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Makes sense for a socialist

Ron Wolfe

Eagle County Commissioner Arn Menconi recently published an impassioned argument for increased spending on early childhood development. The case for investment has been well made by a Nobel Laureate economist, and I buy into it in theory. But should government make that investment and substitute for parents, would we here in Eagle County ever see any payoff for our spending as he suggests? Would it be more productive and business-like to have the free market pay living wages so that parents can parent? Is another expensive and non-productive social program being teed up? I think it is.The reality is that the children who will be recipients of a new government program and more spending will be from highly transient working families. Here today, cause us great expense, and gone tomorrow. If there really will be a payoff in the future, it will not be here and to us who have footed the bill. It doesn’t make economic sense to me no matter how noble the objective is!If the root issue is that families are not making a “living wage,” working too much and have little or no “at home” time to parent, we should address that and not Band-Aid the problem. The demand for low-wage workers is created mostly by commercial profit-making enterprises. These businesses are powered by consumers wanting the product or service delivered by the enterprise and their workers – like hotel accommodations, restaurant meals, construction, etc. To a lesser degree the non-do-it-yourself second-home owners are creating a similar demand for service workers. Shouldn’t consumers pay what a product actually costs? Should the general public subsidize the employer’s profitability and the consumer’s price? I don’t believe we should.So we as taxpayers may be asked to shell out more to work on an issue that we will never see a benefit from, so that private enterprises can be more profitable providing a product or service that most of us do not use and so that the real consumers can pay less. Perhaps this makes sense to a socialist, but not to me. For me it makes more sense to pass true costs to consumers, let the free-market balance costs and consumption and to stop trying to have government fix every social issue.There are things that I believe government should intervene into. Substitute parenting and redistribution of wealth are not on my list. When I’m out mowing my grass and weeding, I often wonder when government is going to send over the two or three people that I must be supporting through the taxes I already pay. Government at all levels has to be more business-like. Corporations long ago learned that not every newly identified need or opportunity can or should be incremental. “Zero-based budgeting” has become the norm. Just because an organization did “X” last year, it is not a given that “X” will be done this year and forever. If “Y” presents itself as more urgently needing attention, the first question asked has to be “What can we stop doing and redeploy those current resources to “Y”? If there is a clear and present need for some new government program – additional early childhood development resources – what can the county stop funding to provide money for the perceived greater need?Recently I was in Santa Fe and saw a sign in the window of a small coffee shop saying, “This establishment pays a living wage.” Intrigued, I went in and asked the manager what it meant. I learned that the city has their own minimum wage based on the same issues of “livability” that we have here. This small business was exempt from a portion of the established wage but voluntarily chose to pay the full amount, adjust their prices to do so and customers, including me, gladly patronized them because they did “the right thing.” I’m not necessarily proposing that we do something like Santa Fe. I do propose that the free market should be able to sort this out on its own. If wages are too low, there will be no workers willing to take jobs, no business, no customers and no profits. The private sector simply has to do what is needed for it to work. If government is to help orchestrate solutions, as long as the costs are carried by the creators of the problem, that is OK.Perhaps this perceived new need is indeed a symptom of the much larger issues of the decline of the American family and values. I submit that it is. What’s happened to the concept that marriage and family are connected, to not having children out of wedlock, to not having children without the means and inclination to properly nurture and educate them? I have no question that some in our society inflict horrendous atrocities on children. Just read the papers or watch a news program. But government cannot fix decay in society and our culture. Only we can do this for ourselves. The Board of County Commissioners should not buy into proposing another new tax to fund this zero-payback idea.Ron Wolfe is the mayor of Avon.Vail, Colorado


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