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Monday, September 22, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 45.0° F  Fair
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School expulsions; Where's the racism?; The rest of the story; Wage wars

School expulsions

In Judith Davidoff's reply to "Race and Schools" (Letters, 4/11/2014), she states that the reason for publication of an article about a white student's expulsion ("School Board Returns Student to East High," 4/4/2014) was that the family had approached Isthmus, and that race had nothing to do with it. I'm willing to bet that statistically, race had an awful lot to do with a white family having the attitude and the wherewithal to hire a lawyer and approach the press in order to fight against their child's expulsion. I'm also willing to bet that a few phone calls to black community leaders would have yielded several black families willing to share the "otherwise confidential" story of their child's expulsion.

Especially with all of the recent discussion about racial disparity, a column comparing Maia's expulsion (and readmission) with a black child's expulsion would have been more insightful. Good intentions aside, I see perfect examples of institutionalized racism in Davidoff's reply and in Isthmus' failure to recognize and expand the story, even after publishing two subsequent articles about Maia.

Erik Sorensen

Judith Davidoff replies: Our coverage noted, where appropriate, the disproportionate rates of suspension and expulsion for students of color.

Where's the racism?

In response to the young woman who claims Madison is the most racist place she has ever lived ("Yes, Madison Is a Racist City," 4/18/2014), the lack of including other places deflates the statement. Has she ever been further north? My hometown of Green Bay has excessive outright racism. Or to the Deep South, where Confederate flags hang next to KKK banners?

Not sure what east side she's talking about. Living, shopping and working, there's plenty of people of all races all over the east side. And I'm sorry, but white women grabbing your hair all the time? This sounds like it happened once and you're, much like the rest of this article, blowing it out of proportion.

I do feel there are race issues here in Madison, on both sides. I've been treated very poorly by blacks who make assumptions about me without knowing me at all. And sometimes outright threats of violence simply for being white. But to slam Madison and say it is the most racist city make her sound naive and sheltered and defeats her case.

Richard Hartley

The rest of the story

The title of Meghan Chua's April 25 article, "Colleges Shift to Part-Time Contract Instructors," tells half the story. The other half should read, "While adding echelons of overpaid administrators."

If Madison's "progressives" are looking for egregious examples of income inequality, they can start the search in their own backyard. But, of course, it's easier to wag one's finger at the faraway villains on Wall Street or at all-purpose demons like the Koch brothers than at, say, the UW-Madison chancellor, who makes over $500,000 a year for...what, exactly? I guess there are no elites like one's own elites.

In an attempt to defend the exploitive status quo, UW-Madison education professor Sara Goldrick-Rab claims that "students don't tend to notice whether their teacher is an adjunct or not. And it doesn't seem to hurt student recruitment either." Maybe students don't notice their professors' credentials because they have other things on their mind like going into lifelong debt for an education that costs more and delivers less. And I'd be surprised to learn that the UW includes statistics on the percentage of classes taught by part-timers in its glossy recruitment brochures.

Gary L. Kriewald

Wage wars

Raising the minimum wage will cost jobs! We've all heard the argument before, and Larry Kaufmann joined the chorus in last week's paper ("Don't Raise the Minimum Wage," 4/25/2014). He cites the Congressional Budget Office's estimate that a $10.10 minimum wage could reduce nationwide employment by 500,000. Kaufmann fails to mention that the same study concludes that a $10.10 minimum wage would raise 900,000 people above the poverty threshold.

And let us not forget that consumer spending accounts for around 68% of the U.S. economy. Raising the minimum wage puts more money into the hands of workers, who in turn spend nearly all their income, fueling the economy. In fact, there is little real-world evidence to suggest a higher minimum wage destroys jobs. When New Jersey raised its minimum wage in 1991, employment in fast-food restaurants actually increased. Higher wages can also reduce employee turnover and increase productivity.

Another argument claims a higher minimum wage may put inflationary pressure on prices. True. But how much is uncertain. Minimum-wage earners account for only 5% of hourly paid workers, and roughly two-thirds of low-wage earners work in companies with over 100 employees, which are better suited to absorb higher labor costs and avoid price increases. Hardly an inflation disaster.

Lastly, Kaufmann argues that if we raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, why not raise it to $50? The slippery slope argument has been used time and time again (for example, gay marriage), and it is a fallacy. We are not asking for $50 an hour. No need for hyperbole.

Kaufmann's mocks a minimum-wage salary by claiming $21,000 a year is hardly "living large." Well, Monsieur Kaufmann, it's a heck of a lot better than $15,000. Yes, people need jobs. But they need decent jobs. Fair wages for fair work. Raise the minimum wage already.

John Hillegass

So, once again we hear from the expert Larry Kaufmann, who, you may remember, offered lame reasons why Scott Walker's 250,000 jobs target would not be reached (Wisconsin's Business Climate Is Improving," 7/11/2013).

Well, I take my economic advice from Nobel Prize in Economics winner Paul Krugman, not from an apologist for the Republicans.

Krugman cites John Schmitt's work "Why Does the Minimum Wage Have No Discernible Effect on Employment?" and others in explaining why raising the minimum wage would have little to no adverse effects on employment. A January 2014 Quinn Poll shows that 71% of voters support raising the minimum wage (this includes 52% Republicans). There are a number of cases where a state raised its minimum wage while a neighboring state did not with no negative impact on the first state's employment.

So why should anyone listen to Larry? And paying people enough to allow them to obtain their necessities is just morally the right thing to do!

Mel Braverman, Business consultant/management trainer, CDS Consulting Co-op

Whatever Larry Kaufmann got paid for his column wasn't enough. After all, he should earn enough to feed his family. Was it $50 per page? I say, why not make it $1,000? After all, that money will be spread into the economy. In fact, why not $50,000,000 per page?

Anyone see a problem with this scenario? That's right, it's bullshit. Just like Larry's argument about the minimum wage. The answer is not in extreme measures, but incremental change. There is absolutely no evidence that raising the minimum wage would result in a reduction in jobs. In fact, raising the minimum wage would boost economic growth by at least $22 billion, raise the GDP, and create 85,000 new jobs. We should raise it to $15 an hour.

Here's why. Larry says that a small percentage of the population will benefit from a minimum-wage increase, that most of the minimum-wage workers are part-time younger workers who are unlikely to be primary breadwinners. In reality, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Economic Policy Institute, the average minimum-wage worker is 35 years old; 88% are at least 20 years old; more than a third are at least 40 years old; 54% work full time; and more than 25% have children. The real value of the minimum wage has fallen since the 1980s. The average U.S. worker wages have remained flat, and those incomes at the top have skyrocketed.

The minimum wage should be raised for all workers. However, small businesses should be subsidized from money acquired from taxes on large corporations and multinationals.

Patrick R. Stoffel, Oregon, Wis.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor the average hourly wage of $23.82 has increased one cent in the past year, adjusted for inflation, while the consumer price index for all items has increased 1.5 percentage points. Food, gasoline prices and shelter costs have fueled this increase. With the highest fuel prices since 2009 -- the last time the minimum wage was increased -- an hourly wage of $7.25 is hardly enough to live on.

Whenever there is a proposed increase in the minimum wage, the argument of "disemployment" has been used, but there's been no significant evidence of this effect, even in a weak job market. In fact, real gross domestic product is expected to rise to over $30 billion, with 150,000 more jobs.

Mary Joan Nastri

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