Friday, July 28, 2006

Minimum wage madness

Just over a month ago -- on June 21, to be precise -- I criticized Senate Republicans for refusing to support an increase to the minimum wage, which currently stands at a measly $5.15 an hour (where it's been for a decade).

Well, with the November midterms looming menacingly on the horizon, House Republicans have finally given in, proposing to increase the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour. Good politics? For Republicans, yes. It makes them look like they actually care about the working poor. (They don't, but it's the perception that they do that matters right now.)

A $7.25 minimum wage is exactly what Ted Kennedy has proposed in the Senate. Which means that, politics or not, we should applaud the House Republicans' efforts to increase the minimum wage, right? Even if means that they'll look better to voters come November?

No. For this effort is nothing if not nefarious. And it isn't really about the minimum wage. As the AP reports, the Republican leadership only supports a minimum wage increase "if it's coupled with a cut in inheritance taxes on multimillion-dollar estates".

Yes, you read that correctly. The proposed minimum wage increase is all about cutting taxes. You didn't really think Republicans would legislate out of the goodness of their own hearts, did you? Or that they would genuinely try to help America's working poor?

The details of the tax cuts for the wealthy are in the article, but the AP actually gets what's going on here: "The maneuver was aimed at defusing the wage hike as a campaign issue for Democrats while using the popularity of the increase to achieve the Republican Party's longtime goal of permanently cutting taxes on the estates of millionaires and small businessmen."

In other words: Screw the poor. They're a GOP bargaining tool.

To be fair, some Republicans do support a minimum wage increase. But there shouldn't be any strings attached. Consider: "A person working 40 hours per week at minimum wage makes $10,700, which is below the poverty line for workers with families."

That's obscene. I said it a month ago and I say it again: Shame on the GOP.

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