Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Minimum Wage Vote Reveals Moral Values

The Senate decided now is not the time to raise minimum wage. Tim Grieve of Salon predicted this a few days ago;

But not to worry. The whole exercise is pretty much for naught. Santorum's proposal is plainly meant to give Republicans cover for defeating Kennedy's, and neither proposal has a chance of getting through the House of Representatives, where Tom DeLay has already announced that minimum-wage legislation will be dead on arrival. For the foreseeable future, the minimum wage will stay at $5.15 an hour -- just enough to leave a family of three about $5,000 a year below the poverty line.
For those who like to keep track of our Senators' "moral values," every Democrat voted to raise minimum wage. Four Republicans stepped up to show their support for the poor as well; Chaffee of Rhode Island, Coleman of Minnesota, DeWine of Ohio and Domenci of New Mexico.

One of the most popular arguments against raising the minimum wage is that it would force businesses to lay off workers. There is little evidence of this happening as a result of past raises. In the last few years, corporate profits have risen by 57.5%, while private wage and salary income has decreased by 1.7%. Increased profits coupled with the value of an employee's work being worth more than they are currently being paid suggests that a raise in the minimum would not result in "workers being priced out of the market." The real reason the move towards a living wage is being blocked is simple; more profit, or in "moral values" terminology; greed.

A company that refuses to pay a living wage, which qualifies it as a sweatshop, shouldn't be in business. Is that an unrealistic perspective? It didn't originate with me;

No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country. By living wages I mean more than a bare subsistence level - I mean the wages of a decent living.
- Franklin Roosevelt
There are other reasons such legislation will continue to be blocked by the current administration and this Republican-dominated Congress. If entry level positions are kept at below the poverty line levels, most workers will desperately hold on to the job they have in response to their fear of the alternative; living in poverty. Stable, docile workers is what those holding the reins of power want.

If those trying to survive in the lower economic levels have to suffer, tough luck. You've got to break a few eggs to make a capitalist omelet. If they don't like it, they can always join the army. We'll give them food, clothing, a cot to sleep on, and even extra ammunition so they can take pot shots at passing Italian communists if they get bored.

So these are the "moral values" of America? Excuse me while I go get sick.


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