Late last week, members of the House Appropriations Committee voted to include an amendment to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 on a funding bill. Given that Congress is a few months away from surpassing the Reagan-years record for ignoring the minimum wage, and the fact that its buying power is the lowest it's been since 1955, it's time for a raise.
Yet, instead of letting the measure go to the floor of the full House for a vote, the Republican leadership decided to pull the appropriations bill from consideration and the minimum wage increase along with it.
At the same time, conservatives began crafting a compromise measure to revive the estate tax repeal, which died in the Senate last week. As the New York Times reports this morning, "Though billed as a compromise, the measure would cost about three-quarters as much as full repeal of the estate tax." Estimated cost over 10 years: $280 billion.
It's hard to find words to express the outrage of these actions. It's not simply that the policy process has gotten off track. It's that a key purpose of government has been turned upside down, and done so with apparent impunity.
Instead of seeking ways to address and ameliorate the unbalanced growth which characterizes this economy, they're exacerbating the problem. Instead of a small, overdue boost to low-wage workers that would help them reconnect, just a bit, to the growing economy, they want to shovel even more of the benefits of our prodigious productivity growth to the top of the wealth scale.
There's a word for this: shameless. And shame on all of us if we sit back and watch it happen.
(This article was co-written with Ross Eisenbrey of the Economic Policy Insititute.)
UPDATE: I will be defending the minimum wage on CNBC (Kudlow & Company) at around 5:20 EST tonight.