Minimum Wage Increase Killed by GOP Obstructionists

mcconnell-idiotWell, the obstructionists of the GOP have done it again. On April 30th, they bravely stood up in the Senate and blocked even the debate about raising the minimum wage… except none of them actually stood up and it wasn’t brave in the slightest. Bravery would have been engaging in the debate, making their case, and engaging in the process of legislation. But they would prefer not to go on record with their arguments against helping workers and the American economy, and thus they took it out behind the woodshed Old-Yeller-style.

Opponents of raising the minimum wage have had their way for decade after decade. The buying power of the minimum wage has not kept up with increased costs and inflation since 1968, which means that claims that the minimum wage drives up inflation are completely baseless and false. The wage also hasn’t been raised since 2007, during which time costs of living all across the nation have substantially increased. The argument that raising the minimum wage will lead to loss of jobs has been used to spike attempts to raise the minimum wage that was first put into law in 1938. And it might be that, if the world were a sterile laboratory or a similar closed-system, the truism that raising the price of something (in this case, labor) would invoke the law of supply and demand. If the price of labor rises, employers presumably would eliminate jobs rather than pay workers more than the market dictates. If the price falls, they would supposedly add jobs.

Obviously in the real world, these so-called rules do not apply without fail. According to a recent report from the National Employment Law Program, the jobs lost during the Great Recession have mostly been replaced, but most of the new ones are low-wage jobs that pay at most about $27,000 per year, and many fall below that line. (To give you an idea of how out-of-touch Congress is with what this means financially, a congressperson’s annual salary (excluding benefits and perks) is $174,000, which is exactly 12 times as much as someone who makes minimum wage for a full year earns.) By the Econ 101 logic that dominates the GOP, unemployment should be virtually abolished at that level of average pay, yet we as a nation still struggle. Another crack in the foundation of the “rules” is the fact that several cities and states have increased their minimum wage, and none have crashed down into financial ruin and devastation.

In the real world, the people with capital, described erroneously by some as job creators, have been in control for years, and they have restructured the system to their own advantage. Consider this: The amount of corporate income that ended up in owners’ hands, rather than workers, reached an all-time high last year in 2013, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. Wages growth is at the lowest rate in decades, the gap between CEO wages and worker wages at Standard and Poor’s 500 was about 200 to 1 in 2012, as calculated by Business Week. Compare that with a ratio 50 years ago of about 20 to 1. Giant corporations force their workers to rely on welfare programs to get by, and dodge as much tax burden as possible to avoid paying their share of the burden they have foisted onto the public. More than half of fast-food and big-box-store workers enroll their families in public assistance programs, according to by researchers at the University of California at Berkeley , meaning that the rest of us have to subsidize those workers’ survival in the name of increased corporate profit.

Increased wages are good for the economy. Corporations are hoarding funds, which makes that money worthless in terms of economic growth. Without demand, business can’t grow and expand; there won’t be the money coming in to support it. Without a living wage, there can be no demand. Without a living wage, workers will become more and more dependent on assistance to survive; they’ll have no choice, because starving to death is no choice at all.

All of this culminates in a simple fact: with this vote, the Republican Party has underlined that it is not interested in the financial health of the nation, or its citizens, as long as they continue to be able to depend on millionaires and corporations for the money they need to run for office again and again. They are quite willing to let us hang as long as they can prevent their opposition from “scoring points”. It’s reprehensible, it’s malign, and it’s more than enough reason that any thinking voter should get out next November and kick their asses out of those cushy seats.

Jason Francis

Jason Francis is a red-state liberal, residing in the heart of Dixie where he gets to watch the train wreck of conservative politics up close and personal on a regular basis. He's lived in affluence and poverty, in both urban and rural settings, attended both public and private schools, and has visited most of the US at one point or another.


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