As a lifelong registered Democrat and a supporter of higher wages and unions, trust that what Im about to write doesn’t come easy. But Im also pragmatic, and not a partisan idealist.

Our country has a glut of labor, and employers aren’t hiring. The worst economic downturn in 80 years is hurting families, businesses, college grads, institutions of all types. Work is hard to come by, and human resources departments are overwhelmed by applications.

So let’s take a mental walk. Suppose that a wage law were passed, and its effects contingent on a high-unemployment threshold, say 7.5 percent to 8 percent unemployment, or even on a 12 percent U-6 number from the Labor Department. And once this threshold is crossed in a severe downturn, the law suspends the minimum wage and payroll taxes for those new hires, excepting below that wage and businesses paying these new hires the below-minimum wage.

Existing workers are grandfathered into their existing wages. Once the threshold is crossed on an economic upswing, the triggers restore minimum wages and payroll taxes for all workers.

People who can’t find work may be able to find work, or extra work, enabling them to pay their bills and provide for their families. Businesses, and even households with extra income, would hire low-cost workers to take care of extra work and menial tasks that are otherwise too expensive even at minimum-wage rates.

The times dictate that we think out of the box. Maintenance of ideology helps no one, especially in circumstances that we face today. Give it a thought.

David Esparza Jr.
Santa Barbara