City resident mailboxes recently received advertisements from current council members touting their accomplishments and asking for our votes. Based on their lists, it appears that these council members have worked hard for causes they believe will help our community.
What struck me most was their patting themselves on the back for raising city employee salaries. One called this effort “setting an example for other employers.”
We all know the cost of living in Moab is ridiculously high, so raising city salaries seems on the surface like a noble thing to do. But government is not a business. If the pot of money from which the city is paying these higher wages is constant, then the city has to make up for this additional personnel cost by either reducing staff or cutting non-personnel expenditures. Is this what happened, or did taxes go up?
Unlike government, businesses can’t simply raise their prices to make up for increased employee costs. We keep hearing about how the right thing to do is to “buy local,” but if local prices go up, should it surprise us that residents drive hours away for goods and services? Should it surprise us, too, that businesses eliminate positions and give more responsibilities to remaining employees?
Adding insult to injury, do-gooders in government who “set an example for other employers” create an unfair advantage in the marketplace for employees. In a tight labor market, government entities that offer higher salaries are easier to keep fully staffed than small businesses that don’t bring in enough money to follow the government’s high-minded example.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for everyone making a living wage. But it seems a bit hypocritical for people in government – who don’t have to follow the laws of economics – to be telling the rest of us how we should run our businesses. If local prices go up to accommodate higher wages across the board, and the employees who make more money choose to spend it outside of Moab, where things are cheaper, haven’t we shot ourselves in the foot?
– J. Wright