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The House of Representatives was busy yesterday engaging in vicious class warfare against working families.

Their two signature accomplishments were: 1) striking the proposed increase in the minimum wage from the Labor-HHS bill, and 2) reviving the effort to repeal the estate tax.

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.

Originally posted to Jared Bernstein on Wed Jun 21, 2006 at 10:40 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Surely (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bronte17, MJB, dennisl, breakingranks

    Someone can make a powerful political ad out of this.

    "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition" - Monty Python

    by MadRuth on Wed Jun 21, 2006 at 10:46:41 AM PDT

    •  I sure hope so (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MissLaura, MadRuth, bumblebums, BobOak, dennisl

      It's a perfect microcosm of the problem.  And I think it would be intuitive to anyone who looked at it.

      Congress's values:
      Yes-estate tax repeal
      No-minimum wage

      'nuf said.

    •  Until Democrats make hay with this (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tmo, MadRuth, MJB, llbear, breakingranks

      ... I don't think we'll see a big Democratic win in a national election.

      We can talk about corruption, the war, civil liberties or other issues, but we won't get a big swing of voters to the Democrats' side until it becomes crystal-clear to even the most inattentive voters -- and non-voters -- that Democrats are serious about helping with the problems working folks face.

      Economic populism is and has always been our issue.  Until we embrace it, and start fighting back hard in the Class War, Republican diversionary bullshit will continue to be far too influential.

      -4.50, -5.85 In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act. --Orwell

      by Dallasdoc on Wed Jun 21, 2006 at 11:03:22 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  We hear it in brief sound bites here and there, (0+ / 0-)

        which appear to blow in the wind. Who is listening? Who has turned away from Bush and the GOP on account of its prowealth economic policies. What has it cost Bush for justifying taxcuts for the wealthy with statements such as 'they worked for it?'

        Read Jeffery Sachs' The End of Poverty.

        by shergald on Wed Jun 21, 2006 at 11:15:21 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I take your point (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          But there is a "bridge too far" and this could be it.

          Resistance is not futile, and given recent polls, is less so now than a few years ago.

          I'm with Dallasdoc--we ought to able to use this contrast to our advantage.

          One problem is that the gap between people who vote and people with low incomes is growing, so it's hard to generate actual constituent interest in these issues (although the estate-tax-repeal crowd is deeply engaged).

          But it's the optics of the thing that are so egregious and would be clear to anyone, I think.

          •  Latest poll to ask this question: (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Gallup Poll. April 10-13, 2006. N=1,005 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3 (for all adults).

            "As I read off some different groups, please tell me if you think they are paying their fair share in federal taxes, paying too much, or paying too little. How about [see below]?"

            FairShare TooMuch TooLittle Unsure

            "Lower-income people"
            36% 46% 12% 6%
            "Middle-income people"
            50% 43% 5% 3%
            "Upper-income people"
            21% 8% 67% 4%
            18% 5% 70% 7%

            People seem to understand the tax inequities, but it never seems to come up as a main issue upon which they might vote. Someone was correct in saying that the Democrats have not made enough of it. What is needed is a PAC that does national and local advertising on the issue of taxcuts and repeals for the wealthy. Like does anyone know that 18 wealthy families have spent 100 million to get the estate tax repealed?

            Read Jeffery Sachs' The End of Poverty.

            by shergald on Wed Jun 21, 2006 at 11:35:06 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  It is a club to beat the GOP with (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            shergald, Tailspinterry

            interest in voting among the poor can be ramped up considerably by this issue. It is nearly the perfect weapon to use against Republicans, so I think they handed Democrats a big gift today. Dems would be wise to say it over and over: Republicans want to keep the minimum wage low because they don't earn the minimum wage.

            •  What about all those college kids (0+ / 0-)

              working minimum wage jobs?

              Not to mention their grandparents who thought their retirement was set - yet the become the daytime help at fast food chains.

