Posted 10 years ago on Sept. 3, 2012, 4:28 p.m. EST by LeoYo
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Raising the Minimum Wage Is the Least We Can Do to Civilize America
Monday, 03 September 2012 09:58 By Mark Weisbrot, McClatchy/Tribune Services | Op-Ed
The federal minimum wage is just $7.25 an hour and hasn’t been raised in three years. But a raise is much more overdue than that. If we look at the minimum wage 44 years ago, and simply adjust it for inflation, it would be more than $10 today. This is another ugly symptom of what has gone wrong in America over the past 35-40 years. From 1979-2007 about 60 percent of the income gains have gone to the now infamous 1 percent at the top, with the majority of those gains going to the top 0.1 percent – people who made, on average, $5.6 million per year.
But some of the worst effects of giving more to those who have most have affected people toward the bottom of the income ladder, and there is no excuse for it. Productivity – the amount that a worker produces in an hour has more than doubled over the past 44 years. When the minimum wage doesn’t rise, or falls in terms of its purchasing power, it means that these millions of low-income workers are not sharing in the gains from improved technology, knowledge and organization.
There is currently legislation before Congress to raise the federal minimum wage from its current $7.25 an hour to $9.80, over three years. After that it would be indexed to inflation.
Contrary to prevailing myths about who would benefit from a proposed increase in the minimum wage, 88 percent of the 28 million workers affected are not teenagers. As the Economic Policy Institute has shown, the majority are full-time workers, and on average they earn about half of their families’ income. And 28 percent of the nation’s 76 million children would have a parent who would benefit from the raise.
Another oversized myth promoted by the fast-food industry and other low-wage employers is that raising the minimum wage hurts workers by increasing unemployment. Although it is theoretically possible to raise minimum wages enough to cause employers to hire fewer workers, there is hardly any indication from economic research that the proposed increase in the minimum wage would have this effect. Employment in the overall economy depends on aggregate demand or spending, which is determined – especially in our currently weak economy – by macroeconomic policy (including the Federal Reserve, and fiscal policy).
And raising the minimum wage doesn’t only cut into profits, it also increases demand in the economy by moving income to workers who spend more than those who receive profit. The Economic Policy Institute estimated that the proposed increase in the minimum wage would actually increase employment.
In Brazil, the minimum wage was raised by 60 percent in real terms by the country’s most popular president, Lula da Silva – a former metal worker and union leader – as Brazil’s economy moved toward record-low levels of unemployment. Across South America, other left governments including Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela and more have significantly reduced inequality while increasing economic growth.
What a shame that the hemisphere’s richest country, where it would be so much easier to lift up the working poor, has moved in the opposite direction. It means that the U.S. political system is actually more corrupt and less democratic in very important ways than those of our developing country neighbors to the south. The vast majority of Americans would favor an increase in the minimum wage, as well as restoring the rights of labor to organize unions. But our financial elite have a veto over what we want to vote for, in large part because of our system of legalized bribery – i.e. the financing of political candidates’ elections.
Raising the minimum wage is about the minimum that we could do to reverse America’s retreat from civilization at home.
© 2012 McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
No Minimum Wage for the Mariana Islands?
Monday, 03 September 2012 09:37 By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, Moyers & Co. | Op-Ed
As the sun slowly sets over the Republican National Convention in Tampa, we settle back in the chairs that nice Mr. Eastwood just gave us and ponder some of the other oddities of the week. Like this item in the official GOP platform pointed out by Brad Plumer of The Washington Post:
No minimum wage for the Mariana Islands. “The Pacific territories should have flexibility to determine the minimum wage, which has seriously restricted progress in the private sector.”
This caught our attention (and thanks to colleague Theresa Riley for sending) because it once again reminds us of the sordid past of evangelical and political entrepreneur Ralph Reed who, as this week’s edition of Moyers & Company reports in detail, has emerged from the ashes of epic career fail to reestablish himself as a powerful figure in Republican politics.
As head of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, Reed boasts he’s building a political dynamo of five million members with a massive database, an annual budget of $100 million and full-time lobbyists in all fifty state capitals, a colossal effort aimed at putting in place a right-wing social agenda and identifying and establishing contact with what it estimates as 27 million conservative voters in America. As you can imagine, with clout like that, Reed and his coalition were in high cotton at the Tampa convention.
Which brings us to that curious Mariana Islands minimum wage plank in the Republican platform. Some years ago, our government made an effort to clean up sweatshops on the islands — including Saipan — that have been under the control of the United States since the end of World War II.
Chinese women were brought over to the islands to work under awful conditions — subject to forced abortions and prostitution and paid pennies for producing garments labeled “Made in the USA.” Corrupt local officials hired the firm of infamous lobbyist Jack Abramoff — for more than four million dollars — to try to stop the reforms proposed back in Washington. Abramoff, in turn, hired Ralph Reed and his political direct mail company, Millennium Marketing, to conduct a phony grass roots campaign urging Alabama Christians to write their local congressman to oppose the reforms.
Of course, Reed didn’t tell those Christians he was being paid to help keep running sweatshops that exploited women. Instead, he told them the reforms were a trick orchestrated by the left and organized labor. Limits on Chinese workers would keep them from being “exposed to the teachings of Jesus Christ.” His company explained it was just trying to encourage “grass roots citizens to promote the propagation of the Gospel” and that many of the workers were “converted to the Christian faith and return to China with Bibles in hand.”
With the explosion of the Jack Abramoff scandals and exposes by Ms. Magazine and other publications, the spotlight on the Marianas sweatshops finally did lead to congressional action, including a raise of the minimum wage and a law to federalize labor and immigration rules in the Marianas. The minimum wage now is $5.05 an hour, increasing to $5.55 on September 30, but many in the Marianas business sector continue to oppose the amount – hence the platform plank.
Meanwhile, increasingly vocal calls have come for the impeachment of the islands’ longtime governor, Benigno Fitial, an old Abramoff pal. Nonetheless, there Fitial was in Tampa, unrepentant and front and center, head of the islands’ official Republican delegation.
As for Reed, once exposed, his shameful ruse came back to haunt him when he tried to run for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor of Georgia in 2006 — his opponent told the Marianas story in a devastating attack ad.
Reed’s was a monstrous lie by one of the monumental hypocrites of our time. Yet he marches on, Christian soldier to the end, turning the temple of faith into one big ATM. There’s a word for this in the Bible: Abomination.
Please note: a previous version of this piece referenced a twitter account allegedly belonging to Marianas governor Fitial. Fitial’s press secretary says the governor has never had such an account.
This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.
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