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the economy

Congress Votes a Cut in the Minimum Wage

Members of Congress go to Washington pretending that they represent us. They are instead effectively hirelings of lobbyists and industry who pay for their campaigns. Thus, do polls show that close to 90% of Americans want background checks before a gun can be sold, but Congress refused to act.

And so it is with the minimum wage. A January Pew Research poll said that 73% of Americans (including 53% of registered Republicans) favor raising the base wage, but Senate Republicans used the filibuster to block even debate and a few Democrats voted with them. For that matter, if the 60-vote filibuster hurdle had been surmounted, the bill to raise the wage to $10.10 an hour stood not a chance against the Republican majority of the House.

The minimum wage law has never tracked inflation. So what Congress has let stand by its inaction is a decline in the minimum wage. Since 2009, when it reached $7.25 an hour, there has been 8% inflation. That has cut the buying power of $7.25 to $6.70. For people living so close to the bone, that’s significant. Across a year it’s about $1,150 of badly needed money — gone.

In articles such as “Minimum Wage Blocked, Obama Tries Overtime End Run”, “What’s Come Over America?” and “Let's Permanently End Minimum Wage Stupidity", articles that have looked at all sides of the question, this page has repeatedly done its own lobbying that the minimum wage should be raised and tied to inflation. Opponents say it will do nothing to close income disparity, that the broad reform we covered in “New Republican Thinking Would Overhaul Safety Net” is what is needed, and much of what is proposed makes sense. But implementation of reform takes years in this slow- moving country and low wage earners need help right now.

Since those article, wage-theft law suits were filed in California, Michigan and New York by workers who claimed that McDonald's franchisees required them to perform unpaid work before clocking in and after clocking out in order to satisfy McDonald's headquarters sales to payroll ratios. For its involvement in effectively setting wages, the corporation is being sued as well.

We view the minimum wage not at all as a cure-all for the income gap but as protection of powerless individual workers from exploitation by businesses as in the example just given. Those workers are forced to turn to public assistance which means we taxpayers are subsidizing businesses that pay workers too little. The Wall Street Journal reports that $10.10 an hour would take 3.5 million people off food stamps and cut $4.6 billion of taxpayer dollars. For Congress to turn its back on workers in deference to those big corporations is deplorable.

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