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