Expect talk of "minimum," "living" and "sufficiency" wages, as politicians compete in Colorado's Super Tuesday caucuses March 1.
Joan Kato, heading Nevada's first-in-the-West caucus for Bernie Sanders, told Politico the senator resonates because of "income inequality." Hillary Clinton shares Sanders' affinity for the concept. The phrase means economic envy.
Meanwhile, Colorado's most outspoken "social justice" advocates want mandatory "self-sufficiency" wages.
The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center spearheads the push. To support an extreme environmental agenda, the same group fights to eliminate oil and gas jobs that pay $80,000 and more to young people fresh out of high school.
While threatening energy jobs, wage-mandate proponents expect food-court work to support entire households.
"One of the most shocking things is that in no county in Colorado can a family on minimum wage make ends meet," said Aubrey Hasvold, family economics security program associate at the Colorado Center for Law and Policy.
Hasvold should not be so shocked. Entry- level service-sector jobs have traditionally provided income bridges for teenagers and young adults pursuing higher skills in anticipation of future rewards. The relatively small percent of Americans who cannot advance beyond low-wage work, because of physical or mental limitations, should qualify for government or charitable assistance to supplement their incomes. Others should quickly discover a fundamental truth: Burgers and fries cannot demand a high enough price to feed kids, finance a car and pay the mortgage or rent.
Jeffrey Zax, an economist at the University of Colorado at Boulder, told Politico the self-sufficiency wage is "a dumb thing to do." Zax explained how jobs with relatively nominal value naturally pay low wages.
The United States did not become the world's economic flagship because government ensured financial security for holding an entry-level job. It resulted from individuals clawing their way from the mail room to the board room; from flipping burgers to flipping houses; from operating cash registers to operating cranes.
The difficult quest for better wages forces individuals to improve the lives of others, with contributions for which society will pay good money.
Republicans have the opportunity to defend wealth, for Americans of all abilities, while their opponents promise minimums and sufficiency.
Free-market candidates should defend six-figure energy jobs against doctrinaire, activist attacks. They should support charter schools that teach high-wage vocations or offer college credits in advance of high school diplomas.
Republicans can win by talking about personal growth, not subsidized stagnation. They will promise to get government off our backs, opposing the jobs-killing Clean Power Plan and other strident environmental dictates. They will support the Employee Rights Act, a barely known federal proposal gaining traction in Congress. The law would end mandatory union enrollment and dues, protect privacy of worker-cast ballots in union elections and prevent intimidation of employees. It would place working Americans ahead of union-financed political agendas.
We're in a sad condition if voters want crude promises of minimums and "self-sufficiency" paychecks. Typical Americans can do much better, if ensured the rights, protections and opportunities fundamental to success.