dark 10% of the time you’d choose overnights instead of afternoons, right?

    Surely, even under sequester, the FAA had similar discretion. Wednesday is the lightest travel day of the week. Why weren’t furloughs concentrated towards that one day? When air traffic controllers struck in 1980 under Ronald Reagan, military controllers were called in. Why not now?

    The FAA situation is largely a charade. As detailed in an earlier blog, sequester cuts were quietly restored for the Department of Agriculture’s food inspection program: http://wsau.com/blogs/post/cconley/2013/apr/01/opinion-not-so-permanent-cuts/  The question now is whether department-by-department cuts are going to be restored. Our bureaucrats know how to play this game; make the most onerous cuts, then beg to have them undone. Sequester, as imperfect as it is, has been the only effective way to make even the most-modest cuts to federal spending. Now it’s fair to question whether any of those cuts will actually stick.

    Chris Conley
    4.26.13

  • OPINION - "...God's business"

    Posted by Chris Conley

    People stand during a vigil honoring the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings at the Boston Common in Boston, Massachusetts April 16, 2013. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

     

    NEWS BLOG (WSAU) “I have decided to make my life about God’s business, not my own...

    If a young man who was Catholic made that announcement to his family, they’d think he was going to enter the priesthood.

    If a protestant said those words you’d imagine a life dedicated to charity, perhaps working with the poor.

    If spoken by a young Jew, you might imaging he was enrolling in Yeshiva for intense study of Torah.

    The Hindu or Buddhist who says it is probably preparing for a life of meditation and contemplation.

    But when spoken by a young Muslim male… well… they are the words of 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev. His family knew what it meant immediately. Tamerlan had been radicalized. He erased all doubt with a Twitter post “I have dedicated my life to jihad.”

    Most Muslims practice their religion peacefully. But it’s also the only faith that people are fearful when a follower says they are immersing themselves deeper in it. That’s not an indictment of their religion but it shows that the radicals are a large faction, and are the group that continues to hold sway today.

    Chris Conley
    4.25.13

  • OPINION - Bucky's extra bucks

    Posted by Chris Conley

    NEWS BLOG (WSAU) How much of a rainy day fund should you have?

    The answer depends on context.

    You and me – individuals – should have a rainy day fund to cover 3-6 months of personal expenses. That rule of thumb works because that’s about how long it takes someone to find a new job these days, and you’d like to avoid financial ruin if you’re unemployed. Someone who earns $40,000 a year should have a rainy day fund between $8,000 and $12,000. I know, most people don’t.

    That rule of thumb is different for municipal governments. They collect taxes each year, so there’s always new income. A rainy-day fund at 8% of a city’s budget is a generous rainy day fund. A smaller town might decide on a lesser amount if they have less infrastructure that might cause expensive emergency repairs. A larger city might choose a lower amount, and supplement the difference through purchasing insurance.

    The size state emergency funds vary from state-to-state. California’s emergency fund is empty. Most states have funds between 2.5 and 5% . Texas, North Dakota, and Iowa have set aside more than 10% of their spending into a rainy day fund.

    My sense is that the UW’s rainy day fund should be in the 2.5 to 5% range. It fits because UW has so many sources of revenue, including its state-budget line-items and the tuition paid by students.

    The UW-system’s annual operating budget is $2.7-billion. A 5% rainy day fund is about $135-million. The actual unspent amount for UW is at least twice as large; and nearly 5-times as large if you include earmarked cash that’s still on-hand.

    But that’s not the real issue here.

    A rainy-day fund is intended for emergencies. You spend that money only in unusual circumstances. That’s not what’s happening at our University. As soon as the fund came to light, we heard about how much of the money was already spoken for. For what emergency? What’s the crisis? There is none, and that’s the problem. This is the most-dangerous part of budgeting – a fairly large chunk of money that hasn’t been designated for a specific purpose that administrators have control over. State lawmakers are absolutely right to rein this in.

