Starving the underground economy

As a long time addictions counselor and someone who is intimately experienced in black market activities, I have one thing to say about destabilizing the underground economy by boosting the minimum wage: Eliminate cash and the black market and all peripheral entities will fold up like a house of cards (“Raising the Md. minimum wage would stabilize families — and destabilize the underground economy,” Jan. 31). Cash is the untraceable element that keeps the ball rolling in the underworld economy.

“No one we know likes selling drugs, but everyone needs to eat; it's as simple as that.” Really? Most small-to-mid-level dealers make $500-to-$1,000 per week in clear untaxed money selling drugs. I'm sure most of them like that. So you would like them to stop making $50,000 annually tax-free (the equivalent of $70,000 legit) for the proposed $15 per hour minimum wage? Most of these individuals have no job skills or anything else to make them worth $15 per hour. Those figures will never add up. Do you have a motivational tool or a resource that will get the dealers off the street, curb the turf wars, and robberies with the accompanying violence? I think not. All of the violence on the streets of Baltimore, including the continuing graft in the police department and individuals in public office, are all cash-driven.

“Pay young men and women more than they make as entry level workers in the underground economy.” That's nice but how will small businesses be able to afford to pay people more than they’re worth? I get it, the taxpayers pay more to keep the attitude of entitlement alive and well. Sounds like extortion, doesn't it? I say, let those people hustle, die, get locked up or come to the conclusion many have come to believe (the hard way) crime does not pay.

Here is my solution. First, recall all cash. Second, make everyone explain where they got their cash or get locked up for tax evasion. Third, issue electronic cards for all purchases making all income totally transparent. Let's see how the black market likes that.

Eliminate the profitability and eliminate the violence! Kristerfer Burnett’s proposal would be an affront to those skilled individuals who have gone to school, gotten training in a trade, who earn in that general $15-$20 per hour wage frame. How about them?

George Hammerbacher, Baltimore

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