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Editorials March 10

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Be kind to people The purchasing power of the minimum wage is substantially less today than it was 40 years ago. That is a shocking statistic, though there are some people who are shock-proof against others’ adversity. An excess of these callous types can be found in the U.S. Senate, where the Republican majority this week defeated a proposal to raise the minimum wage. (Too kind to be Republicans, both Arkansas senators voted for the increase.) There is a way to counteract this gratuitous meanness. The states can raise the minimum wage on their own. A bill to do just that, HB 2499, has been introduced in the legislature by Rep. Pamela Adcock of Little Rock and others. It would raise the minimum from $5.15 an hour to $6.15, which would still leave minimum-wage workers below the 1968 standard of living. To return to that sort of luxury, the wage would have to be increased to $8.70 an hour. At $6.15, a minimum-wage worker would earn only $12,792 a year, or $1,066 a month, still a miserable standard of living, though the improvement would be felt by the estimated 56,000 Arkansas workers who would receive the increase. These are not teen-agers working a few hours after school for extra spending money, as opponents of an increase would have one believe. Many are adults, supporting families, working more than one job. A majority are 20 or older and working more than 20 hours a week. Forty-four percent work 35 hours or more a week. Sixty percent are women. Be kind to animals Mark Twain said “Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to.” Arkansans have reason to blush over our lack of a substantive law prohibiting cruelty to animals. No matter how horrible, and Arkansas has seen some horrible examples, animal cruelty remains only a misdemeanor. Most states have designated animal cruelty a felony, so that perpetrators can be sentenced to prison, as the worst of them deserve. State Rep. Buddy Blair of Fort Smith has introduced a mild bill, HB 2551, that would make only second-offense animal cruelty a felony, and only if the cruelty is committed against dogs, cats or horses. The bill also would allow a judge to order a psychiatric or psychological evaluation for anyone convicted of animal cruelty, and, if appropriate, to require counseling and treatment. This provision is most important to Blair, who notes correctly that numerous studies have found a link between cruelty to animals and subsequent violence against humans. As we said, it’s a comparatively bland proposal, but a small step toward making this a more civilized state. That should be important not just to animal lovers but to everyone.

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