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No one should ever endure the kind of economic humiliation that comes with working a full-time job and making a less-than-living wage.

There is dignity in all work, but that dignity grows dim when the checks are cashed and the coins are counted and still the bills rise higher than the wages.

That is the beginning of this powerful New York Times column by Charles M. Blow which I urge people to read.

He places the political debate about raising the minimum wage in the context of hopes and aspirations most Americans have for a better life, and then writes

But it is easy to see how people can have that hope thrashed out of them, by having to wrestle with the most wrenching of questions: how to make do when you work for less than you can live on?
This is powerful writing.

It is clear writing.

It is direct writing.

Blow places things in a larger political context, pointing out how some of the people affected by the minimum wage are the same people who must ride public transportation then wait online for hours in order to vote.  He notes:

But it is easy to see how people can have that hope thrashed out of them, by having to wrestle with the most wrenching of questions: how to make do when you work for less than you can live on?
And that is a basic question on the issue of the minimum wage, which is not enough to live on, not even with both adults in a family working full time.

People grasp that.

Just as people grasp that not extending unemployment benefits in a time of national financial crisis is cruel, and if it does not already affect someone they know easily could, or even could in a time where corporations neither pay taxes n or spend the trillions of accumulated profits to create jobs could even impact them should they lose their jobs.

Please keep reading.

Republicans complain that Democrats are only pushing this issue because of politics.  Blow notes that even if that were true, on which side of that political issue would you prefer to run?

And I don't remember Republicans being embarrassed on attacking the Carter administration for a combination of high interest rates and high inflation, even though the former was intended under Paul Volcker to lower the latter.  Anyone remember the misery index?

What people may not realize is that there are still people getting paid LESS than the federal minimal wage.  For one thing, there is a tipped minimum wage, which presumes that you get tips on top of what your employer pays you.  Of course some employers either make people work off the clock (wage theft) or require tips to be turned in and then do not give all of the tips back.

Recently Gov. Fallon of Oklahoma signed state legislation

banning the state’s cities from “establishing mandatory minimum wages or vacation and sick-day requirements,” according to The Associated Press.
 Yet according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as Blow notes,
“In 2012, Oklahoma’s proportion of hourly paid workers earning at or below the prevailing federal minimum wage ranked third highest among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.” The bureau reported that 7.2 percent of the hourly paid workers in Oklahoma earned the federal minimum wage or less, compared with 4.7 percent nationally.
  And that percentage represents a rise.

Let me be blunt.  

When people are able to get rich on the inadequately compensated labor of others and government does nothing about it, that is immoral.

When the Congress of the United States can raise its pay because of inflation yet refuses to offer an equivalent raise for the lowest compensated among us, those least able to absorb the impact of higher costs, that should be grounds for voting everyone who opposes raising the minimum wage out of office.  It is an abdication of political and moral responsibility.

This SHOULD be a major issue in this political cycle.

So should extended unemployment insurance.

So should expanding Medicaid - something that applies to many working full time and more at jobs that pay minimum wage with no benefits.

Populism can have its nasty sides -  it has in the past included racism and Anti-Semitism.

Populism can scare the bejeesus out of the rentier class, because when it swells up they are the ones with the most to lose.

Why do Republicans attempt to suppress the vote?  Because if the poor and the dispossessed vote they might finally have to pay appropriate taxes to provide the government services made necessary by the policies they have imposed that have created the economic disaster with which so many Americans struggle.

Barack Obama was elected in 2008 on a campaign of Hope and Change.  The Change was to be to the policies of the previous administration, that wasted trillions on unnecessary wars, that failed to care for the troops that fought them, that committed torture and then covered it up, and most of all that cratered the economy while propping up the financiers who created the problems.

People hoped their lives would get better.

Those hopes have only been partially fulfilled.

Too many on the other side are not interested in helping others.  The have an attitude of "I've got mine, Jack, and to hell with anyone who threatens that."  

They are a small minority that has been able to delude sufficient voters by fear of scary others.

That fear can be overcome by these blunt facts -  what if you lose your job, what if your children or your nieces and nephews or the people you may encounter in your daily lives lose their jobs, or only get paid minimum wage if that, or cannot get health insurance because they cannot pay for it?  Remember, we still have millions without health insurance.

All of these are important.

Let's start with the simplest.  Hard work is supposed to be rewarded.

The minimum wage is insufficient, cruel, crushing of any hope of a better future.

It is long overdue to raise it to something at least close to a livable wage.

Blow puts it well in his final paragraoh:

Now, if both sides are playing politics with the minimum wage to some degree, which side would you rather be on: that of the working people, who are struggling to make a living, or that of the politicians determined to block them?
Does the administration, do the Democrats, have the gumption to really make this a political issue?

Originally posted to teacherken on Thu Apr 17, 2014 at 03:39 AM PDT.