              Free the Congress - Retire Denny Hastert - donate to, work for, and vote for John Laesch

              by llbear on Wed Jun 21, 2006 at 10:50:52 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  what I meant is ... (0+ / 0-)

                that Democrats have been fighting for years to raise the minimum wage. If republicans had given in to a small raise, it would have defused much of the pressure. Instead, if Dems use the issue effectively, it could help them to retake one or both chambers. That in turn would allow them to introduce a considerable raise.

                I know, for at least half a year people working at minimum wage will get no relief. It did not mean to belittle the importance of that fact.

  •  For some Garth Brooks (with editing...) (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I'm shameless, I don't do have the power now
    I don't do want it anyhow
    So I got to won't let it go.

    Oh, I'm shameless, shameless as a man can be
    You I make a total fool of me you
    I just wanted to you to know.

  •  I'll quote Mr X from the diary on Krugman (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ZAPatty, MJB, jimreyn, Ellicatt, breakingranks

    the other day, saying

    It Has Always Been Class Warfare (47+ / 0-)

    the aristocracy are just better at hiding it these days.

    This is CLASS WAR, and the other side is winning.

    by Mr X on Mon Jun 19, 2006 at 09:19:11 AM EDT

    Of course, what you're describing is pretty ill-disguised.  Maybe they're losing their touch.  

    •  Exactly (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tmo, ZAPatty, jimreyn, Ellicatt, breakingranks

      This is incredibly brazen.  It's the poster-child for what's wrong with the current economic policy.

      And it's classic YOYO (you're on your own) economics...

      •  I ran some analysis.... (0+ / 0-)
        before the feds quit publishing it on the percentage of M3 going to wages that were subject to social security taxes.

        It was down to 55% of M3 if I remeber right, I'm on the road right now and don't have access to that computer.

        For the life of me I cannot understand why the republicans don't understand that keeping money in our economy and circulating is a good thing, hel an economy can't run for long without it. They act like we'll get by forever by lending people what we refuse to pay them.

        That's not just for the minimum wage folks, but also the rest or the majority of the workforce (those that pay ss taxes) also...

        What we do for ourselves dies with us, what we do for others and the world remains and is immortal. (Albert Pine)

        by laughingriver on Wed Jun 21, 2006 at 11:52:09 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The implication (0+ / 0-)

 that their efforts to shift the tax burden from investments to wage income also imply ever higher tax rates on labor income or less tax revenue (it's a twofer: squeeze the working class while "starving the beast").

          •  Starving the beast... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Marlboro Lite
            that's a laugher, the beast just got a credit card to pay for his food...

            Of course, all the beasts little children who think giving the beast a credit card while eating cake and icing too, aren't gonna be very happy when the beast runs out of credit and the creditors come a calling to get paid.

            I think how the republicans have continuously stressed how the democrats were building a welfare state of reliance on the government, lack of responsibility for ones actions, etc.

            But is there really any worse example of dependency and irresponsibility than building a society that borrows all of its money, does not think they have to pay for their wars and expenses and giving them free money to buy whatever they want when they want on credit?

            Talk about your dependent societies eh? Really, does it amount to anything more than creating excessive amounts of money and letting your rich friends keep a bigger cut of what you make?

            What we do for ourselves dies with us, what we do for others and the world remains and is immortal. (Albert Pine)

            by laughingriver on Wed Jun 21, 2006 at 12:48:13 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Yep -- and what do you call a legislator (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MadRuth, dennisl, breakingranks

    who refuses to address the minimum wage, while at the same time voting for a pay raise for himself/herself?

    • Corrupt
    • Greedy
    • A legislator you can't count on to stand up for anyone who's not wealthy.

    More fun than talkin' about Anne Counter's giant Adam's Apple ! [Cue Austin Powers] "It's a MAN, baby!"

    by Cenobyte on Wed Jun 21, 2006 at 10:59:00 AM PDT

  •  minimum wage bill shot down (0+ / 0-)

    see here

    Sadly, it was to have been expected.  

    "Stop comparing Bush to Hitler. Hitler was a decorated war veteran who saw front line combat." - Bill Maher

    by Jank2112 on Wed Jun 21, 2006 at 11:00:49 AM PDT

  •  Republican Jihad against Common Folks, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tmo, breakingranks

    middle class and working families.

