Job Creators. Sounds great doesn’t it, but who are they? They are actually us – the American consumers. But today’s conservatives have spun this into political rhetoric and use it to describe polar opposite employers. On the one hand they feign concern about the small business owner’s burden by federal minimum wage standards while simultaneously voicing outrage at the mere suggestion that the wealthy need to pay their fair share in taxes. They convince their supporters that paying a fair wage hurts business and padding the coffers of the wealthy creates jobs. The definition “job creator” is very subjective in today’s political battleground, but the fact remains that while this double-talking swill is spewed by the “Party of No”, people are truly suffering.
Workers are barely able to keep from drowning in debt – and not because of careless spending practices or irresponsible choices – but because as the wealthy are protected from being forced to ante up the same percentage of taxes as the rest of us, the cost of living continues to increase while wages are constantly under attack.
With all that said it is unbelievable to me that conservative politicians literally have the audacity to state publicly that the minimum wage is too high – and even more unbelievable to me that the majority of their voting bloc in numbers are the very people who will be adversely affected by this ongoing assault on the American poor.
They admit not knowing what the minimum wage is but they think it is too high. The overt ignorance and discrimination against poor people is sickening. There is absolutely a total lack of understanding or compassion for the struggles that plague most Americans these days where too many jobs don’t come close to paying a livable wage. If Boehner & Co. have all the answers, where the hell are they? Romney can’t enlighten us either. Why? Because they not only do not have a plan for creating jobs, they really could care less, and if they follow the same beaten path of their Republican predecessors all those minions that can’t wait to oust a black man from the White House are going to be among the first to be devastated by these failed austerity policies that are blighting Europe.
Jennifer Granholm wrote a piece in Politico that is well worth reading where she lays out the facts about which Party has had greater success in putting Americans to work…and I can tell you that it isn’t the party that feigns such heartfelt concern for the “job creators”.
“So if we all agree that the nation’s biggest problem is a lack of jobs, we should entrust a respected nonpartisan policy source to examine the economic data, right? The policy analysis should review which laboratory was most successful in creating jobs over a sustained period.
And then we should emulate those policies, right?
If Republican tax cuts create more jobs than Democratic investment, by all means let’s cut taxes! If Republican financial deregulation creates more jobs than Democratic consumer protection, then go ahead, deregulate away!
Which is exactly why the data from Bloomberg’s BGOV Barometer last week will shock many people. Bloomberg studied the past 50 years of U.S. job creation, under Democratic and Republican presidents. The facts: For the near half-century following the Kennedy administration, Democrats created nearly twice as many private-sector jobs as Republicans. Even though Democrats held the presidency for only 23 years compared with 28 years of Republican rule.
Private-sector payrolls increased by 42 million jobs under Democratic administrations, and 24 million under Republican ones. That’s an average of 150,000 new paychecks a month under Democrats and 71,000 per month under Republicans.”
So, in review, they are inept at creating jobs and proponents of reducing an already unlivable minimum wage – and their base is still clamoring to support them. Talk about cutting off your own nose to spite your face!
Suffer the Poor
by Susan Cardoza
I think we all recognize that poverty in our nation has been increasing steadily over the past 10 years. Millions of Americans who work full-time have consistently fallen below the poverty line and even if they are working a full time job it is barely enough to cover the basics, and even then, barely. By basics I mean utilities, groceries, rent and either a vehicle and gas or money to pay for transportation.
Any person who works full-time responsibly in this country should be able to earn enough to rise above the poverty line and have decent healthcare. Our President and the Democratic congress took care of the latter and now it is time to address the former. No economic system based on having 37 million of its citizens (as of 2007) living in poverty or only 1%-5% holding the most wealth can survive. There needs to be an honest critique of capitalism in this country. The McCarthyism that derides anyone who dares to question the perfection of unbridled capitalism needs to be confronted and soon.
Shortly after LBJ took office, he declared a “war on poverty”. Through his efforts of abatement our country implemented Head Start, Medicare and Medicaid. This war was fought on many fronts by people who recognized that poverty has many causes and consequences and it was a noble war that spoke to the deepest spiritual beliefs of the American people. How much more successful would George Bush and his Republican led congress have been had they declared a “war on poverty” instead of their “war on terror” or their “tax decrease for the wealthiest”?
Since the days of LBJ the war on poverty has gradually mutated into a war against the poor, a punitive approach that places pressure on the “least of these”, our fellow Americans. Today we need a 21rst Century version of the War on Poverty and we cannot just expect the government to fight it alone, it needs to be a partnership between the Private sector and Government. With Healthcare signed into law, we now need to look at seriously reforming education (which is another post all it’s own) and we need to deal with the minimum wage. We need to learn to deal with poverty more aggressively when it arises and to prevent poverty before it starts. We need to call out those who would excuse their lack of action by giving us the same old story, replying, “there will always be the poor among us”
The injustices of an individual working full time at minimum wage, only to be rewarded with poverty, is not what this nation was founded on. An individual working full time at the current national minimum wage, $7.25 per hour as of summer 2009, will earn $15,370.00 prior to taxes. Forget benefits because most employers who pay minimum wage do not provide benefits. Add to that single worker the scenario of a single mother with two children and I think the picture becomes quite depressing very quickly. What is the cost of a healthcare premium for one year, what about food, clothing and shelter? It is very clear from the chart of minimum wage increases since 1955 which party has done the most on behalf of the workers, and it still has not been enough.