Also republished by ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The wave is on the horizon (14+ / 0-)

    Food prices are skyrocketing ( and we know Government doesn't factor in energy and food for inflation) so while true costs of living rise - politicians can sit behind their thin veil of "inflation is under control" and not factor that into COLA.  The true working poor will be hit hardest.  Minimum wage must be at least tied to the rate of real inflation.

    The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government. - Thomas Jefferson

    by ctexrep on Thu Apr 17, 2014 at 03:49:08 AM PDT

    •  Inflation is a Rise in Income of the People (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      a2nite, Cassandra Waites, ctexrep

      Rising food prices doesn't count as inflation because it's a commodity whose price doesn't indicate a scary living standard improvement for the occupants.

      It is Wall Street betting on other Wall Streeters betting on food prices as a commodity.

      You bet on commodities because the real economy has no good growth potential any more, because the people which account for 70% of GDP have spent out their surplus assets as their future prospects are declining.

      This is basically what happened in the late 1920's due among other things to wages having stagnated as stocks soared, and the mid 2000's for many of the same factors.

      I don't have the learning to know if this portends another crash (some are saying it does), but it does indicate that the economy of our modern mythology including all the way back to the Framers' fanciful imaginations came to an end many years ago.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Thu Apr 17, 2014 at 05:43:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  My point wth Inflation is (3+ / 0-)

        that because energy and food are not factored in (BTW -who needs food and energy?)  it is used as a reason not to raise wages.  The Government and employers will say - that you don't need a raise  of more than 1.2% because that's where inflation is.....meanwhile - food and energy prices skyrocket - since Jan 1, 2014 - Beef is up 7% - Pork - 21% and eggs 5%.  Harsh winter in the Midwest and East coupled with drought in the West will have produce prices up - and its only the middle of April.  People who heat their homes with propane and heating oil just experienced huge pikes in costs due to "shortages".
        None of this is in the factor yet all of us - poor - middle income and wealthy pay these costs - but it is those at the low end of the income scale that are hit the hardest.

        The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government. - Thomas Jefferson

        by ctexrep on Thu Apr 17, 2014 at 06:13:39 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I hear you about the propane! (0+ / 0-)

          I had to pay $4.88 a gallon for it this winter! I was appalled!

          Women create the entire labor force.
          Sympathy is the strongest instinct in human nature. - Charles Darwin

          by splashy on Fri Apr 18, 2014 at 10:58:52 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I'm daring to post a comment in your post (5+ / 0-)

    To say that it isn't immoral it is criminal.

    Nothing more than bullying on a grand scale to make workers live in poverty.

  •  Mr. Blow, Meet Dog-Eat-Dog Capitalism (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    historys mysteries

    and I'm not sure how Mr. Blow figures a wage of $10.10 per hour gets people out of poverty?

    "We are beyond law, which is not unusual for an empire; unfortunately, we are also beyond common sense." Gore Vidal

    by Superpole on Thu Apr 17, 2014 at 04:11:10 AM PDT

    •  oh it doesn't (14+ / 0-)

      but it does begin to make a dent

      I stand on my proposal of almost a decade ago that the minimum wage should be on a fixed ratio with Congressional pay, so when Congress raises its pay they automatically raise minimum wage.  If the historical average of that ratio held, even with the recent years when the minimum was not raised, it would already by around 18/hour.

      "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it, because what the world needs is more people who have come alive." - Howard Thurman

      by teacherken on Thu Apr 17, 2014 at 04:14:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Point of information: (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        hbk, AJayne, Superpole

        Since the federal government is the source of all dollars, it is entirely appropriate for it to determine how, when and by whom the currency is to be re-distributed and used. And to determine the conditions under which it is to be returned to the source for accounting purposes and recycling.

        by hannah on Thu Apr 17, 2014 at 04:56:35 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Extending your analogy, Blow is calling... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      a2nite, hbk, historys mysteries

      ...for the lightest of "leashes." Some "muzzles" and "fences" are probably required to get most people out of poverty.

      We have to start somewhere.

      Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. --Martin Luther King Jr.

      by Egalitare on Thu Apr 17, 2014 at 06:50:48 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Agreed we have to start somewhere (0+ / 0-)

        BUT let's face it:

        we have to GROW our economy significantly, and there's only one way to do that.

        a mandated raise of the min wage to $10.10 an hour over two years is merely nibbling at the edge of the problem.

        "We are beyond law, which is not unusual for an empire; unfortunately, we are also beyond common sense." Gore Vidal

        by Superpole on Thu Apr 17, 2014 at 03:37:14 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, FloridaSNMOM, Egalitare

    nosotros no somos estúpidos

    by a2nite on Thu Apr 17, 2014 at 04:20:19 AM PDT

  •  Politics is about the polis, the interests of the (4+ / 0-)

    people. By employing "politics" as a dysphemism, the deprivators are trying to shut down the people's voice.