    That's the slogan to use.

    Tax cuts and estate tax repeal for the wealthy, NO to decent minimum wage for those in need.

    An abomination.

  •  what's really terrifying (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tmo, ZAPatty, Ellicatt

    about the daily assaults on the American people by Congress (and the Thug) is they wouldn't do it if they thought it would lose them their seats in Congress.  In other words, what you do in office, no matter how much it hurts your constituents, makes any difference come election time.  Big money and crooked elections are all the insurance policy you need.  

    •  98% incumbent re-election rate (0+ / 0-)

      Some woman on The Daily Show last night said the incumbent re-election rate was at a staggering 98%. She and John were joking that you literally have to have a dead body in your office, a la Joe Scarborough, for it to make any difference to their re-election prospects.

      A word after a word after a word is power. -- Margaret Atwood

      by tmo on Wed Jun 21, 2006 at 01:09:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  psychotic (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tmo, mbair, breakingranks

    I just don't know how else to describe our congress.

    They seem to be hell bent on turning the average working person into a serf, for this is no economic justification to this behavior.

    by BobOak on Wed Jun 21, 2006 at 12:33:23 PM PDT

  •  beautiful (4+ / 0-)

    Just beautiful. Thanks for the diary.

    It'll never end with these people. Never.

    I don't know about you but I've been worried about how Paris Hilton is going to afford her new house.

    The family I know down the street, an engineer with 25 years in the business recently laid-off married to a sales clerk at the grocery store with two kids in college? Not so much.

    Sorry for the snark, it's a serious diary. I just read the front page news item about this bill in the Senate. DOA.

    What did Lowery say at the King funeral?

    Millions without health insurance, poverty abounds, for war billions more - but no more for the poor.

    And the poor are just the appetizer folks, the "overly affluent" middle-class is the main course.

    I'll definitely tune it to the show Mr. Bernstein. Please keep posting, the front-pagers are giving you some good links. That means it's only a matter of time before you get celebrity status. Once that happens all your stuff will go right up on the rec list. You need to be there.

    No mo' YOYO

    •  Disconnect (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tmo, Ellicatt, Tailspinterry

      A few years ago when my father died I returned to my rural hometown with plans to stay there and help my Mom for a while. A temp job had recently ended in New York, and I was eligible for unemployment.

      While I looked for work in my hometown, I had to ask each employer to sign a slip and bring it into the county Unemployment Office office to show I had been looking for work. There was almost no economic infrastructure in the area, and unless you got a job at the main factory, you were out of luck.

      Still, despite the fact everyone knew that there were no jobs available, there was tremendous suspicion and venom against anyone "on welfare" - which in their minds included unemployment checks. So even though the  various employers I went to didn't have a job for me, they grumbled and raged about signing my Unemployment slip.

      The ultimate irony is occured when I tried a local flower/gift shop. The woman who owned the shop got a spate of business from my Dad's funeral, and since it was a very small town, she had known my family for a long time. After she told me she didn't have a job for me, I handed her the Unemployment slip - she refused to sign it and she yelled at me for asking her to sign it. The very fact I had that slip meant I was a "welfare bum" even though she had just turned me down for a job!

      By the way - because I couldn't get work, I couldn't stay with my Mom in Virginia. I only stayed for a couple of months.

      This is the contradiction in Repug thinking: shut people out of work to improve competition, but insult their character and yell at them to prevent them from taking any dole. What do they expect people to do? Just stand in front of the White House and stare at their "betters" as they slowly die of exposure and starvation?

  •  Just in case... (3+ / 0-)

    ...anyone tries to tell you the R's tried to compromise, here's some analysis from my colleague Ross Eisenbrey who co-wrote the piece with me, pointing out how the press skews the outcome (I added the bold part):

    From CongressDaily:

    The Senate today rejected Democratic and Republican proposals to raise the minimum wage, though GOP support for the Democratic wage-hike plan doubled since the last vote on the issue seven months ago. Eight Republicans voted for the Democrats' amendment to the FY07 defense authorization bill, which on a 52-46 vote fell short of the 60 needed for passage.

