Thursday, July 17, 2014

House Republicans And Blue Dogs Defeat Minimum Wage Increase


Yesterday the House passed the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act 228-295, generally along party lines. All but 4 (completely random) Republicans voted for it and all but 6 Democrats-- Blue Dogs and New Dems from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party-- voted against it. No biggie. More interesting, though, was an amendment Alan Grayson brought up.

Grayson has been more successful at putting together ad hoc coalitions to pass legislation than anyone else in Congress. This one, however was a bridge too far. He couldn't get a single Republican to sign on and the Blue Dogs were against it too. It failed 230-193. What Grayson-- and all the Democrats minus 5 of the most reactionary Blue Dogs in the House-- Barrow (GA), Rahall (WV), Schrader (OR), Matheson (UT) and Costa (CA)-- wanted to do was pass legislation to raise the minimum wage for federal workers.

The idea was to pass it to help lay the foundation for a $10.10 minimum wage in the private sector. But conservatives don't want to raise the minimum wage at all and they adamantly opposed it. Several were angry that Grayson forced a roll call vote so that they had to go on the record-- in an election year-- voting against a minimum wage increase, especially with progressives campaigning on that very issue. Take the huge swing district in northern Wisconsin, WI-07. Seam Duffy is a garden variety GOP hack and he opposes the minimum wage in general and opposes any kind of an increase in particular. But his Democratic opponent this year, Kelly Westlund, is campaigning hard on raising the minimum wage.

Kelly (who was endorsed by Blue America): "History and common sense tell us that the best way to restore economic growth is to provide some economic opportunity to those who don't already have it. Protecting earned benefits and increasing the minimum wage will put money into the pockets of people who will spend it, creating real economic stimulus that just doesn't happen when rich people get more tax cuts... Sean Duffy refuses to support raising the minimum wage to a living wage for working people, and then he complains that he struggles to get by on his salary of $174,000 a year... We've had 4 years of economic growth with some of the highest corporate profits and stock prices that we have seen in years, but wages are stagnant, inequality is growing, and upward mobility is at a standstill. Too many people see the American dream as an empty promise. It’s up to us to restore that promise."

Those statements are very similar to what other progressive candidates are saying around the country. And on the House floor Grayson said, "This amendment would end the federal government's practice of paying poverty wages to its workers, and hopefully set an example for the private sector to stop paying poverty wages to its workers. A fair day's work should result in a fair day's pay."

"As you know," Grayson wrote to all his House colleagues before the vote, "the President called on Congress to raise the minimum age to $10.10 earlier this year. Shortly thereafter, he signed an Executive Order to raise the minimum wage for people working on new federal service contracts. (There’s no reason for a federal employee to be making less than a contractor working in the same job.)"

There are almost no Democrats who aren't taking the same position on this Grayson and Westlund are. Sure you have the fake Democrats from the Republican wing of the party, like the 5 Blue Dogs who crossed the aisle and voted with the GOP. And then you have a tiny handful of conservative Democrats who are unfriendly towards the legitimate aspirations of working families. When Hawaii passed the $10.10 minimum wage bill this year, their very conservative Senate president, Donna Mercado Kim, led the opposition. And now she's running against progressive Stanley Chang for the Honolulu-based congressional seat. Chang, a former Elizabeth Warren law student, who's been endorsed by Grayson (as well as by Blue America), is using increasing the minimum wage as one of the top planks on his platform, a real contrast with Kim:
We need to raise the minimum wage and we need to do it now, because no one who works full time should live in poverty. I join President Obama in calling for a national minimum wage of $10.10 an hour. Last year alone, Wall Street bonuses in New York alone were $26.7 billion dollars. That is $11 billion more than the combined income of every minimum wage worker in the country. We can do better for working families.

America needs a raise, but the last time Congress approved an increase was 2009. This is why we need to pass legislation to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 over three years and index it to inflation. Americans must be secure in the knowledge that rising prices will not threaten the value of their hard-earned paychecks.

Increasing the minimum wage has huge benefits for our economy as well. Workers who earn this wage are likely to spend their money on consumer goods, injecting much-needed economic stimulus. Leading economists have determined that better paid workers tend to stay in their jobs longer, reducing the cost in time and money of training new employees. With fewer Americans living below the poverty line, expenses for government benefits will decrease.
The DCCC is lending no assistance whatsoever to help elect Chang of Westlund-- Steve Israel hates progressives and does all he can to defeat them. But he is helping fellow anti-worker Blue Dogs John Barrow and Nick Rahall with millions of dollars. Don't waste your money on the DCCC. If you want to back candidates who support a progressive vision for the country, contribute to those candidates directly-- here.

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