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Rich Senators Defeat Minimum-Wage Hike


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Congressional Pay Rises While Minimum Stays Same

Helen Thomas, Hearst White House columnist

U.S. senators -- who draw salaries of $162,100 a year and enjoy a raft of perks -- have rejected a minimum wage hike from $5.15 an hour to $6.25 for blue-collar workers.

Can you believe it?

The proposed increase was sponsored by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and turned down in the Senate by a vote of 51 against the boost and 49 in favor. Under a Senate agreement, it needed 60 votes to pass.

All the Democrats voted for the wage boost. All the negative votes were cast by Republicans.

Four Republicans voted for it. Three of the four are running for reelection and were probably worried about how voters would react if they knew that their well-heeled senators had turned down a pittance of an increase in the salaries of the lowest paid workers in the country.

The minimum wage was last increased in 1997.

Kennedy called the vote "absolutely unconscionable."

The lawmakers are hardly hurting. They get health insurance, life insurance, pensions, office expenses, ranging from $2 million on up, depending on the population of a state. The taxpayers also pay for their travel, telecommunications, stationery and mass mailings.

AFL-CIO president John Sweeney said the rejection was "outrageous and shocking."

Sweeney said minimum-wage workers "deserve a pay raise -- plain and simple -- no strings attached."

He said it is "appalling that the same right-wing leaders in Congress -- who have given themselves seven pay raises since the last minimum wage increase -- voted down the modest wage increase proposed by the Kennedy amendment."

During the same period since 1997, raises that the Senate has given itself bolstered senatorial pay by $28,000 a year, Kennedy said.

"If we are serious about helping hard-working families, we will give a fair raise to America's low-income workers without taking away essential protections," he added.

The Senate also killed an amendment proposed by Sen. Michael Enzi, R-Wyo., which also would have increased the minimum wage by $1.10 but included drastic measures such as wiping out the 40-hour work week, cutting overtime pay and weakening job safety and health protection.

At the same time, Enzi wanted to sweeten the pot for small business by providing tax and regulatory relief and to exempt small business from the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Kennedy likened the Enzi bill to an "anti-worker poison pill" and said it would "severely hurt millions and millions of workers."

According to the Census Bureau, there are 37 million Americans living in poverty, up 1 million in just a year.

Statements by President George W. Bush since the Gulf Coast hurricane disasters indicate he has a new awareness of the plight of the poor in this country. Katrina and the devastation of New Orleans have made the more affluent realize the hardships suffered by poor families.

When asked about the Kennedy measure, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Bush "believes that we should look at having a reasonable increase in the minimum wage ... But we need to make sure that, as we do that, that it is not a step that hurts small business or prices people out of the job market."

Bush has not weighed in with his own proposal for a pay hike.

The Senate's action comes at a worrisome time when motorists are paying much more for gasoline and heating bills are expected to rise by 56 percent this winter, according to Kennedy.

As a result, families will have to tighten their belts to pay for the basic necessities.

"It is shameful that in America today, the richest and most powerful nation on earth, nearly a fifth of all children go to bed hungry at night because their parents, many of whom are working full time at the minimum wage, still can't make ends meet," Kennedy said.

Kennedy has been in the forefront of the fight for increases in the minimum wage for years, and I don't expect him to throw in the towel now.

Congress still may have a chance to redeem itself in the eyes of the less fortunate -- before the 2006 elections.

http://www.wesh.com/helenthomas/5183628/detail.html

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I am outraged by that. Here in Mass the minimum wage is $6.75 & was supposed to be raised a while ago, but that never happened.  Studies have shown that to

have just enough to provide the basic neccessities someone here would have to

make almost $14 an hour.  U.S Department of Labor

This link shows what the minimum wages are in each state- pathetic if ya ask me!

Kennedy is fighting a losing battle with all these damn republicans looking out for

the big companies.  I don't believe for a minute that they are concerned about

small businesses.

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Ugh, I can't believe that. It's times like this I feel like leaving the Republican party and hanging out with the Democrats... as of late, the Republican party seems to be spiralling backwards through evolution ;) But sadly, I don't agree with enough of the Democratic platform to really belong there. (I do absolutely despise Bush though)

I make 6.50/hour, and even that just isn't enough. It's hard to believe there are people out there surviving on only 5.15/hour...