    Tying a tuition freeze (or cut) to this excess money is an argument for another day. College are notorious for not controlling their costs, and for eye-catching annual tuition hikes. Those are systemic problems that go beyond the rainy day fund debate. But that is part of the background of this debate. The legislature doesn’t trust the UW’s financial policies. And against that backdrop, lawmakers won’t allow the school to keep large amounts of extra cash.

    Chris Conley
    4.24.13

  • OPINION - Terror plot: I know that train

    Posted by Chris Conley

    File:Whirlpool bridge.jpg

    NEWS BLOG (WSAU) There’s only one train that runs between Toronto and New York these days. It’s called the Maple Leaf. I’ve ridden it many times. Two suspects were arrested on Monday in Canada for plotting to derail it.


    The media is identifying the Maple Leaf as a VIA-Rail-Canada train, that’s their equivalent to Amtrak. That’s not quite correct. The Maple Leaf is a jointly-run VIA and Amtrak train. Each morning at 8:20 it departs from Union Station in downtown Toronto with four Amtrak coaches, a snack car, a Canadian engine and crew. But at 10:30am when the train arrives in Niagara Falls, the VIA engine comes off, and an Amtrak engine goes on. An American Amtrak crew runs the train from Niagara Falls to New York City.


    The train crosses the Niagara River between Ontario and New York. At Niagara Falls the train sits on a special stub track just beyond the train station where American customs agents come aboard to check passports. It takes about an hour to inspect the train. On my last two trips, special canines came aboard. Foreigners (non-U.S. or non-Canadian citizens) had to come off the train to a trackside hut to have their passports and visas stamped. Luggage, which is carried onto the coaches and stored in overhead bids like on an airplane, is generally not inspected unless there is a suspicion.


    For passengers getting on at the later stops upstate New York at Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica, or Albany, the Maple Leaf is no different than the three other New York City-bound only trains that stop in their cities each day. Those trains originate in Buffalo or Niagara Falls, and are New York only operations.


    So, hypothetically, what if a terrorist were to smuggle a bomb onto the Maple Leaf? If detonated while the train was crossing the Whirlpool Bridge between the U.S. and Canada, the rain would plunge into the Niagara gorge. It would be a spectacular, visually terrifying disaster. There would be no survivors, and an important rail link between the U.S. and Canada would be cut. (Freight traffic would quickly be re-routed over the International Bridge about 25-miles away at Fort Erie.)


    The train could also be derailed on the Livingston Avenue Bridge as the Maple Leaf crosses the Hudson River into Albany. At more than 1,200 feet in length, the entire train would be on the bridge at once. And the structure-an old fashioned wheelhouse drawbridge- dates back to 1902. Trains must reduce speed to 15-miles-per-hour to cross.


    Of course, any derailment of a passenger train at-speed would be catastrophic. A train travelling a 70-miles-per-hour would take more than a half-mile to stop. Coaches and passengers would be dragged on their sides, either ripping up track or sliding down an embankment. And one doesn’t need a bomb to derail a passenger train. Amtrak’s Sunset Limited derailed in Arizona in 1995 when the track was tampered with.


    If terrorists were able to get explosives on-board, the most devastating plot would be to allow the Maple Leaf to complete its run to New York City, and detonate a bomb while the train was in Penn Station. The train would literally carry the payload into Manhattan, and explode while it was underneath Madison Square Garden with thousands of travellers waiting on the passenger concourse one level above.


    This is a new type of terror attack. Many stops. Dozens of passengers getting off and getting on en route. Remote environments. Infrastructure that’s difficult to patrol and secure. A train may be the ultimate ‘soft target.’ We should all be glad this plot was foiled by our Canadian allies.


    Chris Conley
    4.23.13

  • OPINION - The news blog

    Posted by Chris Conley

     

     

    NEWS BLOG (WSAU) People have asked, ‘what’s happened to the WSAU news blog?’ Here’s the answer:

    In the next few days, we’ll be changing the way blogs are handled on many of our web station’s web sites. We’ll be sharing more information between our stations, and we’ll be giving our users access to many more blogs. Something I write in Wausau will be available in other cities we serve. Bloggers from other locations will have their writing posted on wsau.com. Very soon you’ll have access to a lot more content – and content is king on the internet.

