Saturday, November 09, 2013

The Politics Behind Raising The Minimum Wage


As you probably noticed, progressives have been up in arms because Steve Israel and the DCCC have recruited Jennifer Garrison, "the Sarah Palin of Ohio," to run for Congress… as a Democrat. Most of the complaints have come from women's groups over Garrison's fanatic anti-Choice history and from LGBT groups because of her similarly fanatic history as an anti-gay crusader. Having been in the state legislature she has a long and sordid record on these, as well as environmental and ethical issues. None of that-- including an open letter to the DCCC-- prevented Steve Israel from recruiting her and putting her on his top priority Jumpstart list. On the long list of problems with Garrison, one that should have raised eyebrows at the DCCC is the fact that she voted against raising the minimum wage in Ohio. What Democrat does that?

Recently we saw Israel excusing his execrable recruitment agenda by lamely claiming he's just following Rahm's playbook; you know, the playbook that elected dozens of conservatives in 2006, just to see them all subsequently defeated when grassroots Democrats recognized what they were and then refused to support them for reelection. The DCCC was sure to get Roll Call stenographers Shira Center and Emily Cahn to parrot the DCCC line (without comment or critique): "Emanuel was also famous for picking unconventional-- and often controversial-- candidates. He recruited pro-gun, anti-abortion-rights Democrats in hopes of putting more conservative districts in play. He also publicly picked sides in primaries, and his selections often angered Democrats." So that's how the Democratic Party ends up with garbage like Garrison on the ticket.

Increasing the minimum wage isn't just more popular among voters than the Republican Party; it's more popular than the Democratic Party, thanks, in great part, to the mindset Democratic leaders like Israel have that Democrats need to flush their values and principles down the toilet to win elections. For more and more voters, elections are looking like a real Hobson's Choice and the lesser-of-two-evils dichotomy will no longer suffice. Democrats who stand with Wall Street against working families are just Republicans in disguise.

In THursday's NY Times, Kim Severson and Winnie Hu made it abundantly clear that policies coming out of DC's bipartisan conservative agenda are murderous for the working families still struggling to get out from under the Great Recession caused by predatory Wall Street policies implemented by their paid shills in Washington. While billionaires-- and some Members of Congress-- further enrich themselves by squeezing millions of dollars out of agricultural subsidies, food is being taken out of the mouth of children and disabled veterans.
[F]or millions of poor Americans who rely on food stamps, reductions that began this month present awful choices. One gallon of milk for the kids instead of two. No fresh broccoli for dinner or snacks to take to school. Weeks of grits and margarine for breakfast.

And for many, it will mean turning to a food pantry or a soup kitchen by the middle of the month.

…The cuts are also hurting stores in poor neighborhoods. The average food stamps household receives $272 a month, which then passes into the local economy.

At a Food Lion in Charleston where as many as 75 percent of the shoppers use food stamps, managers were bracing for lower receipts as the month wore on.

At a Met Foodmarket in the Bronx, where 80 percent of the 7,000 weekly customers use food stamps, overall food sales have already dropped by as much as 10 percent.

“I wasn’t expecting it to be that fast,” said Abraham Gomez, the manager. Losing that much revenue could mean cutting back hours for employees, he said.

…During lunch at the Neighborhood House soup kitchen in Charleston this week, discussions about how to cope with cuts to food stamps were not hard to find.

People said they felt desperate. Many stuffed extra bread or cake into their pockets for later in the day, and traded advice on which agencies might be handing out free groceries later in the month.

“People at this level of need are already going hungry,” said Sister Noreen Buttimer, a nun who works at the soup kitchen, a Catholic charity. “It’s frightening how we think about the poor.”
I hope you're keeping the message from Maddow's segment-- in the video up top-- in the back of your mind when you're pondering the politics of this. Many of the Democratic leaders in Congress most eager to push through a raise in the minimum wage, have been too busy worrying about Obama opposing it than dealing with Steve Israel for recruiting candidates who oppose it. But suddenly the White House is moving in the right direction and claiming they will support a minimum wage increase. In case you missed it, a White House spokesperson claimed that "The president has long supported raising the minimum wage so hard-working Americans can have a decent wage for a day’s work to support their families and make ends meet." OK, Obama! He's supporting the Harkin-Miller bill that raises the federal minimum wage from $7.25.hour to $10.10 in three 95bcent steps over two years and, most important, then indexes it to inflation. They sweeten this for business opponents with tax incentives.
“The combination of an increase to $10.10 and some breaks for small business on expensing unite virtually the whole Democratic caucus, and we are prepared to move forward shortly,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the Senate’s third-ranking Democrat… Democratic senators from more conservative states favored an increase to $9 an hour, but including the expensing provision was enough of a sweetener to bring them behind the $10.10 proposal.

…Democratic strategists say they are backing a higher minimum wage to help lift millions of low-wage workers at a time of increasing income inequality. Some also acknowledge that pushing a higher minimum wage is a way to put Republicans on the spot — caught between a business lobby and many conservatives who oppose an increased minimum wage and a public that strongly supports a higher minimum.

…On March 15, the House voted 233 to 184 against a proposal to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2015. The proposal came as an amendment to a job-training bill, and all 227 Republican members voted against the increase.
It would have been seven if Steve Israel had recruited and managed to elect Jennifer Garrison last year, but only Six of the most right-wing/Republican-supporting New Dems and Blue Dogs voted against raising the minimum wage:
John Barrow (GA)
Jim Matheson (UT)
Mike McIntyre (NC)
Bill Owens (NY)
Collin Peterson (MN)
Kurt Schrader (OR)
Not even one Republican, not even the make-believe "moderates," backed raising the minimum wage. Gary Miller in southern California doesn't even make believe he's a moderate; he's a hard core radical right Republican in a Democratic district-- thanks for that, Steve Israel-- and he voted against raising the minimum wage. This year, his progressive opponent, Eloise Reyes, is making sure voters in CA-31 know that Miller voted against the minimum wage and that she will lead on increasing it-- a very clear difference. If you'd like to help Eloise replace Miller, you can do that here. Eloise:

"As the daughter of an immigrant family, I believe deeply in the American Dream. I was able to go from an onion picker to an attorney and small business owner through hard work and determination and because of the unmatched opportunity that my family was able to find here in America. These days, stories like mine have become the exception.

"At the very core of the American Dream is the idea that everyone should have a chance to strive for success, prosperity and fulfillment, yet our minimum wage hardly rewards honest work with honest pay. How are hard-working Americans supposed to get by, let alone dream about their future, when working a full-time minimum wage job barely puts them above the poverty line?

"Even with a growing number of Americans in minimum wage jobs, House Republicans are determined to stand in the way of a fair and necessary increase in the minimum wage that would create security and expand opportunity for millions. They are more than willing to stand up for Wall Street CEOs who walk away with staggering annual bonuses, yet they expect for the average American to fight long and hard to take home more than $7.25 per hour.

"As a Member of Congress, I will stand up to this type of blatant hypocrisy and be a vocal advocate when it comes to reducing inequality, creating opportunity and making the American Dream accessible to everyone. It’s time to begin valuing the work of every American in a meaningful way, and the first step to doing so is increasing the minimum wage."

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