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Restoring opportunity and dignity

Dear Editor,

Nick Kristof, NY Times two time Pulitzer Prize winning op-ed columnist, suggests the nation’s greatest challenge of making progress of financial fairness and poverty reduction for the bottom third of Americans, the working class, is if we frame the issue of less as one of “inequality,” and instead frame the policy to be to restore “opportunity” and “dignity.”

Eugene V. Debs observed: “While there is a lower class, I am in it …” While I revere Debs, and it angers me that the rich can’t help themselves from squeezing what little is left from the lower class and I don’t get why Republicans avoid those in need, I think Nick’s imposition to avoid “class war” is correct.

It is imperative that the working class secure national policies that help them help themselves higher up the economic ladder of success and for their own personal approval.

One sure way to provide for “opportunity” and “dignity” for the working class is to raise the federal minimum wage to $15/hour. It has been categorically proven that the current rate of $7.25/hour for a 40-hour week is not a living wage. (See Barbara Ehrenreich’s book Nickle and Dimed: On Not Getting By In America.)

If the federal minimum wage of 1968 had kept pace with inflation and productivity, it would now be more than $22 an hour, rather than $7.25.

(I can’t help myself but I must wage a bit of equality war by asking why have Republicans and the likes of Joe Manchin — especially in West Virginia — been so unfair to the working class by opposing an increase in the federal minimum wage?)

Several other policy proposals that would greatly assist the working class are: (1) reckoning with systemic racism; (2) establishment of paid sick leave; (3) expansion of the child tax credit; (4) extension of the Affordable Care Act and allow for a Medicare option; (5) establishment of a trillion dollar infra-structure upgrade, expansion and repair program; (6-more) etc.

Mahatma Gandhi rightly proclaimed: “Poverty is the worst form of violence.” “Opportunity” and “Dignity” is the best way to overcome poverty.

Bill Bryant

St. Clairsville

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