Minimum Wage Wars


05/09/2014 - Shortly after Senate Republicans blocked a plan last week to hike the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour, our Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill of Kirkwood fired off an email to the news media:

"Partisan politics have once again gotten in the way of strengthening our economy. Instead of lifting millions of Americans out of poverty and boosting the economy, my Republican colleagues have chosen to sit on the sidelines," McCaskill declared.

"It's past time to stop the bickering, deal with this important issue, and give the American people the raise they deserve."

The logic of raising the minimum wage is a no-brainer. Especially when one considers that when inflation is factored in over the past 20 years, this hike is not an increase at all over that period — it's a parity issue.

The hike is also a no-brainer for the majority of Americans, with 62 percent in support of the hike, while 26 percent are opposed.

It's also a no-brainer for 600 U.S. economists who have enthusiastically endorsed a letter from the Economic Policy Institute urging Congress to raise the minimum wage.

In the face of all this, how can Republicans in Congress remain recalcitrant? My guess would be all those campaign contributions have something to do with it — big money from the billionaire Koch brothers, the Walmart heirs and billionaire casino owners like Sheldon Adelson.

Here in Missouri, a big reason the state legislature won't consider a hike in the state minimum wage can be traced to billionaire Rex Sinquefeld. Old Rex has shelled out more than $31 million to his legislative shills since 2006 in the interest of fighting the minimum wage, labor, teachers — and rolling back his own taxes.

However, I don't want to be accused of engaging in class warfare or being too mean to billionaires. While I can't say that some of my best friends are in the upper .01 percent, I will say that there are, indeed, more than a few good billionaires left in America.

One of them is Ron Unz, a Silicon Valley Republican in California. A former publisher of The American Conservative Magazine, Unz supports upping the minimum wage to $15 an hour. McCaskill ought to get Unz to join forces with her to make the fight for fair pay a non-partisan issue.

Unz says if you want Republicans to get on board with the hike, you have to make it a taxpayer issue. For too long, he says, taxpayers have been subsidizing big businesses by paying for food stamps and social services for their underpaid workers.

So put that in your pipe and smoke it, Tea Party faithful! Isn't it about time to get millions of poor working stiffs off the dole and to give them a living wage? And lets give struggling, middle-class taxpayers a break in the process. The GOP's Unz has it right!

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