    I’ve continued to write my daily blog, and those postings have been routed to our new blog system which isn’t available through wsau.com just yet. We’re debugging the new system, and making sure it can handle the web traffic that’s sure to come. When the new site becomes ‘active’, all of my archived blogs will be posted in bulk.

    Thank you for your patience, and thank you for your loyalty to the WSAU News Blog.

    Chris Conley
    4.19.13

  • OPINION - The dealer's life

    Posted by Chris Conley

    Craps Table

    NEWS BLOG (WSAU) Horse racing – it’s said – is like going to college. A gambler's losing bets are their tuition. There are so many things to study and learn: a horse’s class, pace analysis, the impact of distance, breeding, etc. People who want to play the horses intelligently and competitively have to do a tremendous amount of work. I’ve never been anything more than a casual player. In some ways I’ve felt sorry for people who see it as ‘work’. I want to play the ponies infrequently enough that it’s always fun. One long-time horse-racing gambler lamented, “if I’d spent as much time studying law books, I’d be on the Supreme Court by now”.

    On the other hand, taking the bets at a horse track is easy. The better calls out the numbers: “$2 win on number 6”. The teller has to punch numbers into a tote machine that isn’t much different than a cash register. The teller hands over the ticket and collects the price of the wager. Easy. It’s so easy that most tellers are, themselves, horse players; being at the track every day makes it easier for them to get their own bets down.

    Craps is different. It’s easy to play, but it’s one of the most difficult games to run. Craps dealers – it takes three of them to run a table, plus a supervisor – are the stars of the casino. They have to remember the most combinations of odds and playoffs. Their ‘chatter’ is also part of the game, encouraging people to place their bets while cheering for winners and gently collecting the losers money.

    The Washington Post ran a fascinating feature story on Dealers School, set up in Maryland as that state’s slot machine halls were about to introduce table games. Dealing blackjack is easy. Dealing poker is more difficult. Dealing craps is hard.


    Washington Post - Craps dealer

    I’ve been thinking about would-be dealers… going to a casino is supposed to be fun; for them it’s about to become work. For some it will be an exciting (and good-paying) job. But for many others it will, eventually, become just another day at the office.

    Chris Conley
    4.11.13

  • OPINION - The Tower

    Posted by Chris Conley

    Cellphone tower

    NEWS BLOG (WSAU) Many years ago, I was the Operations Manager at WFAS in White Plains, New York. It’s one of the oldest radio stations in the county, dating back to 1926. When the station first signed-on, they put their antenna on the highest hill in Westchester County. The tower was in a potato field surrounded by rural farmland. The station built its studios about 1,000 feet away near a dirt road that came close to the property.

    I worked there 70-years later. What was a detached, rural area was now a very expensive suburb. Our studios were now surrounded by very expensive mansions. And our neighbors with their million-dollar homes didn’t like the large antenna in their backyards.

    For years the radio station was bullied in front of the local zoning board, where neighbors (and their lawyers) would dream up proposal to try to get us to move. Their wish was that the towers and our studios would be relocated – perhaps into the city itself and out of a residential neighborhood. The facts: that we were there first, that our studios and tower were known when each neighbor built or bought their homes, were inconvenient facts that didn’t deter the zoning board or our neighbors at all. Too bad for them, we were grandfathered as a non-conforming use.

    But there were zoning restrictions placed upon us. We weren’t allowed to put additional electronics on our tower. Cellphones, pagers, emergency communications all hoped to piggy-back on our tower – we had to tell them ‘no’. There were ruled that our parking lot could not be paved, it remained a gravel road forever. Trees and bushes had to be planted around the cleats and wires that held our tower in place.

    I tell this story because while almost all of our neighbors listened to WFAS, very few wanted the tower nearby.

