Good morning! While some of us may feel that all outside-of-bed activities should cease until the temperature breaks 10 above, there's been quite a lot going on this week.
This morning, Joanna Richards reported that Fort Drum servicemembers have mixed feelings about Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's decision to lift the ban on women in combat. Some say it's not as big a deal as people think, given the changed nature of combat in recent years.
Others have the concerns that have been around for a long time about this — will women soldiers be able to hold their own? Will they be able to carry their own stuff? Will their presence complicate relationships between "battle buddies"?
Also today NCPR launched its new Prison Time Media Project, with an epic story from Brian Mann on the history of the Rockefeller Drug Laws. It's worth checking out, as is the project's new blog.
But enough about us, let's get down to Albany, where the temperature is a balmy 6 degrees. Journalists, organizations and others are still parsing Gov. Andrew Cuomo's budget address to see how it applies to the things in which they're the most interested, and one interesting development is that Cuomo's decision to make an increase in the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.75 part of the budget may mean that the rise could be more likely to become law.
Not surprisingly, the minimum wage increase idea is controversial, and people (by which I mean non-politicians) feel strongly about it. The Watertown Daily Times reports this morning that the idea is getting a "mixed reception" in that area, with owners of local businesses expressing a lot of concerns about where the money's going to come from to pay for the increase, and at least one (Jreck Subs franchisee Peter J. Whitmore) suggesting he'd raise prices. "It would be absolutely devastating to us."
Particularly in Watertown, where the cost of living is higher than in many other parts of the North Country, employees say the raise would be helpful, and would in some cases help people get out of untenable housing situations.
Dairy farmers would be affected by the increase as well — Douglas W. Shelmidine, who owns a large farm in Ellisburg, says the increase would "really challenge us to give opportunities to those who don't have experience, or even kids." In other words, if he has to pay people more, he wants better-trained, more experienced people.
Generally, the minimum wage is a vastly complicated issue and one in which most hold strong and often-intractable views. With both businesses and employees struggling, and people holding a huge array of different opinions about what stimulates the economy, what chills it, and what these terms should even mean, it's unlikely these questions will be resolved even by data coming from any future minimum wage increase — there are just too many factors to consider, and, frankly, too much confirmation bias at work.
But maybe I'm being cynical. What do you think?