Plethora of Myths Hurt Middle-Class

Do you ever wonder why America has a federally mandate minimum wage? Well, it was designed to fix a problem. At the end of the nineteenth century, the US Congress was pressured to get rid of what was referred to as “sweat labor,” which included large numbers of women and even children who were paid “nonliving wages.” This was also a time when progressive reformers, women’s organizations, religious figures, academics and politicians pushed for a minimum wage law. The very first was enacted in 1938, but it exempted large parts of the workforce primarily because of gross manipulation by powerful owners and corporations.

You might be surprised to learn the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act set the minimum wage at $0.25 per hour, which is equivalent to $4.54 in 2019 wages. The law was challenged and the case went to the Supreme Court. In the 1941 decision of United States v. Darby Lumber Co., the Supreme Court ruled that Congress had the power under the Commerce Clause to regulate employment conditions. Of course, a fair wage is a working condition.

We now have another battle on our hands and today we’ll look at both sides. The primary argument for raising the minimum wage is the improvement to the overall standard of living it would bring to minimum wage workers. Their income levels would become more appropriate with respect to the present cost of living. It’s been ten years since the minimum wage was last increased.

Jack Kelly wrote in Forbes magazine, “A recent study by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), entitled ‘The Effects on Employment and Family Income of Increasing the Federal Minimum Wage,’ was conducted to determine how increasing the federal minimum wage to $7.25 to $10, $12 or $15 per hour by 2025 would affect employment and family income.” Kelly argued that we shouldn’t do this by stating, “Earnings would increase for many, which would lift some families out of poverty. However, other low-wage workers would become jobless, their family income would drop, and it could place them below the poverty threshold.”

National Public Radio pointed out that the CBO report claimed, “Raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 would increase wages for at least 17 million people, but also put 1.4 million Americans out of work.” Okay, that is serious, particularly because COVID has already caused job losses for millions of folks.

I’m quite sure the ridiculous position that it’s better to keep people in poverty does not sit very well with those people who live under minimum standards. People in Congress who make between $179-200,000 a year have no idea how hard it is to live on $7 an hour. When whiny Lindsey Graham says the minimum wage has nothing to do with a global pandemic, he’s ignoring the bigger picture. How can Republicans say they want people to get off safety net programs yet do everything they can to keep them there? It’s just another lie that makes those living below the poverty line believe the government cannot be trusted.

The Burger King Whopper contains 660 calories – 40 grams of fat, 49 grams of carbs and 28 grams of protein. The whopper that Republicans are dishing out to keep the poor in poverty is 40 (Lindsey) Grahams of bullshit, 49 grams of donor dope and 0 grams of common sense and logic. If you pay people more money, they pay more taxes. If you pay people more money, they spend more which creates more jobs. A higher water level raises all the boats.

Most in Congress don’t care about American citizens. Sorry, but that is the only explanation I can fathom. I wrote a letter to West Virginia’s Joe Manchin (D) asking him why he’s against the increase in the minimum wage. I stated, “For someone who’s always saying he’s for the working families, how could you possibly be against a better wage?” I didn’t get a response.

We all know how hard it is to walk into a boss’ office and ask for a raise; they usually refuse. Good executives are expected to keep costs down and profits high. Workers will always want more money, but without a substantial wage increase the rising cost of living equates to less earnings. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the dollar had an average inflation rate of 1.52% per year between 2011 and today, producing a cumulative price increase of 16.29%. This means that today’s average prices are 1.16 times higher than they were in 2011, and all hourly workers have suffered pay cuts since then.

I worked in business for more than sixty years and can tell you that layoffs and worker reductions always follow an economic turndown. Many businesses have shuttered, and our economic recovery will be a colossal challenge. If a business is forced to pay workers more money it may have to hire fewer people, but the employees remaining will work harder to set a course toward healing. I receive a Social Security check each month and yearly increases mirror, sort of, the cost-of-living increases. Those 1.3% annual hikes don’t put very much more in my pocket, but I appreciate them.

The disregard of working families by the Congress is why most of us don’t respect them. Someone should publish a list of all the people in Washington who vote against wage increases so we can VOTE THE BASTARDS OUT.

But ironically, one person in the great vast and powerful government of America can keep you from getting a raise for a while, and that is the parliamentarian. Yes, the person sitting to the right of the Speaker of the House of Representatives is the traffic cop of congressional action.  The Parliamentarian is a nonpartisan official appointed by the Speaker and has the job of rendering objective assistance on legislative and parliamentary procedure in the House. She ruled, you cannot add a vote on minimum wage to the Recovery Act. The Parliamentarian’s current salary is $171,315 per year. I believe that’s above the minimum wage.

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One thought on “WHOPPERS & WAGES

  1. I’m told this antique view of minimum wage is tied to an antique view of WHO earns minimum wage. When I was in high school, minimum wage was what a student could earn — if they worked a fixed number of hours. Under 20 hours, you were practically paying them to let you work. But it’s been a long time since students earning fashion money and concert tickets were the primary minimum wage earners. Now that world is populated by single parents, seniors and those who, for whatever reason, have been unable to hop on the earning train that education send your way. The overarching concern of all this is that, besides the dignity and ability to chart a future that people get from earning a living wage, the simple truth is what they cannot pay for — everyone else pays for: in higher taxes, higher insurance premiums, higher costs of living. The truth is, living on $15 is NOT a living wage for a family — but it IS a beginning, and for those who work hard to earn it, it is very much deserved.

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