Who Hijacked Our Country

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Minimum Wage Increase — NOT!

Remember that phrase “begging the question” from your old Critical Thinking classes? Here is a textbook example.

The rightwing argument (without a shred of evidence) against raising the minimum wage has always been “jobs will be eliminated. You'll only be hurting the people you're trying to help.” And now that the minimum wage is just about to be raised for the first time in ten years, the wingnuts are trying to block it by using their tired disproven argument.

Senate Reactionaries are blocking the minimum wage increase until it is accompanied by massive tax breaks for employers who will be affected by the increased minimum wage. And of course this reinforces their underlying unproven belief that an increased minimum wage will create too much hardship for employers, who will in turn lay off their workers. And the circle goes round and round…

The minimum wage increase isn’t dead yet, but it'll be on hold for awhile. Ted Kennedy said “Why can’t we do just one thing for minimum wage workers, no strings attached, no giveaways for the powerful?”

Marie Antoinette is alive and well in the United States Senate.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've always supported a fair LIVING wage which the minimum wage is not. If a company can only exist by paying many of its workers less than what each needs to meet basic needs, then, in my book, they shouldn't be in business!

That said, I'm not completely unsympathetic to the position of SMALL (local) business owners. A spike in the minimum wage is often a difficult expense to recoup.

It's ironic to me that the companies that tend to howl the loudest, whenever the possibility of an increased wage is discussed, are the big mega corporations who can handle the increased costs the easiest without much affect at all to their bottom line.

January 25, 2007 at 4:33 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Rambling Taoist: The minimum wage originally intended as a living wage, when it was first created back in the 1950s. That was the period when the middle class was the strongest. Labor unions, the GI Bill, minimum wage -- these made the American dream possible for millions of workers. Now, retroactively, the Far Right has turned the minimum wage (and labor unions) into some sort of socialist cancer that destroys people's incentive.

It's true that a higher minimum wage is hard for small businesses, but that's the cost of doing business. They don't get a discount on the space they rent or the supplies they have to buy, just because they're a small business. There's no justification for them to squeeze their employees just to save a buck.

And you're right about the irony, that it's the megacorporations (the same ones who are paying 7-figure bonuses to their CEOs) that are screaming the loudest.

January 25, 2007 at 12:22 PM  
Anonymous JollyRoger said...

There is, of course, ample evidence to suggest that raising the minimum wage is GOOD for the overall economy-States that have a higher minimum wage than the Federal minimum tend to have less unemployment than States that do not. But the "Compassionate Conservatism" of El Shrubbo del Estupido holds that the poor are poor because they DESERVE to be, and thus anything done to help them is just handing a bum a break.

January 25, 2007 at 4:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Conservatives have opposed the minimum wage, the 40 hour workweek, overtime, health benefits and every other worker staple since their inception.
Everytime it is brought up there is a different reason:
market is bad, can strain it with a raise.
market is good, don't want to reverse the trend with a raise
blah, blah, blah

When I hear a Conservative talking about how government intervention in labor is ruining business I ask him this simple question:

Name one benefit we all enjoy as American workers that was given to us by business and not by government law?

First they try to talk about Vacation and Health Benefits and then I stop them and dare them to find a law saying you must have Vacation and Health Benefits. The Laws only show how to regulate them IF an employer gives them. Not making them mandatory.

Give credit to the right wing: They have managed to sucker even the ordinary people who depend on these laws to buy into their bull.


January 25, 2007 at 5:50 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Jolly Roger: It makes sense to me that the minimum wage helps the economy. After all, if a low wage earner gets a raise, they’ll probably spend the extra money on necessities. That helps the economy more than some executive who gets a 7-figure bonus package and tucks it away in the Cayman Islands.

Erik: That’s true, conservatives seem to have a reason to be against anything to help working people, either because the economy is too good or not good enough. I can't believe how the Right has suckered so many working people into voting against their own interests. It was a good sales job but it’s time for people to start seeing through it.

January 25, 2007 at 6:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Was it 14 states that voted an increase in their minimum wages with an index tied to inflation (something California couldn't do). Even in Red States like Arizona?

I figure that should be enough of an incentive to the Senate that the Voters are keeping an eye on this.


January 25, 2007 at 6:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You wrote "It's true that a higher minimum wage is hard for small businesses, but that's the cost of doing business."