    Now Stettin has a tower debate. The issue is whether AT&T can build a tower on a small piece of private land. No one wants it where they live. Yet the opponents almost all have smart phones and other electronics that are tower-dependent. Everyone complains about cellphone ‘dead zones’ – and everyone wants the towers that this technology is dependent on to be somewhere else.

    The arguments against the tower don’t hold much water. Opponents complain that it would spoil the view. Yet you don’t ‘own your view’ – there’s no right to see a mountain, or woods or scenic vista from your property. And arguments that these things are ‘spoiled’ are usually overblown. Rib Mountain already has multiple towers near its summit, and no one complains that it’s ruined. Health concerns about living near a cell tower are not true. (This is different than power lines, where the research is inconclusive.) My experience is that nearby towers do not ruin property values; the real estate surrounding WFAS was constantly going up.

    Leaders in Stettin will ultimately decide what’s right for their community. But people who are fighting the tower should come up with a better argument than “we don’t like it”.

    Chris Conley
    4.10.13

  • OPINION - Lady Thatcher's death

    Posted by Chris Conley

    NEWS BLOG (WSAU) I have two thoughts about why American conservatives are mourning the loss of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

    It’s deeper than the obvious: She was the foreign leader who was most-closely aligned with Ronald Reagan. She was a ‘conviction politician’, certain that her conservatism was right and unapologetic for her views.

    Conservatives connect with Lady Thatcher, first, because she was able to articulate and defend conservatism far better than the politicians of today. Remember, once a week the British Prime Minister must stand before Parliament and take questions from the floor – friend and foe alike. No script. No teleprompter. Nothing off-limits. Whereas our leaders today are best in scripted, pre-planned environments, Thatcher was at her best at the give-and-take with lesser politicians. She’d dress down her opponents and dismiss them as a professor with unruly students. In her farewell address to Parliament, the last time she’d speak to British lawmakers, she was asked by a rival about the gap between rich and poor. Her response – that those liberal policies won’t help the poor and will make the rich less-so – is an all-time classic.

    “The [sic] Gentleman is saying that he would rather that the poor were poorer, provided that the rich were less rich. That way one will never create the wealth for better social services, as we have. What a policy. Yes, he would rather have the poor poorer, provided that the rich were less rich. That is the Liberal policy…. The extraordinary transformation of the private sector has created the wealth for better social services and better pensions—it enables pensioners to have twice as much as they did 10 years ago to leave to their children. We are no longer the sick man of Europe—our output and investment grew faster during the 1980s than that of any of our major competitors.”

    She closed by saying socialist ideas proposed in England have already been rejected – by the people under the yoke of communism in Eastern Europe. American conservatives crave someone on today’s political stage who can make those arguments as forcefully.

    American conservatives also admire Thatcher because she got results. England in 1979 was further down the socialist path than America in 2013. (England already had nationalized health care, nationalized industry – like railroads, mining, and other manufacturing, a very high tax rate and a near cradle-to-grave safety net.) Thatcher rolled back the tide. Privatization, deregulation, tax cuts, spending cuts, a true risk-reward society all happened under her 11 years. American conservatives look back at their last three Presidential choices: George W. Bush, John McCain, Mitt Romney – none had the ability to change America’s course. American conservatives mourn her death because they wish their own were more like her.

    Chris Conley
    4.9.13

  • OPINION - To the ballpark

    Posted by Chris Conley

     

    NEWS BLOG (WSAU) I go to a few Brewers games a year. By-and-large the ‘fan experience’ at Miller Park is excellent.

    It has to be. The Brewers goal is to draw 3-million fans a season, and they’ve reached or come close to that goal the last three years. The Milwaukee metropolitan market can’t sell that many tickets. The Brewers are now dependent on people from other areas – Green Bay, Oshkosh, Madison, or even Cubs fans from Chicago – to come out to the games. The closed roof at Miller Park helps. I’m more likely to make the 3-hour drive from Wausau now that I’m certain there won’t be a rain-out.

