Friday, July 28, 2006

House Might Pass Min Wage Increase -- Gee, thanks

Two damn dollars over two years? Com'on. I'm equally unhappy with the Democrats who are taking credit for pushing this insult through as I am with the Republicans who are going to try to take credit for it, while tying it to all sort of big-business, rich-folk measures.

What, should we all line up and thank those bastards on both sides of the aisle for their generosity? At the full blown $7.25 -- phased in over two damn years -- a minimum wage worker only needs 79 1/2 hours a week to gross $30,000 a year. Golly, thanks guys. You can raise a great family of four on that, right?

Joe Bageant's most recent essay puts the source of my ire well, you should go read the whole thing:

The widening affluence gap aggravates an already existent class system, though neither class is willing to acknowledge it. The national mythology holds that we are a "nation of rugged individualism," the implication being that there are no classes, no masses, just 300 million rugged freedom loving Daniel Boone/Marlboro Man types completely in charge of their own destinies. And on rare occasions when class is acknowledged by working Americans, they express the simplistic consumer state induced view that class has entirely to do with money, and say they are all "middle class" in a country that is pretty much divided into only two classes. An astonishing number of families in the $30,000-per-household bracket believe they are in the top 10%, according to some surveys.

Regardless of media-manufactured underclass hallucinations as to class, only one class is paying half a week's wages or more for a single doctor visit to a member of the other class. Only one class is counting on Social Security for its entire retirement income (at least 64% of Americans and rising, by last count.) Yeah, yeah, more than half of Americans are invested in the stock market through 401Ks etc. we are told. But only at a few thousand dollars per household. When it comes to the much-ballyhooed stock market, 10 % of Americans split the national hog between themselves, tossing the ears to the other 90%. At this point bona fide pinkos may be excused from reading the next paragraph. You've heard it a million times, but I just can't help myself, comrade.

Cometh the old familiar numbers so oft heard, but worth repeating in hope that their meaning may by mysterious courses known only to God, take spark in the football besotted minds of my fellow underclass mutts: The richest 10 percent of families own a little over 85% of all outstanding stocks, 87% of all financial securities, and 90% of all business assets. If you throw in assets such as homes, checking and savings accounts, CDs and money funds, and pension accounts, then 20% of Americans own 83% of all wealth. The bottom 20% have no assets, no net worth at all. Put simply, the top 20% eat the cake, the middle 60% eat the crumbs and the bottom 20% get to lick the plates while they do everyone else's dishes.
UPDATE: Chortling that "You've seen us really outfox you", House Republicans show who they work for.

Yesterday, they passed a bill raising the minimum wage for the first time in nearly ten years, from $5.15 an hour to $7.25 an hour, over THREE years. But, they tied it to bills extending valuable tax credits for big business and permanently cutting the estate tax, benefitting only the richest 1.2% of the population.

From the New York Times, here's how the increase is phased in:
Under the minimum wage proposal, the current $5.15 rate would rise by $2.10 over three years in three increments, reaching $5.85 in January 2007, $6.55 on June 1, 2008, and $7.25 on June 1, 2009. The change would also allow tips to be counted toward minimum wage increases in states where that is not now allowed.
It goes on to the Senate now.

3 comments:

Gort said...

Of course you know that paying people a couple of more bucks will result in massive unemployment and small business bankruptcies just like every other time they raised it.

Rep. Mark B. Cohen said...

I agree with you that $7.25 is not enough for the miniumum wage. I initiated the successful Pennsylvania effort to raise the minimum wage to $7.15 in 2007.

I am building on that 39% increase to propose an increase that will take a minimum wage worker with two dependents out of poverty, something that no state nor the federal proposal does at this time.

Achieving this this goal would require a minimum wage in the vicinity of $9.50 for 2010, and lesser increases before that.

This, too, is far from adequate to meet a person's needs, but it would be a dramatic step forward if enacted and copied in other states.

A Big Fat Slob said...

Rep Cohen, your leadership on this issue is appreciated. But what we, as a nation, really need to start talking about is commitment to a living wage.

Over 25% of the workforce currently earn poverty-level wages and we've got 3.5 million homeless -- over 40% of whom are "working homeless".

A living wage formula could tie the minimum to housing costs. Under this arrangement, a wage earner, working 40 hours a week, would not need to spend more than 30% of their income on housing. This would also ensure that the minimum wage worker would be able to satisfy their basic needs without additional income.

Under this standard, the minimum wage would fluctuate region to region. Right now, it might be $6.50 in Minnesota and $10.25 in Chicago.

Commitment to a living wage can also help with the issues of illegal immigration, exportation of US jobs, and the balance of trade. If this country commits top a living wage, it is but a small step to then require that our trading partners do the same.

As the world moves, however slowly, towards that concept, the attractiveness of US minimum wage jobs to foreigners would be reduced. The attractiveness of foregin manufacturing locations for US companies would be reduced. And the US would benefit from not supporting slave wages, child labor, and coerced labor when we import cheap clothing and consumer goods made abroad.

Imagine what the United States could do by taking the moral leadership on worker security and rights, instead of taking the leadership in invasion and war and international distrust.

The indidivual states and cities which have taken the lead on minimum wage issues in the absence of federal leadership are to be commended. But if we are going to start down the path of restoring the majority of Americans to the benefits of the US economic engine, a federal living wage commitment is a necessary first step.

Thanks for your contribution.