    Employment and unemployment COMPENSATION are the issue. The allocation of our natural resources to the exclusive use of some persons via property rights has created an obligation for those exclusive users to share the fruits thereof. In that context, the widely accepted dictum that there is "no free lunch" is equivalent to sentencing members of our own species, who do not conform to demands, to starvation and death. It may not be an immediate death, but it almost certainly arrives prematurely and, not only in darkest Africa, kills people in the prime of life. And that's socially destructive because humans are born ignorant and need to learn all they need to survive as they mature. So, if there is no-one to teach the necessary skills and pass the wisdom on, society will not survive and humans will revert to the other mode-- i.e. Predation and even real, rather than virtual or sublime, cannibalism.
    That there is not enough currency in the right places to mediate our necessary exchanges of goods and services is evidence of a gross failure of management. And the entity that's failed is Congress. Congress is tasked with managing the currency in the Constitution. The framers, having the example of the Dutch, could have gone with the banks. That they didn't is telling. That they did not anticipate that the people's representatives would ration the currency and reward the bankers for hoarding it is understandable. Money is a measure, like inches and yards, who would think the accumulation of yardsticks would become a fad?
    The framers did anticipate that agents of government are prone to excess when it comes to power. Which is why they scheduled elections to be held every two years. That elected representatives would use the power of the purse to secure themselves in office for decades probably was not a major concern when most enterprise did not involve the use of currency to begin with. Like literacy, the use of money was rather specialized. One's word of honor and a handshake took care of most day-to-day relationships when the population was much smaller than it is now.

    Anyway, dollars for the unemployed are NOT a benefit. They are, at best, a lesser evil. "Benefits" is a euphemism, when it comes to the people who are laid off. BUT, given that our industrial enterprises have gotten accustomed to relying on direct federal payments to workers furloughed while plant is re-tooled or because management did not plan ahead, industry is being subsidized from the public purse to their own and our detriment. Because what's being insured against are the consequences of poor management and worker exploitation, much as industrial food production is being subsidized with agricultural subsidies and dollars for nutrition programs. Not starving is not a benefit. Compensation makes up for an injury or an unjust deprivation. Which is why the cons don't like that word. It puts the onus on the inefficient, lazy managerial class, where it belongs.

    by hannah on Thu Apr 17, 2014 at 04:51:29 AM PDT

  •  Democrats, As a Party, No. (0+ / 0-)

    They're conservatives too.

    There's room at the margins to jack up minimum wage for some sectors to only a little below the best it's been, which is a big relief to those workers in those places who can get it.

    But it is as Dr. King characterized most of history's attention to the nonrich, "flinging coins at beggars."

    Both parties are still working to increase the number of beggars for the benefit of the nobility. That's not going to stop until there arises an increasing general impoliteness.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Thu Apr 17, 2014 at 05:33:56 AM PDT

  •  I live on less than $900 a month. Better than (8+ / 0-)

    some living around me. A friend invited me to dinner at a local dive with good food. I left the wait staff a $10.10 tip for a meal that cost my friend $7.99. He said, "What are you doing?" I replied, "I've walked in the shoes of wait staff many years ago and I remember it well. As far as I am concerned, my tip paid for an hour those feet rushed to serve me. Tis more than fair."

    My friend blinked, looked around and left her a $20 dollar tip on top my meager tip.

    The waitress cried.

    Many times I’ve returned. Never was I the same in any of my guises. I feel inside, my times before, with no memories of each journey. My soul’s shadows haunt all the paths it has traveled.

    by Wendys Wink on Thu Apr 17, 2014 at 05:44:09 AM PDT

  •  No one seems to talk about the fact that (6+ / 0-)

    Feudal capital is not free market, but combined with the takeover of the politicians bought with it, inherited wealth is the number 1 driver of the ability to engage in wage imbalance in a free market system. Once a small group controls the existing money supply, and government abdicates its responsibility to rebalance it (especially with the estate tax), there is no other conclusion than that those in control remain in control, and wages become based not on the value of work provided but by the fews decision on what it is worth. And this basically takes the true value out of money, and the only true lever (the government that creates money) has stopped. And the lefts biggest mistake, allowing the feudalist swine to claim the mantle of free market. Ther is nothing free market about feudalism.

  •  Easy answer (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    historys mysteries, Superpole

    Does the administration, do the Democrats, have the gumption to really make this a political issue?


    The Republicans are crazy, but why we follow them down the rabbit hole is beyond me.

    by Jazzenterprises on Thu Apr 17, 2014 at 06:04:18 AM PDT

  •  This diary needs to be (6+ / 0-)

    at the top of the REC list.  This article needs to be mandatory reading for the citizenry of America.  This is what Democrats should be running on, but they, too are in the pockets of the corporations and 1%ers.  If they are not in their pockets, they need to prove it by running on these issues that are fundamental to American life.

    If you acknowledge it, you can change it.

    by Raggedy Ann on Thu Apr 17, 2014 at 06:59:51 AM PDT

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