    I took my 7-year-old twins to the Brewers game on Sunday.

    I’m amazed at how little margin for error there is in a good ballpark experience, especially when the competition is a 60-inch flat screen TV with HD in my living room.

    The ushers and stadiums staff have clearly been trained to acknowledge and reach out to kids. “Welcome to Miller Park,” the ticket taker said to my kids at they took our tickets. “Enjoy the game,” the man said as he handed my kids their bobble-head gifts. My kids caught on right away that they were part of what was happening there.

    But small things did not go right… there’s one concession stand that sells a kids combo meal (a smaller hot dog, a bag of chips, and drink in a small Brewers bag). That was my kid’s lunch. When we got back to our seats, one of our meals was missing the hot dog. We had an empty bun only. We decided it was too much of a hassle to go back to the concession stand and haggle. The kids shared the one hot dog instead.

    Dealing with fans who’ve had too much to drink is a constant problem. Miller Park is one of a growing number of major league stadiums where hard liquor is served at select locations. You can get an oversized pina colada or a mixed drink and carry it back to your seat. Two fans several rows in front of us carried-down Long Island Ice Tea from TGI Fridays, and went back for refills later in the game. They weren’t unruly, but they should not have been served additional beers at ‘closing time’ after the 7th inning.

    There was one very dangerous situation involving a drunk fan as the game was letting out. My kids and I had just gotten on the ‘down’ escalator from the loge level. A drunk fan was just getting on behind us… he stumbled into the emergency stop on the escalator bulkhead. It came to a jerking halt. Several people almost fell. No one did. But if someone lost their balance, dozens of people would have fallen one on top of the other. There would have been multiple injuries.

    It wasn’t a perfect day, but it wasn’t a bad day either. The kids and I agreed it was a long drive. My kids will surely go to another game or two this season, but not right away.

    A “perfect” fan experience may be impossible, especially when brining kids into an environment with adults and alcohol. I look around at many other big-league ballparks that aren’t full. How many other families are making similar decisions?

    Chris Conley
    4.8.13

  • OPINION - A fast-food living wage

    Posted by Chris Conley

    Fast food workers plan surprise strike

    NEWS BLOG (WSAU) It was harder than usual to get a Big Mac, Whopper or Doritos Taco yesterday in New York City. Dozens of fast food workers staged a walk-out. They’re not unionized. But they have been organized by an Acorn-like group calling itself Fast Food Forward. Their demands: workers should be paid $15-an-hour.

    What’s changed is the make-up of the work force. Fast food used to be the work of teenagers and college students. Just like school age paperboys on bicycles are a thing of the past, replaced by adults in cars… more retirees and working age adults are working fast food. Some want to stay active and earn extra money. Others need a job to tide them over because of the slow economy. Now some of these workers have begun talk of a ‘living wage’.

    The phrase itself is a deceitful, moving-target. The argument is that anyone who works 40-hours-a-week should be above the poverty line. No. There are some low-skill jobs that aren’t intended to support a family. No one expects a paperboy to support a family, any more than running a lemonaide stand on your front lawn is supposed to pay your bills. Does a greeter at Wal Mart deserve a living wage? Watch how quickly those positions would be eliminated if their employer was forced to pay them more. You'd be greeted by no one if the jobs are not economically viable. It’s already happening. I have to get my own soft drink at fast-food restaurants now. The person who used to man the soda fountain isn’t there any more. Surely you’ve noticed more self-check-outs at the local big-box retailers. They’ll be more of them if cashiers get more money.

    The mentality is wrong. Instead of thinking that the government should mandate a raise for hamburger-flippers, workers should see their current job as the bottom rung on the employment ladder. If they do well, they’ll be a shift leader… then an assistant manager… any maybe someday they’ll run the store. Even if that’s not their life goal, they’ll benefit from good work skills and a good letter of reference when they move on to a job that’s more to their liking. That’s far more valuable than a few extra bucks an hour.

    Chris Conley
    4.5.13