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  • 1 month later...

Ugh, I can't believe that. It's times like this I feel like leaving the Republican party and hanging out with the Democrats... as of late, the Republican party seems to be spiralling backwards through evolution ;) But sadly, I don't agree with enough of the Democratic platform to really belong there. (I do absolutely despise Bush though)

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

It's gotten to the point nearly everyone that doesn't have pots of cash in the bank  or a klan hood on their head despises him.

I can't even suggest Alabama Libertarian Party even though they're based near you and that's what I'm registered as because they're getting nuttier by the week.

We should start our own party!

MII or Mentally Interesting Individuals!

We could offer a minimum wage increase, along with strong anti-pancake measures, bans on ninjas, laser gun/flying saucer regulation, and promise to declare war on Antarctica to unite the people.

If nothing else, I bet we'd have a better health care system plan than any other party. :)

More to the point of the thread, the problem with a minimum wage increase is typically the cost of services goes up as well....So they're not always the quick fix people hope for...At this point, an increase is necessary just to keep up with the services.

And what the hell is the deal with the banishment of the 40 hour work week?

Yeah, that makes sense, give people an extra dollar or so an hour so their employers can work them 80 hours a week and end up paying them far less.

Way to protect Wal-mart, McDonalds, and the plethora of large companies that don't give a rat's ass about their employees.

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Speaking as someone who is earning just barely enough to afford the necessities, I can't think of any particular services that I'm paying for right now. I'm not sure I follow the argument that raising minimum wages raises the cost of services and is therefore problematic. Raising the cost of services is the whole point. Services are paid for by the more wealthy and provided by the less wealthy.

And on McClellan's assertion that the Bush administration doesn't want to "price people out of the job market" -- what? McDonalds is going to react to an increase in mimimum wages by shutting down operations entirely? Sorry, we just can't afford to pay people $6.25. We're moving the bulk of our franchise operations to the third world, where cheap burgers and fries are still profitable.

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I can't even suggest Alabama Libertarian Party even though they're based near you and that's what I'm registered as because they're getting nuttier by the week.

They may be exuberant, but unlike two other parties they aren't committing mass-murder in any foreign countries or turning this nation into a hideous admixture of the Soviet Union & Roman Empire. Let's petition Ron Paul to run again. (Yeah, there's an R after his name, but he's a dyed-in-the-wool libertarian.)

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The Big Abstract Argument against the minimum wage is that it violates THE fundamental right: private property. If I own a business, I should be able to hire whomever I want and pay them whatever I want: it's my property, not the government's. Since no one is conscripted to work at my business, what's the problem?

And yes, this means that businesses can discriminate. Suppose my business only accepts applications from curvy brunettes. How, in principle, is this any different from me permitting only curvy brunettes to enter my house? In both instances, it's my property and I am making the decisions concerning it. Don't like it? Start your own business.

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The Little, Non-Abstract answer is that if you want your business to be recognized by the government and afforded all the rights of a corporation, you need to abide by the rules laid out as part of the social contract and codified into law, which include paying workers some pale semblance of someone's concept of a livable wage. If you want to start your own business without any legal protections, services, or tax incentives, do whatever you want, don't pay taxes, don't report the business, and try not to get caught for competing in the marketplace without playing by the rules, or you could end up in jail.

But yeah the abstract argument has slight merit.

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The Big Abstract Argument against the minimum wage is that it violates THE fundamental right: private property. If I own a business, I should be able to hire whomever I want and pay them whatever I want: it's my property, not the government's. Since no one is conscripted to work at my business, what's the problem?
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McDonalds and Walmart would have never gotten to be what they are today if not for being fed a steady diet of taxpayer dollars.

Neither would Al Qaeda. ;)   Here's to never giving any company, country, death squad, or anyone a penny of booty plundered from US citizens.

People of all political persuasions join hands to condemn corporate welfare (Ralph Nader, for instance, heroically dissed it throughout his run in 2000). It boggles my mind that a country whose founders freaked-out over a tea tax has no problems with corporate welfare, billions of dollars given to other countries, and Lord only knows what else. 

If more people regarded taxation as the insidious theft it is, things would be different.

