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How Do We Move the Needle?

Updated on July 3, 2017
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Jack is currently a volunteer at the Westchester County Archives. Before retiring, he worked at IBM for over 28 years.


In familiar gatherings, we are told to avoid discussing politics and religion. It will lead to conflicts and nothing is resolved. That is mostly true. However, when is a good time to discuss these issues? If we don't discuss them in a civil manner with cool heads, how will anything change?

- July 2017


In today politics, we have 3 major groups. Progressives on the left, conservatives on the right and the moderates in the middle. The two groups on the left and right are dug in. There positions and policies are considered "extreme" and often reported as such. They are also reported as intolerant. When the two groups gets into a discussion, on the web, or on TV discussion panels, they tend to attack th other side with sound bites and negative connotations. What is lacking is a true discussion of various policies and their impact and results.

Case In Point...Minimum wage debate

This is a very good example. It is a simple concept and there are real consequences. A few years ago, the progressives, in some high priced cities around the country started pushing legislation for a "living wage." They propose raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour in San Francisco and Seattle...

The basic concept is very simple. They believe that all labor is equally valued. Anyone with little skills or low skills should be able to work and get a wage enough to raise a family. This means paying for housing, food, utilities and the basics. They came up with an arbitrary number of $15 per hour. It seems to them to be a reasonable argument. There is no reason why a restaurant or business can't pay their workers a little more to share their profits. It became a "fairness" argument rather than an economic one.

At the time, we conservatives looked at this issue from an economic point of view. First of all, there should not be a "living wage" because the minimum wage was never intended to be for a person supporting a family. It was an entry position where young people would get a first experience in the work environment. The wages were meant to subsidize their income assuming they are still living at home and perhaps attending school. Second, a minimum wage should be determined by supply and demand of the market in a particular city. It cannot be dictated from city hall. Our argument was based on sound economic principles rather than emotion of equity.

Fast forward to the present. Now, with the passage of these laws, we have real data coming from San Francisco and Seattle. With the implementstion of these minimum wage laws, what were the results? Wouldn't the debate be settled by the outcome? Only one side can be right.

Here is the result of a new study.

"Seattle’s $15-an-hour minimum wage law has cost the city jobs, according to a study released on June 26 that contradicted another new study published last week.

A University of Washington team studying the law’s effects found that the law has boosted pay in low-wage jobs since it took effect in 2015, but that it also caused a 9 percent reduction in hours worked, The Seattle Times reported. For an average low-wage Seattle worker, that’s a loss of about $125 per month, the study said."


In this case, a policy implemented by progressives, which was designed to help people with low income, actually ended up hurting them. WOW!

Did the people who pushed these agenda apologize? and did they admit they were wrong...? Did they reflect on their "good intentions" and poor results?

Of course not. They continue with their attack on "the system". It is the fault of Capitalism and greedy Corporations that are exploiting poor people with low incomes. It is not the fault of people with low skills and poor education that they are not able to find better paying jobs.

In light of this, can you understand why we are in this state of constant battle between the two camps? A battle that can only be won if one side is persuaded to change.

How Do We Move the Needle?

The answer is hard to do. We can move public opinion by being open to discuss policy differences. It does not help when we avoid controvertial topics. It may be uncomfortable for some. My point is we need to discuss them openly and in a rational manner.

Here are some universal truths:

  • Communication is better than no communication
  • Talking is better than physical combat
  • Persuasion is better than forced submission
  • Results matter over good intentions
  • There usually is a wrong way and a right way
  • Agreeing to disagree is a better option sometimes

© 2017 Jack Lee


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