I don't disagree, but I think we err if we don't concurrently understand that it's a harder cost for a local small business to absorb.

Most small local businesses have enough problems competing with the Walmarts, McDonalds and Home Depots of the world. Their prices (and service, thank goodness) generally is a tad bit higher.

An increased minimum wage often means they must jack up their prices by a small degree. Even a small increase further separates their prices from these low-cost leaders -- which often can mean going out of business.

Therefore, my point is that we can all agree that an increase in the minimum wage has overall benefits, but we must be ever cognizant that, in capitalist society, there will always be winners and losers. In this particular case, those losers are our friends and neighbors who own small local business, the lifeblood of many communities.

January 25, 2007 at 10:28 PM  
Blogger Snave said...

Some argue that earned income tax credits might be helpful in addition to or instead of a minimum wage increase, but you know, I just want to see the gap between rich and poor begin to CLOSE. I get disgusted with the current disparity, and when I realize how only a few percent of the nation's earners have close to 2/3 of the income, I just kind of cringe.

There is no reason on Earth I can think of why a CEO should make as much or more money in one day as his or her employees can make in a whole year. Big outfits who downsize because they say they can't afford to pay employees or pay employee benefits seem to have no difficulty with giving severance and retirement packages worth millions of dollars when CEOs leave their jobs for whatever reason.

I have a big problem with people like that being the beneficiaries of Bush's tax cuts. Screw the people who sweat for 40+ hours per week to get by, let's not give them raises. Let's just save the money and give it to the few who already have tons of it! Scheise...

As for owners of small businesses, I wouldn't have problems with tax breaks for them. Then again, what defines a "small business"? I don't know what the upper limits of "small business" are. I don't think it could be defined by someone who earns a million bucks a year as owner/CEO while the employees might make about 5% of that, could it? I am probably way naive, but I think of "small business" as something like a locally-owned locally-operated hardware store that employs maybe 5 or 10 people? Someone help me out on this one.

If the GOP wants tax breaks for "small business" owners, what do you want to bet there are actually some pretty large businesses that would be getting the breaks?

Anyway, someday it will be interesting to see what happens when American workers begin to realize how big the pie really is, and they decide en masse that they would like a bigger piece of it.

January 25, 2007 at 10:43 PM  
Anonymous JollyRoger said...

I'm with Snave. All the time, we hear about how corps have to offshore because of the turrble, turrble costs of labor in the US.

How many jobs could be saved here if we could get corp boards and CEOs to stop raping the companies they are supposed to be working for?

January 26, 2007 at 2:23 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Erik: I’m not sure how many states, but quite a few had a minimum wage increase on the ballot last November. I’m pretty sure every one of those initiatives passed. That should send a clear message to Republicans.

Rambling Taoist: I agree that higher wages can pose problems for small merchants. I live right downtown in a small town, and the quality of life here depends on the local merchants. But a lot of them don’t even have employees; they’re just a 1-person operation. I certainly empathize with them — they make this town what it is. But the fact remains that any help they hire should be paid a wage they can live on. As I was saying before, they don’t get cheaper rent or cheaper supplies just because of being a small business. They need to pay their employees a livable wage (or remain a 1-person operation). I’m not against tax breaks for small businesses, but somehow this news item just seemed like the Republicans were looking for an excuse to derail the minimum wage increase.

Snave: The gap between senior executives and wage earners is just criminal. Nowhere else in the industrialized world is there a gap anything like ours. I can sympathize with small businesses (as I was saying above) but the fact remains, you just can't hire somebody and pay them sub-livable wages. And the companies that are screaming the loudest against raising the minimum wage are the ones who are downsizing/outsourcing and then paying their senior executives obscenely huge bonuses and salaries.

And yeah, I wouldn’t doubt the Republicans would try to redefine “small business” to include anything smaller than Halliburton and Wal-Mart.

Jolly Roger: You're right, raping their companies is exactly what some of these CEOs and boards of directors are doing.

January 26, 2007 at 2:44 AM  
Blogger PoliShifter said...

I'll never understand Republicans. Nor will I ever understand the Nascar dads and middle America rural moms that vote for them.

If Repugs had their way, there would be NO minimum wage, NO benefits, NO environmental restrictions, NO caps on the amount of hours one can work consecutively, NO lunches, NO overtime, No fucking nothing.

