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Colorado’s Changes in Cost of Living: How Should Policymakers Address This Growing Concern?

Colorado’s Changes in Cost of Living: How Should Policymakers Address This Growing Concern?

For U.S. Latino families, jobs, financial security and the overall health of the economy consistently rank near the top of the list of important issues to their overall well-being – and with good reason.  Financial security affects almost every aspect of life.  From the confidence that one gains from being able to provide for our family’s needs in the future, to being able to afford current essentials like housing, education, and healthcare – financial security contributes to peace of mind regarding the future.

This is why it is crucial that federal and state policies not hinder the economic growth that contributes to an individual’s ability to find opportunities, earn a stable income, or feel secure in their finances.  In Colorado, a recent report titled “The Self-Sufficiency Standard for Colorado 2015″ looks at this central idea of financial stability and what it takes to be economically self-sufficient in the state.

The report finds that the standard of economic self-sufficiency has risen across the state significantly over the past few years, even though this is supposed to be a period of economic recovery for the entire country.  Rising costs in healthcare, food, housing, and child care — coupled with stagnant wages — are driving this shift in Colorado, according to the report’s analysis.  The cost of healthcare in particular went up a whopping 86 percent; food increased by 63 percent; child care by another 48 percent.  The report also points out how a single adult living in Boulder County would need an hourly wage of $13.36 to meet his or her basic needs; a single parent with two children working full-time at the federal minimum wage would only cover 35 percent of his or her basic needs (depending on the county).

This growing problem in Colorado needs to be addressed – the question of how, of course, remains contentious.  The same report concludes that one of the answers would be to increase the minimum wage, rather than addressing the underlying issues that cause costs to skyrocket. Unfortunately, the authors fail to recognize that government interference is, in part, what has led to these problems in the first place. It is well-documented that the rising cost of healthcare is in large part due to excessive regulation and interference in the form of the Affordable Care Act. Overregulation and subsidies have played a role in the increasing costs of basic goods and services. Raising minimum wage often hurts the very population it was intended to help by eliminating those entry-level, low-skill jobs and making it impossibly expensive for small businesses or startups to hire the help they need to get their shop up and running.

We should all keep these questions in mind across the country, as more and more politicians float the idea of hiking minimum wage as a quick fix cure-all to the state’s (and country’s) economic ailments. Financial stability, as it relates to cost of living, is meaningful to families not just in Colorado, but across the United States, and it is time federal and state governments start addressing the underlying problems rather than pushing policies that contribute to them.