Friday, August 1, 2008

Should We Have A Geographically Based Minimum Wage?

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I attended a townhall meeting entitled "An Economy on the Brink: A Legacy of Debt, Its Impact on Our Children and How We Can Break the Cycle" on Monday evening. The event was hosted by Rep. Jim Moran and featured David M. Walker who is the president of the Peter G. Petersen Foundation among other things. Walker gave a presentation of some of the economic issues that are facing our country and really emphasized the fact that our federal government is borrowing so much money that if we continue on the same rate, the interest on our debt to foreign countries will do our economy some serious harm.

While the information that was being provided was extremely beneficial, I felt as though there wasn’t enough discussion about what needs to be done here in Northern Virginia in order to improve the situation. This matched with my experience as an organizer talking to residents of Northern Virginia who feel as though the national talking heads never seem to take into account the high cost of living in NOVA when they are talking about the minimum wage. So I made my way to the microphone, explained that experience, and asked what they believed the federal government could do for those who are struggling to get by in our area.

Rep. Moran said that even though many people are doing well in NOVA, there is still some work that needs to be done in our region. Among other things, he mentioned that we need to invest more in public transit so we can get to and from the places we need to go more efficiently, improve our school systems so we’re more competitive, and address the health care system. These were good things to do and will help improve the economy in Northern Virginia. However, I feel as though these solutions were long term solutions that weren’t necessarily focused on the circumstances unique to Northern Virginia and wouldn’t help working families until years down the line.

Right as Moran was about to move onto the next question, Walker chimed in on my question. Mentioning that the federal government reimburses physicians at different rates depending upon the regional expenses, he said that we might want to look into having a geographically based minimum wage that takes into account how the cost of living varies from region to region. Now granted all of the details of what determining factors would go into establishing the varying wage requirements, I think the general idea is something worth pursuing. I’m therefore turning it out to my readers by asking what you think of the idea. Would it work? Should it be implemented? If implemented, should it be by the federal government taking the initiative or do you think this is really a state (or even county) government issue?

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