GOP Rage Against Minimum Wage

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Who favors a federal minimum wage hike to $10.10/hour?  Oh, just 73% of Americans based on a recent Pew Research Center survey.  Who would be against one?  Not hard to guess.  Yes, those pesky Republicans blocked a new minimum wage bill.  A bill needs 60 votes in the Senate to even be discussed, but the minimum wage bill only received 42 affirmative votes, 41 Democrats and 1 Republican, Bob Corker of Tennessee whose state doesn’t even have a minimum wage law on the books.  The brave senators from Mississippi and Arkansas, whose states have a minimum wage below the federal minimum, did not vote at all.  The bill ultimately fell victim to a 53 vote Republican filibuster.  The Grand Old Party of NO said NO again and likely will continue to say NO to a raise for hard working Americans even as Congress, whose members average $174,000 a year, and whose median net worth is over a million dollars, is set to receive a 1.6% increase in 2015.

But why the hostility toward a minimum wage hike? First, Republicans argue that raising the minimum wage would force businesses to lay off workers as they would not be able to absorb the added labor costs.  As a result, they say unemployment would increase, businesses would shutter and the economy would collapse, even though there is no evidence to support such a claim.  Second, they argue the market, not the government, should set wages as a matter of principle.  Some are actually against the very concept of a minimum wage which they see as the big hand of government shouting orders.  Some of the poorest states in the union like Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee, states that have anti-union “right to work” laws in place, have no state minimum wage laws at all.  This simply means that in the absence of a federal minimum, they would leave the rates up to employers.  Georgia, another “right to work” state, has the lowest minimum wage at $5.15.  Companies still have the pay the federal rate of $7.25, unless they have fewer than 6 employees, or the work is seasonal or covers a training period, in which case they can pay the lower rate and very often do.

Interestingly, there is a considerable variance in the minimum wage paid state by state, from no minimum to $9.32 in the state of Washington.  10 states link their minimum wage to the consumer price index which typically produces a yearly increase.  20 states pay the federal minimum, 21 states including D.C. pay more than the federal minimum. 4 states have rates lower than the minimum and 5 southern states mentioned previously have no minimum wage rates whatsoever.  It’s not too surprising that red states resist federal measures because if they had it their way, they would secede from the Union – arguing that states’ rights (to exploit their own citizens) must prevail.

The proposed new federal rate is $10.10, which won’t make workers rich, but it will make it easier for folks to pay bills and support their families and it should inject more money into the economy.  When FDR championed the first minimum wage law during the depression years, it was to lift people out of poverty and to stimulate the economy.  Some 75 years later, the minimum wage has NOT increased enough to continue to meet its purpose.  A considerable number of working poor cannot make ends meet which never bodes well for the economy.  The Republicans argue that tax breaks are what is needed, not wage increases – tax breaks for the rich who don’t need them and to corporations, who are people thanks to Citizen’s United, who need them only to make MORE profit.  It’s time for the working poor to “profit” for a change.

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Goolsbee Cut Short on CNN

Subbing for Lou Dobbs, CNN’s Lisa Sylvester interviewed McCain’s senior policy advisor, Douglas Holtz-Eakin – the same advisor who suggested McCain invented the Blackberry – and Obama’s economic advisor,  Austan Goolsbee.  Sylvester granted Holtz-Eakin a significant amount of air time to explain McCain’s view on government bailouts and his “detailed” plan.  Yes, as the maverick’s free market theory and fierce support for deregulation over the last 26 years has brought the economy to near collapse, McCain has had a change of heart and now has a 6 point plan of little substance, calling for stronger regulations.   Hypocrisy?  Admission of responsibility? A giant flip-flop? Can America trust a man whose idea of America First is first to war and first to turn a blind eye to Wall Street fraud and corporate greed?  Whatever happened to People First?  Oh, but the Republicans would demonize the phrase as the machinations of an evil Marxist plot.  And Karl Rove, of all people, would say they had gone too far.  If George Orwell (not to be confused with George Will) were alive, I’d like to hear him break down on Larry King Live all the campaign slogans to date.

The irony is that Obama is being portrayed as the candidate without a plan.  Sylvester played a clip of Obama’s response to a question about the “rescue proposal” in which Obama essentially says that he would reserve judgement until he had a chance to study the plan, the details of which had not yet been released.  The clip was intended to strengthen the argument that Obama has no specific proposal to solve the economic crisis,  to which Goolsbee replied Obama, not McCain was the candidate with a detailed plan.

Challenged for specifics, Goolsbee proceeded to explain but less than a minute in, after covering only the first point, barely into the second, she cut him off saying they had run out of time.   It was unprofessional of Sylvester to press Goolsbee for details and then not provide sufficient time to hear him out. Here is the portion of the transcript in question:

SYLVESTER: I have to ask you, you know, we are hearing a lot of talk, but people want specifics. What is the plan then? You’re saying that Senator Obama has a plan. What is that plan?

GOOLSBEE: OK, it’s outlined six basic action steps that we need to take to re-establish public trust. Step No. 1, we must immediately put in place anyone that has access to the lender of last resort feature from the fed, the sacred insurance policy that is underwritten by the American taxpayer must be subject at all times to capital and liquidity requirements the way commercial banks were in the past. The fact that we’ve had investment banks running up 30, 40 to one leverage ratios, when they are going to be able to turn to the government in a moment of crisis, means that they are taking risks with the taxpayers’ money and that has to be changed.

No. 2, we have to immediately strengthen the enforcement and stop degrading the capabilities of our oversight agencies like the SEC and the CFTC.

SYLVESTER: OK, we have just a couple of seconds here.

GOOLSBEE: OK, I was trying to give you the specifics.

SYLVESTER: So, if you can kind of wrap up. All right, well, Austan Goolsbee, thank you very much for your time, and we appreciate it.

GOOLSBEE: My pleasure any time.

SYLVESTER: And we certainly will be hearing more from the Obama campaign. Appreciate your time.

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Appreciate your time?  What time I ask?

For the complete interviews with both advisors, scroll halfway down CNN Transcript