While repugs feign outrage over the illegal immigration in this country, it is the illegals that enable their wet dream to come true which is low wage workers capable of being exploited in all areas of employment.

The hypocritical bastards want to have it both ways. They want to drum up support by playing on people's racism at the same time they turn a blind eye to the corporations that advertise in freakin spanish and hire the illegals in the first place.

And when it comes to wages they love to use the phrase "America can't compete" with oversease slave wages as justification why we should have slave wages here.

You can't fucking live on $5.25 an hour with one full time job. Period, end of discussion. It can't be done. You can be homeless with one full time minimum wage job. You can be 30 people packed in a one bedroom apartment. But you can't live. You can't support a family.

Republicans don't want to give out welfare yet they don't want to pay a living wage.

Republicans claim to be for family values yet they won't pay the husband a living wage necessary to support his family.

A large reason why men bail on their women is because they cannot afford the responsibility of raising a child. I'm not saying it's right, I'm just saying that's the way it is.

So take a 19 year old with a high school education making minimum wage at a McDonalds who knock's up his girlfriend. The natural impulse is to flee because one knows there is no way in hell they will be able to support their family.

I seem to remember a time, granted it's far back in history now, where in America we had a burgeoning Middle Class. Where a man and woman could marry, have a couple of kids, and buy a home. The man would work ONE job and was able to buy a home, two cars, put some money in savings, and STILL have enough left over for retirement and to put his children through schoo.

Isn't that "family values"?

Now it take both parents full time jobs just to make ends meet. And even then, in some cases one parent has to work (2) jobs.

Bottom line, Republicans support a top-down society where 5% of the population is super rich and the rest of us are dirt poor.

What Republicans want are the days of old; of serfdom and indentured servitude.

January 26, 2007 at 4:49 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

PoliShifter: Yeah, the Republican Party has really mutated. During the 1950s when Eisenhower was in charge, the minimum wage and labor unions and the GI Bill all helped make the American dream possible for millions of workers. From the time Reagan took over, the Republicans have just been veering further and further to the right. They won't be happy until we've turned into 3rd World oligarchy where 5% of the population lives in splendor and the other 95% is fighting each other over table scraps. Guatemala here we come.

The minimum wage was originally intended as a living wage. There actually was a time when, if you worked full time, you could afford a house or apartment and be able to raise a family. That sounds like family values to me. But I guess nowadays “family values” means living in squalor, being Godfearing and hanging on every word Pat Robertson says.

And our current government could solve the illegal immigrant issue overnight if they wanted to. All they'd have to do is tell their corporate donors to stop hiring illegal immigrants. Won't happen.

January 26, 2007 at 5:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fast Food Nation and other publications point out how many of the "small" Business jobs are actually corporate. You may have a local job that may be part of a conglomerate, or part of a franchise which is then part of a conglomerate.

It shows how they combine both Small Business tax breaks (yes they are there if you know where to find them) Local Tax breaks, and then get their corporate tax breaks and then shelter them overseas.

As for the minimum wage, business is allowed several wavers both locally and federally. The most common is up to six months listed as a "training wage". Then it hasn't been uncommon for those businesses to "turn over" once the waver is over.

That's why the Conservatives say to "let the Market decide the wages" (to the worker anyway), the Market is manipulated.

In spite of all those perks. Labor law violations are rampant. Employees are denied proper overtime, paid under the minimum wage or underpaid knowing in 99% of the time people will not complain.

Do you know how many retailers use intimidation tactics or just pick up and move because Americans are exercising their legal right to Unionize?

The few lawsuits you hear about with Wallmart and all are just the tip of the iceberg. Many people are intimidated and cannot afford to lose their jobs just because they need to sue.

Close those loopholes, re-define who is a small business and give them their proper breaks. Enforce those who break the labor laws (are you listening Law and Order Republicans?) and you will see great prosperity in this Country


January 26, 2007 at 8:46 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Erik: Yup, that's all true. It's pretty dire. And most government agencies that are supposed to protect workers' rights (i.e. the Labor Relations Board) have been stacked with corporate types who think laborers should just fend for themselves and quit whining.

There are definitely laws that need to be enforced and loopholes that need to be closed. We'll see if a Democratic congress will make any difference.

January 26, 2007 at 9:46 PM  

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