Thursday, April 12, 2012

Republicans, Wages, Unions, and the Deep South

Standard Republican policy: Pay the lowest possible wages (with no benefits) to increase corporate profits (to pay excessive CEO salaries), while squeezing consumers as much as possible to maximize those profits, and lobbying congress for tax rates that disproportionately tax the poor and middle-class at a higher rate than the very wealthy are obligated to pay. Then cut public education so that only the wealthy have access to the best schools, keeping the rest of America "dumbed down"...just like the Southerners were doing in 1860 before the American Civil War.

Now it's 147 years later and America is still engaged in a civil war: the rich against the middle-class and poor, the Republicans against the women and the working-class, and the North against the South. But the "civil war" we're engaged in today isn't about paying African-American slaves NO wages at all, but about paying ALL American slaves a minimum "living wage".

The photo below was taken on March 25, 2011 in South Carolina, the first State to declare its secession from the Union in 1860; the State where the very profitable tax dodger The Boeing Company recently built a factory to pay low wages to non-union workers...just like the big corporations have done in the auto manufacturing industry.

Without including cities like New York, Boston, and San Francisco: The average monthly rent in the U.S. (including a studio, one-bedroom or two-bedroom apartment) was $986 last year, based on Reis data. Working 40 hours a week, one would need to work 173.33 hours a month at $5.68 an hour just to pay their keep the rain off their heads at night while sleeping.

If a person were earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour (and worked 40 hours a week), after paying their rent, that would leave them with only $272 a month to pay for food and a little heat...and nothing else.

Oops! I almost forgot. First they would have payroll taxes deducted from their paychecks, then they'd pay their rent, and then they'd try to eke out a living on whatever was left over. No wonder the crime rate is what it is...the more poverty there is, the higher the crime rate. Just look at Flint Michigan since the auto industry left.

After paying rent, that person earning the federal minimum wage would have nothing left over to live cable TV or internet connection. No landline phone or cell phone. No auto loan or car insurance. No allowance for clothes, emergency savings, or eventual retirement. No money left over to go out to a movie once a month. No health or dental care. Healthcare insurance premiums averaged $414 per month last year, and Republicans want to repeal ObamaCare and de-fund Medicaid and Medicare as well.

By comparison: A full-time minimum wage job pays $15,080 a year; and most Americans who receive unemployment, disability compensation, or Social Security retirement benefits might get an average of $17,856 a year. And the very poor, those who must rely of TANF (such as mothers on welfare), might only receive half that amount, and with a maximum life-time benefit of only four years. The Republicans keep repeating the same old lie, "From the cradle to the grave", and most Southerners believe this (Were they "dumbed down"?).

As income inequality emerges as a crucial issue in the upcoming presidential campaign, lawmakers are a facing growing pressure to raise the minimum wage.

Many Democrats and their labor allies say the time is right to push for another increase, and not just because it is hard to live on the $15,080 a year earned by a person working full time at minimum wage. They say a public debate now over the merits of increasing wages is bound to put many Republicans on the defensive during an election year -- and it would encourage low-income and working-class Americans (an important part of the Democratic base) to go to the polls this November.

The business community is not at all happy about these developments and has warned President Obama, Democratic lawmakers and labor groups that with weak job growth, the time is definitely not right to raise the minimum wage (as they continue to outsource jobs to other countries).

The business community also says that "now" is not a good time to raise taxes either, even though they have $2.5 trillion hoarded away in corporate treasuries. It seems as though raising taxes or the minimum wage is NEVER a good time for the business community.

Jen Kern, minimum wage campaign coordinator at the National Employment Law Project, says “You ask business why they’re not hiring. They say it’s because no one is buying anything. Well, a higher minimum wage would give people more money to spend.”

In 2010, 1.8 million hourly workers earned exactly the prevailing federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, according to federal data. About 2.5 million had wages below the minimum wage...and a great many didn't get 40 hours a week either. But another 73 million Americans barely earned much more.

