MINIMUM WAGE

Keep it apace, and we all will see the benefits

America has had better experiences with higher minimum wages than we have today. Measured in today’s dollars (adjusted for inflation), in 1969 the minimum wage was just over $10 per hour. The number of people on food stamps was a lot less. Minimum wages have not kept up with the growth of household incomes.

Where does the money from minimum-wage increases go? The recipients, the working poor, cannot afford to save the money; they immediately spend it in the local economy for their needs.

1) It stimulates the local economy by increasing consumption, mostly essentials. This creates more jobs. Most economists tell us the American economy is driven by consumption.

2) It reduces government spending and taxes. McDonald’s workers alone receive $1.2 billion per year in government subsidies for medical, food stamps, housing and other subsidies. Think of the other working poor in fast-food, hotel/motel, retail and other service jobs. Total subsidies are likely in the hundreds of billions per year.

3) Provides dignity. More Americans will feel good about themselves, have more hope and be more self-sufficient, receiving a more fair reward or share of income for their work.

We hear over and over that raising the minimum wage “kills jobs.” Most opponents stop the discussion right there. But following the money tells “the rest of the story.”

Why should taxpayers subsidize the owners, stockholders and upper management of corporations or companies? That they have the economic power and the lobbyists is not the preferred answer. Why not develop policy that will benefit the working poor and save taxpayers billions?

VERN RYLANDER, Apple Valley

 

LIBRARIES

Officials take issue with story about use

While most library systems will agree that e-downloads are constituting a greater and greater share of their circulation, this trend does not necessarily obviate the critical need for traditional libraries in the modern age (“Minnesota’s libraries are rushing to adapt to a post-book world,” Feb. 3). To that end, Scott County has opened seven new library facilities in the last 15 years — two in the last two years alone — that are reflective of our communities’ needs: more computer work spaces, enhanced areas for children, quiet spaces and community meeting rooms. To state that “libraries [are] in an awkward position when laying claim on public dollars” is simply false — here in Scott County and almost everywhere else.

So imagine my dismay when I encountered this statement, seemingly justifying the crux of the article: “Scott County Administrator Gary Shelton told [the county’s outgoing library director] that his initial thought was that ‘with the Internet and a lot of other things, libraries were becoming passe, that they were a thing of the past, at least a physical library.”

In fairness, that is a true record of one small part of my quote from Nov. 19. However, the article fails to note that I prefaced it with a fairly significant qualifier — “I fell victim to the belief that …” — and even more important, completely omits the real purpose of my statement, which finished with: “Thanks to you [the retiring library director] and the work that you did, you’ve made it very obvious that libraries are not something of the past. They are as relevant today as they ever were. They may be even more important today than they were in the past, and you helped move the Scott County Library System into that next generation. And, for that the citizens and myself are very grateful.”

GARY SHELTON, Prior Lake; Scott County administrator

• • •

The chart included with the article showed that the circulation in 2012 of the Washington County library system declined by 8 percent. However the article did not disclose that in 2012 the WCL was closed two days each week — Sunday and Monday, with a 10 percent staff reduction. This was a result of budget cuts during the recent recession. Naturally, circulation dropped.

Thanks to the recent decisions by the Washington County Board, our library was open more hours in 2013. As a result, circulation increased 12 percent in 2013. In addition, visits increased 8 percent; open hours increased 23 percent; logins to public computers increased 3 percent; hours of computer usage increased 7 percent; story-time attendance increased 14 percent, and attendance at all other programs increased 8 percent. There was a 20 percent jump in meeting-room use, and meeting attendance increased by 25 percent.

Public libraries continue to adapt, but they do not need to find new reasons to exist, as the article implied. A library’s purpose to assist people in their search for information, recreation and lifelong learning remains the same.

MARIE SKINNER, Cottage Grove; at-large member, Washington County Library Board

• • •

If the use of e-books is soaring, it certainly isn’t due to the user interface that the Hennepin County Library system uses. As a voracious reader and near-constant user of public libraries, both here and in other states, I can confidently say that Hennepin County has one of the worst user programs I have ever seen, for any “purchase” process. In order to take out or reserve an e-book, first you have to go to the website, then log in to your account, then make a search for the item, then log into the e-book directory, then log in to your e-book account … and then you can attempt to download the book or reserve it. If you choose to download it onto Kindle, you will be forwarded to Amazon to make that happen. I haven’t yet figured out how to just check the status of my reserves or due dates.

Actually achieving success is such an ordeal that I can only assume Hennepin County is trying to discourage anyone from downloading e-books. If Amazon did business like this, it wouldn’t exist.

DEBORAH KLEIN, Minneapolis