A minimum wage increase the right thing
To discredit the proposed minimum wage of $13 ("Another Minimum Wage Hike," June 29) Rocco Biale criticizes this increase as 'unearned.' But he fails to reveal that the minimum wage has lagged far behind worker productivity -- an accepted measure of the value of labor.
From World War II to the 1970s, one of the most prosperous periods of economic growth in our nation's history, the minimum wage matched productivity. Since then, it has fallen far behind productive gains. If it had kept pace, it would now be close to $22. This gap between contribution and compensation has helped produce the severe and growing inequality of our New Gilded Age, as the lion's share of added value goes to wealthy CEOs and large shareholders.
Biale also fails to reveal that the minimum wage has fallen behind the increasing cost of living. Since the 1970s the minimum wage has lost more than 20 percent of its value. With the increasing costs Biale himself refers to, minimum wage workers have become increasingly unable to make ends meet. Even the proposed standard, $13 (2017), for an annual income of slightly over $27,000, falls below the most recent poverty measure for the county -- between $29,500 and $37,000 for a family of four. It is no surprise that more than half the poor in our state live in working families, most in families with a full-time worker.
Among the skyrocketing costs, rising rents impose a particular hardship, having increased by more than 20 percent since 2000. There is no way to stretch minimum wages to make apartments in Contra Costa County affordable. With the fair market rental at $1,350, even with the proposed minimum wage a worker would have to spend 60 percent of his or her income on rent. They would have to earn $25, twice the proposed minimum wage, to make their rent affordable. Minimum wage workers must constantly choose between rent and food, clothing, transportation and medical care for their families.
The proposed minimum wage is not a living wage, but it is an important step toward ending poverty for many of our fellow Californians, reducing reliance on government assistance programs, stimulating economic activity in our communities and reviving the American dream for struggling families. It deserves our support.
Standards have slipped a lot for Feds
Several years ago I worked for the U.S. government in the capacity of federal law enforcement officer. In those days, it was not uncommon to receive Congressional inquiries that usually were initiated by some Congressman or senator's constituent. This was deemed a priority when it landed on the director's desk and was time-and-date stamped all the way down the chain of command until it landed on my desk and upon receipt I had 24 hours to answer it. And the clock was running. If by chance I could not answer it I still had to reply in 24 hours -- no ands, ifs, buts or equivocations and to the best of my ability.
How has it come to pass when heads of federal agencies can unabashedly equivocate, deflect, lie and literally stonewall Congressional inquiries in matters dealing with Fast and Furious, Benghazi and the IRS, just to name a few? What has happened to the integrity of the system? What ever happened to the honor code?
William H. Mallery
Islander cause, relief for nuke tests, a just one
Sixty-nine years ago, the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Aug. 6 and 9 are days of remembrance for those actions and a reminder that further progress is needed for nuclear disarmament.
The Marshall Islands know all too well of the devastating effect of living in a nuclear age. From 1946-1958, America conducted 67 nuclear weapons tests in the Marshall Islands. The explosive power was estimated to be 1,000 times greater than the bombs that crippled Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Still plagued by the health and environmental effects, this past spring the Marshall Islanders sought relief in the International Court of Justice, suing the nine nuclear powers for their failure to comply with the Non-Proliferation Treaty, known as the NPT.
The Marshall Islands have also filed in the Federal Court for the Northern District of California, suing the United States for breach of treaty and "flagrant violations" of international law. The Marshallese seek global nuclear disarmament, not compensation, so that we may all enjoy the security of living in a non-nuclear environment.
Ditch border, let everyone move in here
What's with all the furor over floods of thousands of minor children and their mothers illegally crossing our southern border into Arizona? There's plenty of open space for them in Arizona, California, and Texas. Once here, our government should inoculate them, house them, educate them, feed them and find employment for them. These are people fleeing political corruption and unrest in their home countries of Central America and Mexico. They have no other place to go.
While were at it, it's time for the United States to simply erase it's southern border. What's the point of continuing to ask immigrants to jump through the legal hoops required to enter and live in the United States? We are the richest country in the world. Our people are kind, and generous. Surely we can afford this. These immigrants are desperate. All they want is a safe place to live and raise their children. Is it too much for all of us to pay a little more in taxes to care for these people and the millions to follow? Isn't that who we are?
The 'huddled masses' are without end
The Statue of Liberty was dedicated in 1886 with the famous inscription, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breath free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore, send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door." The population of the country at the time was approximately 62 million. Today, the U.S. population is approximately 316 million. In 1960, the population of California was 15.7 million. Today it is approximately 38.3 million. World population is expected to increase by one billion people every 11 years.
We desperately need immigration reform. While we will always be a nation of immigrants, we need to decide if we can continue to accommodate and afford the slogans of 1886.
Afghans who helped U.S. deserve visas
Your article of July 5 on page 2 talks about the plight of Afghans who acted as interpreters for U.S. troops. These Afghans risked their lives and now face almost certain retaliation once the United States leaves Afghanistan for the assistance they provided our troops. The head of the interpreter program applied for a visa in 2014, but the U.S. State Department has yet to grant it.
But, then again, I understand that the State Department has more important things on its plate. For example, sharing its unique intelligence with this country's citizens. Why, just lately, it warned me that travel to Iraq might be dangerous. With this kind of insight, I had just enough time to change my travel plans.