Last year 50% of all U.S. workers earned less than $26,364 a year - - and the poverty level for a family of four is $22,350 a year. But the Republicans say that 99% of us own a refrigerator, and most of us also have a color TV, and so therefore, aren't living in poverty.

Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa and chairman of the Senate Labor Committee, says “Establishing a reasonable minimum wage is the simplest thing we can do to help hard-working families make ends meet, join the middle class, and help move the economy forward.”

Dan Cantor, the executive director of the New York State Working Families Party, says “If we’re serious as a society about poverty and work and decency, the minimum wage needs to eventually become a living wage.” Especially since manufacturing was outsourced overseas, and 70% of the workforce is now in the service industry, which is anticipated to generate nearly 18 million new jobs by the end of the decade.

The "land of opportunity" has become the "land of low wages". While the job market may still look grim for those looking to replace their good-paying office or manufacturing job, opportunities are expected to abound for a host of jobs paying less than $10 an hour according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • Food preparation and serving workers, including fast food - $8.71 an hour, or $18,000 annually. The occupation is now the fourth largest in the country with 2.7 million workers. Hourly mean wages: $8.91 Yearly mean wages: $18,540.
  • Dishwashers - There are roughly half a million dishwashers in the United States, and they earn about $8.81 an hour. Hourly mean wages: $8.98 Yearly mean wages: $18,680.
  • Counter Attendants - Hourly mean wages: $9.27 Yearly mean wages: $19,280.
  • Dining Room Attendants And Bartender Helpers - Hourly mean wages: $9.29 Yearly mean wages: $19,320 (A union bartender in Las Vegas, about $15 a hour, but it's a difficult job to get now.)
  • Cashiers - A workforce of about 3.3 million, behind only retail sales people with 4.2 million. Cashiers make $9.15 an hour, or $19,000 annually; about half of those who work cash registers are part timers. (Hourly mean wages: $9.52 Yearly mean wages: $19,810 ).
  • Hosts and hostesses - These jobs bring in $9.23 an hour, compared to $9.80 an hour for waiters and waitresses. About $19,000 a year. Hourly mean wages: $9.43 Yearly mean wages: $19,600.
  • Amusement park attendants - Median wages for these jobs are below the national mean hourly wage of $9.35 an hour. Hourly mean wages: $9.50 Yearly mean wages: $19,750.
  • Movie theater ushers, ticket takers - $9.43 an hour.
  • Farm workers - Often cited as the "jobs Americans don’t want" - $9.51 to $9.64 an hour ($20,040 a year).
  • Personal and home care aides - $9.75 an hour.

Most of the lowest-earning states are in the South. Mississippi had the lowest median income, while West Virginia, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Alabama rounded out the bottom five. Northern states have historically paid better.

In a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics they found that the number of U.S. workers in labor unions fell to 14.7 million — the number of private sector union workers fell to 7.1 million and the number of public sector union members fell to 7.6 million. These are the jobs that have best kept up with the inflation and the cost-of-living

The percentage of private sector union workers fell to only 6.9 percent of the total workforce, the lowest rate for private sector workers in more than a century. The peak was once at 35 percent during the mid-1950s, and the wages for most other jobs (in today's dollars) have stagnated or declined since that time.

Mitt Romney sees no need to increase the minimum wage "right now". Most Republicans don't want legal a minimum wage at all, and would allow the largest and most profitable corporations pay sweat-shop / slave wages to domestic workers if they could. The Republicans would welcome back the days of the Northern robber barons and Southern cotton plantation owners.

Mitt Romney's campaign was stone silent yesterday when asked about his support of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, regarding equal-pay for women, which amended the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The Republicans weren't just against the Civil Rights Act, and they aren't just against the minimum hourly pay or equal pay for women; but they're also against worker's safety (OSHA - Occupational Safety and Heath Administration), workforce discrimination (EEOC - Equal Employment Opportunity Commission), worker's rights (NLRB - National Labor Relations Board), collective bargaining (labor unions like the AFL-CIO), worker's retirement (Social Security Administration), and worker's health (Medicare and Medicaid).

