Letters from our readers: Minimum wage hikes don’t help the unskilled

It’s ironic that the San Francisco city government is concerned about the harmful effects higher labor costs could have on small businesses, as reported Dec. 17 by The Examiner (“City’s minimum wage staying the same”).

A recent statement from the San Francisco Office of Labor Standards Enforcement said “small businesses in difficult financial situations will know their labor costs can remain constant in the coming year.” Yet in 2007 when the San Francisco minimum wage rose above $9 an hour, this same office praised the wage’s effect on businesses, saying “jobs paying a decent wage … invigorate neighborhood businesses.”

San Francisco can’t have it both ways — either a higher minimum wage will “invigorate” employers, or it will hinder them from hiring. Decades of economic research show that employers respond to higher labor costs by cutting jobs or hiring applicants with more experience.

This effectively shuts out unskilled workers from the labor market, hurting the very people that a minimum wage increase is supposed to help.

Kristen Lopez Eastlick, Employment Policies Institute, Washington, D.C.

Night Stalker puzzle

Your recent article on the Richard Ramirez Night Stalker case leaves some unanswered questions.

How can a description of “a Caucasian man … with shaggy brown hair parted in the middle — fit Ramirez to the letter” when he is Hispanic with jet-black, rarely combed hair?

To paraphrase retired SFPD Lt. George Kowalski, “All police departments would like to close cases … it makes everybody feel a bit better. I would like to see Mr. Ramirez be indicted for another couple murders.”

To paraphrase Richard Ramirez, “They wanted somebody, so they picked me.”

Bee Kay, San Francisco

State’s highways dismal

In terms of cost-effectiveness and performance, California’s highway system is now one of the three worst in America (only Rhode Island and Alaska are worse), according to Reason Foundation’s 18th Annual Highway Report released today.

The Reason Foundation study examines state highway systems in 11 categories, including congestion, pavement condition, fatalities, deficient bridges and total spending. It is based on information that each state reported for the year 2007. California has 18,336 miles of state-owned highway system, slightly larger than the national average. California ranked 48th overall in the 2007 ratings, down from 44th in 2006.

California’s fiscal performance rating is 45th and its system performance rating is 48th. In 2007, its best ratings were for fatality rate (16th), bridge deficiencies (35th) and rural narrow lanes (24th). However, California has the highest percent of urban interstates congested in the entire nation.

It also performed poorly on administrative disbursements per state-controlled mile (49th), urban and rural interstate in poor condition (both 49th), total disbursements per state-controlled mile (47th), capital and bridge disbursements per state-controlled mile (48th) and maintenance disbursements per state-controlled mile (39th).

Chris Mitchell, Los Angeles

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