News From Terre Haute, Indiana


August 12, 2013

READERS' FORUM: Aug. 12, 2013

Business practices fuel more poverty

On Sunday, July 28, your editorial titled “Many Hoosier families not sharing surplus euphoria” stated: “About 1 of every 3 Hoosiers fall into the ‘low income’ category which amounts to $22,980 for individuals and $47,100 for a family of four.”

In an unrelated printed news item, we were informed that the upcoming budget for the City of Terre Haute had a line item of just over $11 million for police and firefighter salaries. Salaries by employment grade were listed.

Some police and firefighters (not entry-level employees) earn $42,000 and change. If those public servants are married and have two children, they are $5,000 below the “low income” level. That’s called poverty. These are men and women who put their lives on the line every shift they work — who work 12-hour shifts, sometimes back-to-back shifts because the situation at hand requires the additional work time, who work in extreme temperatures and who risk their lives each time they respond to a call for help.

We, the taxpayers, pay these men and women a wage that fails to ensure that they and their families, no matter how large or small, have the ability to nutritionally feed their families, house them in safe affordable dwellings, pay for their utilities, put gas in the family vehicle, pay medical bills without incurring debt or living with daily stress and insecurity. But we fully expect that these men and women be ready to spring into professional action at our first call of alarm.

I’m a payer of property taxes, income taxes, sales taxes, excise taxes and a whole host of utility taxes, fees and service charges, but I want firefighters, law enforcement, EMTs and paramedics paid more than poverty-level wages. I believe strongly that their union representatives should advocate for their wages, pensions and health benefits.

These men and women more than earn what they are paid because their careers keep them “on duty” 24/7 (even when not on an actual shift) and their jobs put them in harm’s way because they can be called up at anytime, and they can be targeted by anyone who feels society has wronged them in some manner.

Contrary to now very popular political ideologies, limiting employment, lowering wages and failing to maintain good infrastructure/safety will not stimulate the economy or encourage businesses to expand.

No, these business practices just make the rich even more wealthy. Only demand for goods and services stimulate the economy by making it necessary to expand business operations and hire workers — the higher the wages and the better the benefits, the more qualified the worker and the more willing the worker is to train for and maintain his/her job. The more well-paid workers, the more goods and services that will be demanded, and the cycle goes on.  

When the demand decreases and, in many cases, ceases, the cycle breaks down and poverty increases, as we have it now.

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