    Last November, four Republicans supported a similar measure. The amendment would have raised the minimum wage by $2.10 per hour over two years. The Republican alternative, which would have raised the minimum wage by $1.10, was voted down 53-45. The GOP measure also included a package of "sweeteners" for businesses, including regulatory relief.

    From Ross:

    There was, in truth, no Republican amendment to raise the minimum wage.  If you raise the minimum for 10 people but reduce it for 50, have you raised the minimum wage?  No, on balance, you’ve lowered it.  The Republicans put together an amendment that immediately removed 7 million employees from coverage under the minimum wage law while eventually raising the wage by $1.10 for about 1.5 million employees.  Do the math.  Far more people lose all protection than get any increase.  They not only lose the right to be paid a minimum wage, they also lose the right to be paid for overtime work.  That’s not “regulatory relief,” it’s turning the clock back to the 19th century.

    Far too many reporters read the sponsor’s description of legislation without ever reading it themselves or talking to experts to gain a real understanding of the impacts.  The sponsor of this amendment, Sen. Enzi, is no more interested in giving workers a raise than Sweeney Todd was in giving them a nice shave.

  •  Central plank value: (4+ / 0-)

    Providing opportunity to millions who are living under our prescribed poverty level (another issue altogether).

    Dallasdoc called it upthread: this needs much more attention than it's currently getting.  People are living this shitty reality every day - they don't need polls to convince them it's important.  They need someone to stand up for them.  On dKos, we know the Repubs won't do it.  But Democrats aren't providing them with alternative leadership.

    Personally, I think this needs to be the central focus point of every campaign across America.  Candidates that campaign on increasing the minimum wage will resonate with working class people of all political stripes.

    Finally, thanks for posting, Jared.  I'm about halfway through  "All Together Now".  You provide information that's easily digestible and of critical importance to which direction America wants to take in the future.  I've got friends arguing over who gets to borrow it from me when I'm done.  Keep up the fight!

    "Real conservatives are intolerant, warmongering and irresponsible." Chris Bowers

    by WeatherDem on Wed Jun 21, 2006 at 12:50:06 PM PDT

  •  I've gotta go (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jimreyn, Ellicatt, breakingranks

    ...argue about this stuff on CNBC.  I agree times are hard, but this has been an uplifting discussion.

  •  I see that Kudlow is very biased. (2+ / 0-)

    First, he kept you waiting for the first two segments, and then he gave you very limited time to make your points.  It was obvious that he is not on the same page as you are.

    I wish you would have been given fair time to make your points; however, that doesn't fit into Kudlow's game plan, I see.  Even I was offended when he cut you off for "two live congressmen" (who probably don't have the economic background that you have).  Wish it would have been a more balanced discussion.

    (Then, he asks a specific question about Hastert that you weren't qualified to answer - what was that about!)

    I hope your next tv appearance is with a more hospitable host!

  •  Well... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ellicatt, breakingranks's a tough venue, but I'm glad I was there.

    Amazing to be accused of class warfare by someone whose blocked a moderate min wg increase while trying to repeal the estate tax.

  •  I just checked (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and the equivalent today of my minimum wage in 1968 (a baseline year for computing the inflation index) is $9.31/hr.  So even the Democratic alternative leaves workers in the hole.  But heck, I'd take it.

    Abigail, I'm sure if there is something out there, looking down on us from somewhere else in the Universe, they're wise enough to stay away from us. --Grissom

    by world traveler on Wed Jun 21, 2006 at 05:17:35 PM PDT

  •  Where is the movement! (0+ / 0-)

    Great post (as always Jared)!  It is shameful, that we have allowed the conservatives to set the agenda.  We need to articulate a strong pro worker agenda:  living wages, universal health care, universal college education, etc.  This agenda is for the majority (bottom 90%) directly, and really is in the interest of the top 10% because it will lead to more stable sutainable economy for all.  Where is the movement to articulate this humane agenda?  With the real patriots please stand up!

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