Editorial: Water and power are essential. Disconnecting services when people can’t afford to pay is cruel and unjust.
Published May 26, 2014 at 12:00 am
By MICHELLE K. BOUCHER
You may have noticed that some businesses these days have a website. As far as I can see, most of these, while useful in directing customers, are not particularly useful when used to contact the businesses to arrange payment or refund. One would think that after the U.S. Supreme Court decided Kelo vs. New London (2014) that property cannot be divided for the public benefit, businesses would be more helpful in responding to consumers who do not pay. They would no longer have to do this on their own — they would have to seek payment first — but they have continued to do this. I believe this is another example of the government regulating behavior rather than individuals.
The water and power industries have been struggling with the fact that they are regulated by the government and cannot operate without it. It is illegal for a business to not pay a utility bill or a person not to pay their bills unless they are convicted of a crime — and the consequences can be severe. These companies are already regulated. They are not free to operate. This is a state of affairs in which government needs to step in and make the businesses responsible for making customers pay.
The water and power industries are regulated by the same authority that is supposed to regulate the companies. That means that the water and power companies are subject to the same rule as companies that sell tobacco products, alcohol or addictive products such as cocaine or heroin. It is the same situation with the food products industries regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. That is why I am advocating that when a food or pharmaceutical company does not pay its utility bill, the Food and Drug Administration should send a cease and desist letter that says the company is breaking regulation and should be reporting all its dealings with its customers. This would keep the businesses accountable and prevent a repeat of the situation in which the Kelo decision is happening now.
It is good that the state of New Hampshire, which is about to become the first state with a new law to increase the minimum wage for a worker, is now putting forward the proposal. However, if the legislature passes a law requiring minimum wage workers to pick up an extra $1 an hour each day rather than $10 an hour, that