Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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January 17, 2014

Sullivan’s Salvos     1/21/14

In this edition:

*Spreading Salvos Love!
*You Subsidize Low Wages!
*Did You Know?

*Spreading Salvos Love!
         I have been sending Salvos out since I began as a Supervisor in January of 2005. (Actually, the first couple editions came out in December of 2004, just before I took office.)

         The newsletter was not named “Sullivan’s Salvos” at that time; that name came from my friend Charlie Funk. Meanwhile, over the past 472 weeks, subscribers have received around 460 issues of Salvos. (I have taken a few weeks off for family vacations, etc.)

I really wasn’t certain that I would be able to maintain this volume of writing. And I’d be lying if I said it was easy. But it is a bit of a labor of love.

Hopefully, folks have found it interesting. I have been intrigued by the responses. A couple dozen folks have unsubscribed in protest over one issue or another; some have returned, but not all. There are a handful of folks who offer their thoughts frequently; I really appreciate this! Two or three people actually respond at length on occasion; I feel as though I have made a couple of friends this way! Most subscribers stay subscribed, but I don’t really know if they read it or not. And that is OK.

         I have not done much to increase readership since those earliest weeks. The number of subscribers quickly grew to 500, dropped off to around 480, and has remained within about ten of that number ever since.

         Johnson County is a very transient community, and it is truly remarkable how many people come and go. Unfortunately, over 30 readers have died during this span. Many of my readers no longer subscribe because they moved away. And just as people go, new people arrive. I know there are people new to Johnson County who might be interested in subscribing. Given that, I decided to reach out a bit – hence this article.

         I ask that you please do me a favor. Forward this edition of Salvos on to a few friends. Encourage them to sign up. I’d like to add a few new readers to the mix.

         Thank you for sharing, and thank you for reading! I look forward to your feedback in the future! It has truly been a pleasure!

*You Subsidize Low Wages!
         There is a great deal of discussion right now about wage inequality and the minimum wage. One thing that I rarely hear included in this discussion is that we all subsidize low wages.

         What do I mean by that? A worker who puts in 30 hours per week at $7.25 per hour cannot make a go of it without help. That person will bring home about $800 per month in a community where the median rent is over $750. The math simply doesn’t work.

So what happens when low-income workers cannot make it? They typically turn to government programs. Subsidized housing, food stamps, subsidized childcare, free and reduced school lunches, Medicaid, HAWK-I, heating assistance – these are just a few of the government programs designed to assist the poor.

Who pays for government programs? We all do. So, should we continue to subsidize these low wages, or should we ask multi-billion dollar companies to pay a living wage? In my mind, the choice is pretty easy.

         Look at Wal-Mart. The Walton family is the richest family in the world, with a net worth of over $150 billion. In 2010, six members of the Walton family had the same net worth as either the bottom 28% or 41% of American families combined (depending on how it is counted). That is crazy!

         Wal-Mart earns about $15 billion each year. What if they gave every low wage employee $10/hour? Understand - $10 per hour is not enough to live on, but it is getting closer. What would that cost Wal-Mart? I did the math. They have 1.2 million employees. Assuming an average of 30 hours per week, going to $10 per hour would cost them about $2 billion. And that assumes everyone earns minimum wage; some of those 1.2 million are managers, pharmacists, etc. and already earn more than $10 per hour. But let’s call it $2 billion. Now the company only earns $13 billion annually. Isn’t that enough?

More importantly, how much would it save YOU if Wal-Mart paid for their employees rather than YOU doing it? The Waltons created the problem – why shouldn’t they pay for it?

Plus, these higher wages would actually help the economy – it would even help Wal-Mart! As Henry Ford noted, he made the most money when his Ford employees could afford to buy the cars they produced. That principle still applies. If Wal-Mart workers had a 38% increase ($7.25 to $10) in their hourly wages, you can bet there would be a lot more money spent at Wal-Mart!

Granted, there are many small business owners who also pay low wages. A $10 minimum wage might be difficult for some of them. But I see some distinct differences between these folks and Wal-Mart.

For one, most small business owners I know pay the best wages they can. Their workers are not just numbers – they are people the owners are with 40 hours per week. The owners know these folks, know their families, and want them to do well. So my guess is that wages of $7.25 are already less likely in those cases. Plus, many small business owners end up earning less than $10 per hour themselves, and they are the ones taking the risk.

If this sounds like I’m arguing against a higher minimum wage – I’m not. I do believe the minimum wage should be higher; a gradual but speedy (over two years, perhaps) increase to $10 is not unreasonable at all. I also believe the minimum wage should be indexed for inflation, so we quit falling so far behind.

Small business owners may see the benefit of paying $9 or $10 per hour, but corporations won’t. They are myopic. It is all about the bottom line in the next quarter. So the short term needs of the 100 people who actually give a damn if Wal-Mart earned $15 billion or $15.1 billion outweigh the needs of the rest of us.

My Grandmother was actually a beneficiary of the first minimum wage law. She recounted the story to me once. As a young lady in the early ‘30s, she was working 54 hours per week and earning twenty cents per hour. New Deal legislation cut her hours to 40 per week, and raised her pay to the new federal minimum - a quarter per hour. She gained free time, but lost money! (She scored a good union job a few years later.)

More import than the minimum wage, however, is progressive taxation. People who earn $12 an hour should not be helping to subsidize people who earn $8 per hour. Let the Waltons pay for them!

Our system of taxation should be much more progressive toward the top. The wealthy need to pay much, much more in taxes. And the VERY wealthy – like the Waltons – need to pay even more. That will help pay for the programs used by low-wage workers without sticking it to the small business owners who do not earn six and seven figures.

         What are your thoughts on the minimum wage?

*DID YOU KNOW?  332,000 Iowans – about one in ten - would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage. Of workers affected, 55 percent are women. Over 4 of 5 workers affected — 81 percent — are age 20 or over. Almost half — 46 percent — work full time (35 hours or more per week). Almost 1 in 4 workers affected — 23 percent — have children. (Source: Iowa Policy Project.)

Anyone interested in learning more about County government should take a look at the County website-

"Sullivan’s Salvos" is sent once per week to any interested party. It will give a brief update on issues of interest to Johnson County residents.

These messages come solely from Rod Sullivan, and neither represents the viewpoints of the whole Board of Supervisors nor those of groups or individuals otherwise mentioned.

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As always, feel free to contact me at 354-7199 or I look forward to serving you!



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