by Max Brantley
Columnist Steve Lopez in the LA Times writes about the haves and have nots and the pressure put by illegals on wages at the low end of the scale. Check it out, though free regisration may now be required by LA Times. Excerpt:
So the question I've been asking public officials and civic leaders is what we can do about the income gap that runs like a fault line through the land, dividing the haves from the help.
I want to stand up and clap when Jack Kyser of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. lays some of the blame on the big-box planning model. He says we do not need — repeat, IX-NAY— any more Targets and Kmarts, or any other Coliseum-size discount joints.
Not only do those places devour what little land is still available, but the jobs they provide are lousy, and it's not as if consumers have nowhere else to turn for tube socks and toilet paper. City officials would be smarter, Kyser says, if they used scarce land to build jobs in expected growth industries like technology, international trade and engineering.
Kent Wong of UCLA's Center for Labor Research agrees that we need to keep trying to replace the kinds of jobs that were lost in Southern California when aerospace and manufacturing went belly up. But he also knows that the service economy is here to stay, and that means we have to find ways to elevate the standard of living for bellhops, janitors, security guards, nannies, maids, construction workers and waiters.
"We have a situation like we did in the 1930s, when auto manufacturing, mining and steel work were poverty jobs," Wong said. Unionization moved those workers into the middle class, he says, and it can push service employees in the same direction.
Here in Arkansas, we still believe the key to prosperity is shifting school tax dollars to shopping centers. The Miracle of the Tube Socks, we'll call it. Maybe at least some of the folks in TIF-land will eventually organize.