Tuesday, March 19, 2013

6 Democrats Betray 30 Million Workers on Minimum Wage

In 1973, as a high school drop out, I was earning $7.50 an hour as an unskilled union worker in a sheet metal factory in Massachusetts. Now 40 years later in 2013 the minimum wage is still less --- at a measly $7.25 an hour. Six Democrats think that's fair.

Last week the House Republicans unanimously rejected a bill that would have raised the federal minimum wage, from its current $7.25 per hour to $10.10 by 2015. Six Democrats joined 227 Republicans in voting it down (184 Democrats voted with the American workers).

We can always EXPECT the Republicans (the party of the largest corporations the very wealthy) to vote this way, but Democrats? Here are the six Democrats who betrayed 30 million American workers:

  • John Barrow (Georgia- 12th District)
  • Jim Matheson- (Utah- 4th District)
  • Mike McIntyre (North Carolina- 7th District)
  • Bill Owens- (New York- 21st District)
  • Colin Peterson- (Minnesota- 7th District)
  • Kurt Schrader- (Oregon- 5th District)

All six of those fake Democrats ("Dinos") represent conservative districts, and helped shoot down one of President Obama’s main priorities in his State of the Union address. While although none of their votes made any difference to the actual outcome of the bill, I'd still like to understand their motivation for voting against a hike in the minimum wage. Are they really turncoats who truly share Republican values?

One thing is for certain --- they did not vote in a way that represented their constituents' values, because there are no congressional districts where most people oppose raising the minimum wage. Seventy-one percent of Southerners support raising the minimum wage, as do at least 50% of Republican voters. You won't find a single congressperson whose opposition to raising the minimum wage has a majority support in their district. Not one.

The legislation was proposed as a last-minute amendment upon passage of the SKILLS Act, which reauthorizes a jobs training program. The procedural move, known as the motion to recommit, was invoked by the Democrats with the instruction that the minimum wage amendment be tacked on.

With the exception of six individuals, most Democrats believed the minimum wage amendment was a winning issue for them. They said a wage increase would have applied to 30 million workers and said raising the rate would have paid for itself because, while businesses would have had to pay more, they would have seen more customers with more money to spend.

According to the Social Security Administration, 50% of all Americans earn LESS than $27,000 a year -- this is the 47% that Mitt Romney and his ultra-wealthy campaign contributors disdain so much --- because these under-paid Americans must rely on some form of government entitlements. But let's call these "entitlements" for what they really are -- "wage subsidies" -- and companies like Wal-Mart benefit the most.

Raising the minimum wage might have given wealthy Republicans a lot less working Americans to despise. That is the mindset of those like Mitt Romney, who believe that half the country are "takers", when in fact, working Americans, by their labor and spending, are the real "makers" of the economy. People like Mitt Romney were the real "takers" --- they took jobs from American workers and sent them to slave labor camps in China and stole their pensions.

Rep. George Miller (D-CA), the author of the amendment to raise the minimum wage, makes the case: "Even while corporate profits soar and the stock market reaches new highs, the working poor continue to fall further and further behind," Miller said in a prepared statement. "If the Republicans want to take away a priority of service for low income Americans who want to learn new skills for a better job and a better life, the least we can do is make sure these workers get a decent wage."

Yet all we hear are the same old tired GOP talking points that are constantly being invoked. “We need jobs out there. The best approach right now is to get federal spending under control and government out of the way of the nation’s job creators,” said Rep. John Kline, Minnesota Republican, who led the opposition against the working people.

But the multi-millionaire Nick Hanauer, a venture capitalist from Seattle, disagrees with the GOP's notion of job creators:

"When business people take credit for creating jobs, it's a little bit like squirrels taking credit for creating evolution. Anyone who's ever run a business knows that hiring more people is a course of last resort for capitalists. And in this sense, calling yourselves job creators isn't just inaccurate, it's disingenuous. There can never be enough super-rich people to power a great economy. Somebody like me makes hundreds or thousands as times much as the median American, but I don't buy hundreds or thousands of times as much stuff. My family owns three cars, not 3,000. I buy a few pairs of pants and shirts a year like most American men. Occasionally we go out to eat with friends."

If the minimum wage were brought up to $10.10 an hour, it would not be a revolutionary hike; rather, it would be indexed to inflation and consistent with historical borrowing power. Had the minimum wage been indexed to inflation in 1968, it would be $10.40 today.

40 years ago in 1973, as a high school drop out, I was earning $7.50 an hour as an unskilled union worker (a welder's helper) in a Massachusetts sheet metal factory.Indexed for inflation, today that would be $39.22 an hour --- but according the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a welder's median wage today is only $17.04 an hour.

In 1988 I ran a small business (a video rental store) and paid my employees $9.00 an hour. Now 25 years later in 2013 the minimum wage is only $7.25 an hour, and congress won't raise it to a measly $10 an hour. Why? Are they afraid millions of Americans will have more money to spend?

The bill that was just shot down would also have raised the rate for tip-workers, whose minimum wage has been $2.13 an hour for the last two decades. People like bartenders, food servers and bus- persons have to pay federal income taxes on 100% of their tips; and they also must pay Medicare and Social Security taxes on 100% of their total earnings. Mitt Romney's children receive the first $10 million of their inheritance totally exempt from any federal income taxes at all -- and Mitt Romney pays no Social Security taxes either on his $20 million annual income --- because his income is earned as "capital gains", not as "tips" or "hourly wages".

Eight years ago CNN Money noted that "had the minimum wage risen as fast as CEO compensation since 1990, researchers calculated, it would now be $23.03 an hour. And the average production worker would be making $110,126 a year instead of $27,460.” Certainly, the numbers would be much higher now.

Henry Ford set the example (despite the anger of his fellow executives) by raising the pay of his workers substantially - and pointed out that the workers needed to be able to afford to buy the products they produce. Wages have been held down for decades now, while corporate profits and CEO/Executive salaries have skyrocketed.

If all hourly wages (except for CEO and Executive pay) were raised 100% tomorrow, the maximum increase in product sales prices to cover it might be 35% (but most likely much lower). There would be additional taxes for employees to pay, but they would also have significantly more money left over for discretionary spending --- while the increased taxes would help balance the budget and pay down the deficit --- and support badly needed programs that are currently being cut because of the self-inflicted budget “crisis”.

As a bonus, it would eliminate the “housing crisis” as people could afford to stay in their homes and housing prices would appreciate, giving the middle class homeowner some equity again.

The best possible thing that could happen to this country would be a significant increase in the minimum wage (probably to something more in the range of $20-25 an hour, not a measly $9-$10). The increased discretionary income for so many people would create immense demand for products and services, which would bring down unemployment and increase both State and Federal tax revenues --- which would also bring down the deficit while providing funds to pay off the debt.

It could also fund social programs, instead of constantly cutting them and provide large amounts of revenue to Social Security and Medicare (allowing for adequate cost of living increases to the recipients, instead of cuts).

It could also end the current housing crisis by providing adequate income for most people to avoid losing their homes in foreclosure.It would also improve the housing conditions of millions of Americans, as well as their health care options. It would even help the wealthy, since the increased demand and product sales would increase their revenues as well.

But 227 Republicans and 6 Democrats just don't see it that way, when the majority of everyone else does.

* This was also posted at the Daily Kos

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