 

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Giving money to other countries is called humanitarian aid.

1/3 of it goes to Israel. Is that a poor country? What about some of those "humanitarian" causes we've funded in Central America over the years?

If individual citizens wish to donate their money to death squads or rich countries, that's neat. They should have that freedom. To entrust a monstrous bureaucracy with the charge of curing the world's ills with your money is wistful. They can't pave a highway. 

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What's the difference between paying the mafia protection money and paying taxes to the government? True, one breaks your knees, the other locks you in a cage if you refuse--but is there any other difference? The government's more powerful. Period.

Regarding the legitimacy/origins of the government: "social contract" my eye! Some armchair anthropologist coined that flowery bunk. I suggest a different origin: the most powerful gang of marauding thugs took as much as they could get away with. Everyone else submitted. Nothing has changed, though now the marauding thugs can point to a "16th Amendment," cite tradition, and rely on the wretched diffidence of the common man. 

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Yeah, OK, great. I happen to be an anarchist, and also I don't approve of the general policies of US towards the world. I was just saying that giving money to other countries *is* justified when it's humanitarian aid.

What's the ethical difference between the US *not* fighting to drastically reduce poverty and the spread of AIDS in Africa and a strong, able man watching on as the neighbor's kid is brutally beaten in the street by bullies? The social contract is a very important concept, regardless of your views of any particular government or its policies.

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What's the ethical difference between the US *not* fighting to drastically reduce poverty and the spread of AIDS in Africa and a strong, able man watching on as the neighbor's kid is brutally beaten in the street by bullies?

1) The strong man can solve the problem *directly* without relying on Marxist dingbats as intermediaries. Africa's problem is its leaders--not our indifference. 2) After 40+ years of helping this kid, he's on his own. I would have figured out that my continual interventions are a big part of the problem. (What's that ol' quote about doing the same thing over & over but expecting a different result?)

Giving money to irresponsible, corrupt, and oppressive governments won't help their people. It may assauge our collective conscience, but all it does is enrich a handful of warlords.

The government doesn't have its own money; it confiscates our money. Consequently, it has no business acting like a charity. That's something for individuals to do if they want to. Despite his lofty intentions, Robin Hood was a crook.

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Stopping the pandemic of AIDS in Africa, which has already killed tens of millions, several times as many as died in the Holocaust, requires a lot more money than exists in that continent, and yet could be helped for a fraction of the amount that the Bush administration has awarded in annual tax cuts that impact primarily the wealthiest 1% of the US population. Curiously, that's about 26 million people -- the same amount estimated to be infected with HIV in  Sub-Saharan Africa right now. We can withhold our aid and justify it as teaching Africans to take care of themselves, but these impoverished, undeveloped, plague-ridden countries won't be able to learn anything from this.

Sure, allowing bullies to beat up the weak builds character in the weak, which is of course why the US has devoted the bulk of its military to Iraq. American indifference is an enormous aspect of the problems in Africa, given that we have the most mobile economic market in the world and thrive by setting up incredibly low-cost labor operations in impoverished nations, often using child labor and paying mere pennies a day. Some American businessmen have demonstrated the large profit margins that can be made by starting businesses in Africa that improve the African infrastructure and provide previously non-existent services. Such intervention does not result in anything being confiscated by the African government other than the legitimate tax revenue that a legitimate civil government requires so as not to resort to fiscal corruption.

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And on McClellan's assertion that the Bush administration doesn't want to "price people out of the job market" -- what?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I would guess that is a reference to globalization.  Don't want to force corporations to go elsewhere to pay their employees an inadequate wage.

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Well our minimum wage workers do not work in positions that can be outsourced overseas, nor given to illegal immigrants. They are jobs like service people at Walmart, McDonalds, etc. I'm speaking as someone whose whole job niche was outsourced overseas and who was previously making about 6.5 times the minimum wage, including an excellent benefits package *itself* valued higher than the annual income of a 40-hour a week minimum wage worker. Now I'm scraping by on less than half what I'd been making,  which is estimated as the minimum for a single person to survive in the Boston area, but I'm still making 3 times the mimimum wage hourly.

With 1/7 of the US population living under the poverty level, I'd say we've already "priced people out of the job market".

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