[Content Note: Poverty.]

Raymond Burse, interim president of Kentucky State University, has returned more than $90,000 of his $349,869 annual salary so that minimum wage workers at the university could all make $10.25 an hour. The change is immediate and "will stay in place even after a new president is selected, he said. It will be the rate for all new hires as well."

I've seen this described as a nice gesture, or a generous move, or variations on that theme, and, in the sense that Burse had absolutely no legal obligation to do give back part of his salary, I suppose it is, but, in the sense that his drawing slightly less excellent of an excellent salary to give lower-wage workers an increase to a still-not-livable wage, it sort of seems to me less like generosity and more like necessity.

Which is not a criticism of Burse at all. He seems to agree that it something he needed to do. "This is not a publicity stunt. You don't give up $90,000 for publicity. I did this for the people. This is something I've been thinking about from the very beginning." And he notes that not all university presidents are in the position to do the same.

This is the reality of increasing income inequality, now that wealth and income are so concentrated, if we're ever going to try to find any kind of reasonable balance: The haves are going to have to do with a little less so that the have-nots can have a little more.

But people waiting to be paid a liveable wage for a days' work shouldn't be dependent on the largesse of their employers voluntarily giving back some of their income. Because a lot of them will be waiting forever.

We need laws that guarantee a realistic livable wage and limiting executive income to a reasonable multiplier of that wage, so that if executives want to make more, they need to give their employees more, too.

Because what Burse did was necessary, and it was also incredibly rare all the same.

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