Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Raising all boats

Rationally speaking, there is no way in hell anyone can be expected to make a living on $5.15 per hour. I struggle to get by on three times that amount, so I'm dumbstruck by the reluctance of many Republicans to raise the federal minimum wage. This amount has remained the same for nearly a decade, while costs like gas, groceries and housing have spiraled upward. While many on the right (and the left, for that matter) love to demonize the poor and welfare reform has been the mantra on the lips of both Democrats and Republicans, if you want people to work, pay them well and make it worth their efforts.

If someone were to work 52 weeks per year, at the current federal minimum wage, their annual income would be $10,712--this is $6,000 below the official poverty level for a family of three!! If work is redemptive, as many love to say; if it truly defines who we are, then for the love of Buddah, reflect that in what you pay people for their labor.

I'd like to think that Republican's reluctance to raise the minimum standard is rooted in some deeply held philosophical value, derived by some economic theory that I'm not privy to. However, at the risk of sounding mean-spirited, I just think they are a bunch of goddamned ogres, who care only for their rich benefactors. Just call me a partisan hack and tax and spend liberal!

My post was motivated by an article I read in Monday's Christian Science Monitor, a damn fine paper that still practices journalism, IMHO. Columnist, David R. Francis, wrote about a group called Let Justice Roll, a great name for any group oriented towards issues of social justice and economic equality.

The name is derived from the book of Amos, one of the prophetic books of the Old Testament (and a book that's sadly out of favor with most conservative Christians, at least those who fixate only on their select few passages), which reads, "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an overflowing stream." (Amos 5:24) If I had to choose a book from the Bible that ought to be required reading for anyone calling themselves Christian, then Amos would be the one I'd assign.

Let Justice Roll is an alliance of 80 various organizations, some religious, others, like the AFL-CIO, are secular, but motivated by tenets of justice and equality.

Their "campaign coordinator," the Reverend Paul Sherry, is quoted in Francis' article. Sherry, speaking about the minimum wage had this to say.

"A job should keep you out of poverty, not keep you in it."

That makes sense to me. Now if we could just help Republicans see that raising to $7.25, still too low in my opinion, since I support a universal living wage, is at least a step in the right direction.

Hopefully, Senator Edward Kennedy's attachment to an appropriations bill, or other piece of legislation will fly this time. He's been trying in vain for the past couple of years to find the votes to make this work. I'm not holding my breath on this, as I don't see Republicans changing stripes any time soon.


Joe said...

I have honestly never heard of the book of Amos. Then again, I never was much of a Christian.

p.s. I hate the fucking Republicans.

Jim said...

Amos is one of my favorite prophetic books; quoting it would inevitably get me in trouble with fellow Xians (back in my "holy" period--I'll tell you about it some time). Amos is way to anti-capitalist for most of the conservative religious set, who want their God and their cake, too.

weasel said...

It is too late at night (and the baseball is on) for me to fully sketch out my vague economic arguments here, but if a rising tide lifts all boats, surely it doesn't matter at which point on the economic "beach" the tide comes in at? Money injected into the economy at the bottom end is actually more likely to circulate as the poorer elements in society spend a greater proportion of their income than they save. Ergo, higher minimum wage = economic stimulus.

Of course what it does to the balance of payments, with all that extra money lavished on sweated goods and chinese plastic, is another matter :)

Ian Welsh over at the Agonist has a good take.