Statesman Editorial: Price is right on ‘maximum wage’ ideas

If Nampa native Dan Price is able to follow through and dramatically raise salaries for employees at his Seattle-based Gravity Payments company over the next three years, we hope this kind of strategy pays off for him and anybody else who dares to consider maximum wage instead of minimum wage.

That’s exactly what Price seems to be doing at his credit card payment processing firm: figuring out the maximum he can pay his staff as they progress through training. Instead of just meeting minimum wage standards or “market” salaries, he is creating a scale on a higher floor than the basement. He deserves credit for getting to know his employees better and the challenges they face to meet their financial responsibilities — and then making plans to do something about it.

Using his personal compensation as a payroll asset, he could end up nearly doubling the salaries of some $35,000- to $40,000-a-year employees to $70,000 to $80,000. What is stopping other businesses from doing something similar on a scale they can pencil out?

We’re not expecting every company to follow suit, but we believe individual businesses can do more — and more quickly — to bring relief to the litany of wage disparity issues that frustrate our economy and workforce: the imbalance of executive/employee compensation and other issues.

Whatever the motives of Wal-Mart, Costco and other retailers to raise wages above minimums in recent months and years, we think these market-driven measures lap some government mandates that are stalled at first base. We know small businesses in Idaho and elsewhere have lost employees to box stores who have begun to pay more. And we know consumers may have to pay more for products and services as wages inch up.

President Barack Obama has championed companies that raise wages, as he should. This is evidence businesses are more nimble and prepared to change the way things are done than his best efforts to sell the higher wage/middle class economics ideas he pitched in Boise and elsewhere months ago. Blame it on the ugly machinations of government gridlock, his lame-duck status or whatever, but we haven’t seen much buy-in or traction toward his goals.

One thing’s for certain — there is something in the political air about wage concerns, and the fast-developing 2016 presidential election debate is going to provide a stiff breeze to keep the topic aloft deep into the next year.

Would-be presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., told Bloomberg reporters Wednesday that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton is not prepared to “take on the billionaire class” to address income inequality. GOP hopefuls are attempting to morph from income-inequality deniers to new soldiers in the war on better wages.

People like Price are done talking. They are doing.

Statesman Editorials are the unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Statesman’s editorial board. To comment on an editorial or suggest a topic, email editorial@idahostatesman.com.