Monday, January 18, 2016

Democrats Want To Raise The Minimum Wage-- But Progressives Want To Raise It Quickly And Conservatives Want To Drag Their Feet


Democratic Machine boss George Norcross' little brother, Donald, has been a miserable congressman for less than a term, but he's already eyeing Bob Menendez's Senate seat. So how does the most conservative Democrat in the New Jersey congressional delegation win what's expected to be a rough and tumble primary with real progressives like Frank Pallone in it? To the casual reader, the story in the Star-Ledger about how Norcross is launching a fight to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour sounds plenty progressive-- almost Bernie-like. That is, until you look at the details. A more discerning title might have been "Norcross launches fight to hold down a rise in the minimum wage."

The writer, Michelle Caffrey, must be a high school intern interested in a topic other than politics, who was drafted to write this one up. The abundance of ignorance she shows is exactly why shady political hacks like Norcross can so easily pull the wool over the eyes of so many voters. Inside the Democratic Party there's a spirited fight over the minimum wage. Progressives-- like Bernie Sanders-- say it needs to be raised from $7.25 to $15 an hour, and as quickly as possible, while conservatives-- like Hillary Clinton-- would rather raise it to $9,00 or $10.10 or, when really pressured, to $12.00, but as slowly as possible. Fast-food workers were the tip of the spear and by 2014 Seattle raised the minimum wage to $15. Last year New York raised it for food workers and Bernie introduced a bill in the Senate-- as Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) did in the House-- to raise it to $15 nationally. Reactionaries, primarily Republicans, want to abolish the minimum wage altogether and conservatives-- of both parties-- want to slow it down and raise it as slowly and as little as possible. That's the camp Donald Norcross is in, even though he's in a solid blue district where raising the minimum wage is a top priority for voters.

Caffrey, paints him as some kind of a working class hero. She quotes him mouthing party bromides like "Something is fundamentally wrong when hard-working Americans go to work and they can't pull themselves out of poverty." But down into the story a bit you get to Norcross' conservative plan:
Under the legislation, Norcross-- who represents Camden County as well as parts of Gloucester and Burlington counties-- is proposing, the federal minimum wage would bump up 75 cents in the first year to $8 an hour and increase $1 a year until it hits $15.
So $15/hour sometime after 2024? That's not what "Fight For 15" is all about. The bill progressives are supporting in the House (H.R. 3164) phases in a $15 minimum wage by 2020 over 5 steps, increasing it to $9 in 2016, $10.50 in 2017, $12.00 in 2018, $13.50 in 2019, and $15 in 2020. After 2020, the minimum wage will be indexed to the median hourly wage. It has 47 co-sponsors including New Jersey's Frank Pallone and Albio Sires, although Norcross has refused to join the effort.

Last June New Jersey Poverty Reality asked Alex Law, the progressive running for the first congressional district seat Norcross holds, what he thought the minimum wage should be. His answer was clear and to the point and didn't start with a 75 cents raise. "I think that the federal minimum wage needs to be $15 an hour, and the wage needs to be tagged to inflation. The minimum wage has actually gone down over the past several decades since it has not kept up with inflation, and this has hurt working class families. This will better support the buying power of working families who are trying to support themselves and their families. This will help New Jersey, a place with some of the highest property taxes in the nation, especially those who struggle the most already with just trying to get by."

We asked Alex if Norcross thought he would be able to fool anyone into thinking he's some kind of a progressive or populist. "Norcross's plan for a 15 dollars an hour minimum wage," he told us, "is a phony attempt at populism. Not only is the timeline horrendous as it delays the raise in minimum wage to well after other comparable plans, it also is a transparent mechanism to send tax dollars to big corporations. Norcross's plan calls for tax incentives to early adopter companies. If we've learned anything from his past legislative history in the State Senate in New Jersey, Norcross-penned tax incentives mean billions in our dollars to corporations. Rather than truly support progressive policy, Norcross is seeking a headline and a new pipeline of cash for his corporate donors and Norcross family controlled companies. This is particularly dangerous because it signals that corporate America realizes it is losing the fight on minimum age and they are seeking underhanded ways of being compensated for their cooperation."

If you'd like to help Alex Law beat back the corrosive New Jersey political machine, please consider contributing to his grassroots campaign here on a page dedicated to congressional candidates who have endorsed Bernie Sanders and are running on a Bernie-inspired platform. All of the men and women on this list have endorsed the real fight for $15, not that bastardized Norcross version. Don't be fooled by the DINOs, not in South Jersey, not anywhere.

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