To The Reader's Forum:
In response to the mean-spirited vitriol contained in Sam Genco's letter to the forum March 24, on the subject of increasing the minimum wage, I would offer the following comments.
Mr. Genco asks the question, who decides what is a "living wage" and answers by saying that no worker is "entitled to be paid anything more than what is agreed upon by the worker and his/her employer." He makes it sound as if this is an equal proposition - just two folks sittin' down to decide what's fair. Is he suggesting that a worker has as much say as an employer in this situation?
He then relates a joke about an employer telling a prospective employee, "I'll pay you what you're worth" and the employee saying, "I can't work that cheaply."
Hmm. Perhaps we should ask the fox how to best take care of the hens? So, who does decide what constitutes a living wage? How about the person working a minimum wage job struggling to pay for necessities like food, clothes and shelter? Does Mr. Genco think he could survive on $7.25 an hour and pay for these basic needs, not to mention gas, car payments, school supplies, and so on.
In Mr. Genco's scenario, any worker not satisfied with their employer's idea of their worth should just leave - "emigrate to North Korea" if they don't like it. Really? If you don't like something, you have the "freedom" to leave. Is he implying there's something un-American about being dissatisfied with one's lot? How convenient to throw a whiff of anti-patriotism over the whole thing.
In my experience, people work a lot harder when they feel that their efforts are seen and appreciated. Telling people not only do they not deserve better but they're lazy and un-patriotic to boot? Well, somehow that doesn't seem as effective. Most people just want to feel secure - to feel like they can take care of themselves and not be a burden to others. This is the new, scaled-down version of the American Dream.
It seems to me the only ones really feeling a sense of entitlement are people like Mr. Genco, who have the misguided notion that they got where they are simply by their own hard work. Did you have a public education? Do you drive on public roads and take advantage of public infrastructure? Do you enjoy the protection provided by police and firefighters? Will you collect Social Security when you can no longer work? The point is, we all benefit when government issues a helping hand.
Mr. Genco concludes by urging everyone, especially the "Entitlement" types, to read "Harrison Bergeron," by Kurt Vonnegut. Never mind that Vonnegut would be rolling over in his grave if he knew someone was perverting the message of his story in this way; you completely missed the point! Raising the minimum wage doesn't suddenly make everyone equal or take away our individuality. It simply offers a hand to people willing to work to improve their lives. Harrison Bergeron is jailed because he refuses to accept his lot, the restrictions imposed on him by rules that stifle his intellect and handicap his physical attributes. In the end, he throws off his shackles and experiences a moment of joy before he's gunned down. JOY - how about that for an entitlement?
Mr. Genco, you're no Harrison Bergeron.