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January 16, 2007

City Strobe: Wage wars

Everybody knows that raising the minimum wage would help relatively few American workers, most of them teenagers and part-time employees. It would result in job losses and discourage companies from creating new jobs, ultimately leading to higher unemployment. And it would hurt small businesses. Wrong, wrong and wrong, according to Media Matters (www.mediamatters.org). The media watchdog examined those frequently reported “facts” and found that none are true. In fact, citing numerous state and federal studies, Media Matters showed that payrolls and job growth went up and unemployment went down in states that increased the minimum wage in recent years compared to states that didn’t. Similarly, a study by the Economic Policy Institute (www.epinet.org) showed that a majority of minimum-wage workers work full time. And a study by the Fiscal Policy Institute (www.fiscalpolicy.org) showed that the number of small businesses grew twice as quickly in states with higher minimum wages than in other states. A March 2006 Gallup poll showed that a majority of small business owners agree a hike in the minimum wage wouldn’t hurt them. All of which is probably why Kentucky’s Republican representatives Ed Whitfield, Geoff Davis and Harold Rogers joined Democrats John Yarmuth and Ben Chandler and Hoosiers Brad Ellsworth and Baron Hill in voting last week to raise the federal minimum wage from its current rice-and-cardboard $5.15 an hour to a tasty rice-and-beans $7.25 an hour by 2009. Ron Lewis (R-Hellbound) was the only Kentucky representative who voted against the measure. Despite overwhelming public support for the increase, it still faces considerable opposition in the Senate, that august body known for carefully deliberating a topic, ensuring that uneducated, sick, hungry (and/or obese — the New Hungry) children dangle needlessly in misery. The White House, of course, opposes the measure, citing “mmmpf” — the actual sound that comes from a head perpetually surrounded by a certain body cavity. So, why is the minimum-wage issue clouded by so much of what Princeton University philosopher Harry G. Frankfurt refers to in his book “On Bullshit” as “bullshit?” Maybe this is a clue: While remaining open to the idea of an increase, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell trotted out the truthiness that Media Matters debunked, demanding tax and regulatory concessions to Big Business in exchange for the wage increase, adding “pfpfmmmfm,” which is the actual sound that comes from a head perpetually surrounded by certain bodies cavity belonging to large corporations. —Jim Welp Report a flasher According to the experts, Americans are exposed to 4,000 advertisements every day. We all see so many ads that we often don’t even consciously register them. (Read LEO! It keeps your hair shiny.) Because of the ubiquity of advertising, local business owners face a dilemma: It’s nigh impossible to get their messages through all the messages. How is a driver at a busy intersection supposed to sort out “Printer Cartridges 2 for 1” from “Peep Shows Here” from “Jesus: Don’t Leave Earth Without Him” from “Hey, green means go”? And because flashing text signs can distract motorists and cause accidents — and because they’re hideous and soul-crushing and cut you off from nature and make you want to pull over, fall to your knees, scratch out your eyeballs and weep inconsolably — Metro Louisville requires sign owners to flash their messages no more frequently than every 20 seconds. Which, let’s face it, is an eternity under capitalism. Business owners say the 20-second delay is an unfair limitation, especially when trying to communicate with motorists who don’t move their lips while reading. So they’re asking the city to allow them to rotate their E-ads more frequently. The owners complain that the current law is unfairly enforced, relying on the public to report violations of the 20-second rule — a rule you can help more fairly enforce by contacting the Office of Inspections, Permits and Licenses at www.louisvilleky.gov/ipl/ whenever you see a sign flashing its message faster than every 20 seconds. The Metro Planning Commission promises to review the law to make sure it’s fair. Since you’re going to visit the Louisville Metro site anyway, you might as well drop by www.louisvilleky.gov/MetroCouncil/ and let the Council know you’re appalled by the onslaught of advertising in our community. You know, not counting newspaper ads for phone sex, strip clubs, liquor, local bars and that cool WFPK list of albums. —Jim Welp Get your daily Strobe at “The Lip: LEO’s News Blog” at www.leoweekly.com. Contact the writer at citystrobe@leoweekly.com