If anything but, the Republican party has been mostly anti-worker and pro-corporation for their entire existence (with the exception of Abe Lincoln, before he was assassinated just after the Civil War ended in 1865.)

After Republicans and Tea Partisans took control of the U.S. House in the 2010 elections, we heard that Republicans in the new Congress would focus on "jobs, jobs, jobs."

But that hasn't been the case, unless the jobs in question were those of trans-vaginal ultrasound operators. Other than that, there was a lot of talk about abortions, birth control, cutting government jobs, cutting taxes for the rich, de-funding Planned Parenthood and busting up labor unions.

Republicans, like employers (those noble "job-creators" vexed by bureaucracy and regulation), don't like or respect average American workers (or women) very much - period. Just ask anybody in the South. In the South, white Republican politicians don't like anyone else except for maybe other white Republican politicians.

Members of the Tea Party today are mostly what were once called Dixiecrats. A Vietnam veteran recently wrote in the Denver Post:

"In the Deep South, little has changed in four centuries, even if its oligarchs are now Republicans instead of Democrats. They want a compliant, poorly educated, low-wage workforce with as few labor, workplace safety, health care, and environmental regulations as possible."

"One thing has changed though. For 250 years they've lived in mortal fear of a slave revolt. These days, they don't need armed patrols. If high unemployment doesn't keep these Americans from getting uppity, the oligarchs can always hire some lackey to go on TV and prattle about their 'values'."

The American Civil War wasn't fought for any other ideology other than for "states rights" to use "free labor" when cotton was king. In 1861 the top 1% in the South were the cotton plantation owners, today they're the CEOs in the Fortune 500...the very people that the Tea Party, the Dixiecrats, and the Republicans support.

They still want to keep us "dumbed down", under-paid, and less "uppity", using their phony accusations of "envy" and "class warfare" to make their lame arguments when we all know it's just plain greed.

(Pictured below) The top 1% in 1861 and the top 1% today. What's changed? Oh yes. By law, now they must pay the hired help the federally mandated minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. (What would that have been today in 1861 wages?)

(The New York Times) The Puzzle of Measuring Poverty: "Despite four years of economic distress, the welfare rolls have barely budged. Many researchers see evidence of growing destitution. Incomes have plunged."

This is what decades of "trickle-down economics" and tax cuts for the rich have reaped upon the middle-class, the working-class, the working poor, and the poor in America. And the Republicans not only want "more of the same", they want much, much more of the same.

And what is very perplexing to me is, half the poor and low wage earners in Southern states still vote against their own best interests, and vote for Republicans! Haven't they heard? The Civil War is over!!! And besides, friends don't let friends vote for Republicans (unless they own a cotton plantation in the South or a sweat shop in China).

For most working Americans, with more and more being forced from the middle-class into poverty wages, America really is in decline (except for the top 1%). So it's fair to guess that the South will indeed rise again, because by then, at the rate we're going, we'll ALL be working for free.

* Full Disclosure: Most of my relatives live in the South.


  1. Was just reading over on Economist's View that the US has the largest number of employees in the OECD working at lower than the median wage (24.8%). Mind you, Canada has nothing to shout about, we are right behind at 20.5%. It amazes me how many people vote against their own interests, again and again. Is it too much to hope that people will wake up some day?

  2. It stings to be stupid and get income above the table. Owing all that tax seems like something they'll put you in jail for.

    "They"? Yeah, the police. Now you have a cash economy far distinct from those three non-wages sources used here to compare with minimumn wage. I agree with you, Bud, but, I get all three, $13,000 each, $40,000 total, with every penny recorded. A person who is accepting cash has an opportunity to cheat right there which I do not have.

    I believe people ask for cash to avoid taxes, and are fundamentally guilty. I do not care if Alexander Putin is a Republican as long as the little thieves all around me should never prosper from what they do.

    Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to write a check. I have to pay for this war. Technically, my U.S. bombs are already dropped.

    But I'm with you, there's just a disconnect.