Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Minimum Wage Travesty

Why is it that the Republican party has developed a death wish? As a lifelong Republican, I’m dismayed at the blatant hypocrisy and cynicism of the Republican congress, most recently displayed in their consideration of raising the minimum wage.

The current minimum wage is $5.15 per hour, with overtime calculated on the average hours worked during a two-week period. That works out to $10,300 per year for anyone unlucky enough to work fifty forty-hour weeks at this rate. The minimum wage has not increased during a period where the congress has raised its own salaries by over $41,000 per year. So, maybe it's time to consider an increase for the least employable people who want to work!

Unfortunately, that was not on the Republican congressional leadership's agenda. Nothing was to be done. Yet the unfavorable comparison outlined above threatened the campaigns of those Republicans who will be running for re-election in the fall. So, in a stroke of genius, the Republican house leaders concocted a bill to combine a phased increase in the minimum wage with a significant reduction in the estate tax. The bill was passed, with Republicans voting in favor. But this bill will not go into law, since this combination will not pass the Senate. The outcome was known in advance, so the whole exercise was "political cover" for those who need to face their constituents.

The logic for reducing the estate tax is simply this - it's payback for the well-heeled Republicans who have been financing Republicans for house and senate seats. Some have called it "welfare for Paris Hilton". The fact is that great Republicans like Teddy Roosevelt felt the estate tax was necessary in order to prevent the formation of an "American Royalty", a class of people who live in royal fashion simply due to the success of a forebear. And great Americans like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet believe the estate tax must be maintained. But the greedy rich of today's culture, those Christian self-made men and women who funded George Bush want to pass on every penny they couldn't spend to their progeny. Well, that is just too much! The kids will still get plenty, but somewhere down the line they or their kids may actually have to work. That's the American way according to Teddy Roosevelt, and a majority of the senate agrees with him. So, this house bill is DOA.

The minimum wage must be increased simply because few people are willing to work for that amount. It's well below the poverty line, for heaven's sake! If someone's take-home pay still leaves them with a grim existence and dependence on the government and charities for hand-outs, then what satisfaction is there in work and what motivation to take it on? In my view, Americans want everyone to earn a decent day's pay for a decent day's work. Unfortunately, the Republican congress doesn't agree with me. That's one of the reasons we've been separated for some time and heading for divorce.

It would be one thing for the Republicans, who control both houses of congress, simply to state their reasons for not increasing the minimum wage and get on with other business. But this cynical, non-starter package deal is basically another shady lie that will take its place alongside all the other disgraceful deeds of this congress. History will take notice of how these Republicans hijacked a great party, sold it to the highest bidder, and got tossed out like so much garbage when their stink got too strong for even many of their staunchest initial supporters. The fall elections can't come too quickly!

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