Far from getting ahead, minimum wage workers have been steadily falling behind for at least the past 10 years. As of 2006, the minimum wage had not been adjusted since 1997, so for 9 years it steadily lost its value. During this same time pay for Congress went from $133k per year to $174k in 2009. The increase alone, $40 thousand dollars, was $25 thousand more than a person under the poverty line makes in a year working full-time for minimum wage. This is using only 2009 figures, if you go back, the numbers are worse, much worse. Tom Delay, an ardent opponent of increasing the minimum wage, made this statement in 2005 on a pay raise for congress
“It’s not a pay raise,” said House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas. “It’s an adjustment so that they’re not losing their purchasing power.” and made this plea on the floor of congress, “Mr. Speaker, I will tell you something, Members of this House have families. They have 2 homes, in most cases. Some members are living in their offices because they cannot afford a second residence…..I am not making excuses or apologizing, it is difficult to raise a family and serve in Congress….My wife and my children suffer enough.”
Really? Are you kidding me, Really? At least we don’t have knowledge of DeLay staying at C Street, because that would make his plea even more insidious. What about the purchasing power of millions of Americans, do they not count? I am sure the members of Congress have a hard time making it but a fast food worker cannot even afford one home, much less two. I doubt if Congress’ suffering is going to make America’s top 10 list of America’s most disadvantaged groups. I am not saying they do not deserve the pay they get, and some might disagree with me on that, but don’t deny the same fair treatment to other Americans.
If corporations had been stagnant during this time period, you might be able to justify the minimum wage, but that is not the case. In fact when the “too big to fail” Banks nearly took our economy over the cliff they received attention within days and not much discussion was allowed prior to the “bottom falling out of our economy”. And despite the tax benefits to Corporate America, they have been steadily moving operations offshore where they can pay a worker $0.50 an hour, if that. Our manufacturing base has nearly disappeared and the United States is quickly turning into a “service industry” society.
Toga parties, conferences at posh resorts, parties in Las Vegas, have all been taken on the backs of the poor in this country. Inequality, we all know, is surging. This erosion is neither an accident nor the product of apathy, it is the result of a deliberate policy choice of the right.
Maury Weidenbaum, one of Ronald Reagan’s Economic Advisors once said:
“If we had our druthers, we would have eliminated the minimum wage.”
Former Congressman from Pennsylvania, Bob Edgar, commented on this saying:
“Since that would have been such a “painful political process”, he and other officials were content to let inflation turn the minimum wage into an “effective dead letter”.
My question is where and how did the United States breed such distasteful and evil people? Ted Kennedy once asked of the Senate, “Have you no shame?” Look at the Republican record (link above) when they hold the majority in congress. What about the recent extension of unemployment, their stand on the jobs bill? Do these members of Congress really have a bead on the public sentiment or have they spent so much time in the Beltway that they are immune to what happens in the real world? Do they ever wonder about that worker who hands them a sandwich for their lunch and how they might be surviving?
The Right has two myths regarding the minimum wage; 1) increasing the minimum wage would destroy millions of jobs and; 2) nobody actually earns the minimum wage, except for teenagers. The contradictions of these two myths are amazing. Millions of jobs have been sent overseas anyway and far more adults in today’s job market are making minimum wage, and for millions more the minimum wage sets a floor that determines their pay. Listen to this Florida Congressman blatantly flip this constituent off by ignoring his question and insult him at the same time when all he asked was if he would support raising the minimum wage.
Sometime when you have a few hours to spend, peruse the want ads, you will find entry level jobs for college graduates with at least a Bachelor of Arts starting not much higher than $30k a year, and for High School graduates, they are lucky if it is around $10 to $20k, and that is if you can find help wanted listings at all.
Those working at or below minimum wage perform some of the most important jobs in our society such as home health aides to the elderly and daycare workers for our children. What about the hospitality industry? Without them, these CEO’s couldn’t sleep in their “heavenly beds” in a hotel room that is clean as a whistle, nor could they entertain their important clients at the many restaurants in this country. Who would stock the shelves in our stores, keep the offices clean, clean the pools, keep their golf courses groomed, and provide the laundry services for their hospital beds? Who would do all of this in the absence of minimum wage workers? You can bet the wealthy would be complaining if these workers were suddenly gone and they would not feel the least bit bad about it, in fact they would find a 1000 ways to justify their whining and complain about the welfare roles.
Rewarding a hard days’ work with poverty is an abomination, but what we have not done is to frame a living wage as a “values issue”. These workers work as hard as any other American. We see them everyday, we smile, they smile back but the heartache and struggles they face at home are invisible to us. The minimum wage should be framed as a values issue in that it must be a living wage that properly reflects the cost of housing, food and other needs in individual markets. A living wage in Arkansas would not be a living wage in New York or Los Angeles and should be adjusted based on the demographic.
In some states responsible people have stood up for these people, led by grassroots activists, and minimum wage increases were passed by overwhelming margins. In California the minimum wage as of January 1, 2008 was $8.00 an hour, $.75 above the national wage but still not enough. San Francisco California has a minimum wage of $10 and hour. There is an old African proverb that reads:
If you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to go far, walk together.
The 9th Psalm verses 17-18 says:
The wicked bought a one way ticket to hell. For the needy shall not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the poor perish forever.
Government and Private Industry and Society need to work together, they need to “go far” not “go fast”. So when the Right and their Christian Nationalist base pulls out their “government is not the answer”, tell them it is the only institution capable of compelling corporations and individuals to observe the rules of fair play in the marketplace. I don’t think the poor and middle class in this country want a big share of the wealth redistributed, they just want a fighting chance.