One of the main reasons I have been supporting John Edwards so ardently is that I believe he is the only candidate who can be trusted to fight for middle-class jobs, and raising the wages of low and middle class workers. This is something John Edwards cares deeply about. He came from a working, union, middle-class family and he has seen firsthand how pay can affect millions of Americans. He wants to end unfair trade deals that cost American middle class jobs, and best of all he wants to fight for the wages of lower-class workers, so that they can make the jump into and revive our middle class once again.
Fighting for Working America is the crusade of John Edwards' life, and so it is the focus of our campaign. While profits have reached all-time highs, the American worker and the American middle-class have been sacrificed. Edwards has not only spoken on this, he has come up with a plan to raise wages and expand our middle-class once more. I wanted to share them with everyone, and comment, and welcome comment. I hope many undecideds will look and see why Democrats like myself are so enthusiastic about John Edwards.
As always Edwards begins by identifying something he thinks is disturbing, and would want to change if he were in the White House. He does that here:
In America today, most families are working harder and struggling to get by. With Washington dominated by powerful special interests, it is no coincidence that the benefits of economic growth are enjoyed by increasingly few individuals while most families' wages are stagnant. The national minimum wage now fails to keep working families out of poverty. While the upcoming increase will give a much-needed raise to millions of families, it is far from enough. John Edwards believes that we need to build One America where everyone has an opportunity to work hard and build a better life. He has proposed initiatives to guarantee universal health care, strengthen unions, and crack down on predatory lending. Today, he called for increasing the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2012 and ensuring that it continues to rise so minimum-wage workers will share in our nation's prosperity.
Now, I don't know how many of you could disagree with some of this. As for me, I am working harder and barely getting by. After bills, I have a smaller and smaller chunk for saving. I am glad to hear that there are others who are sharing in the apparent strength of this economy, I am just not one of them. I don't personally know any of them either. Around here, times are hard. I make over minimum wage, and am barely out of poverty. I feel for anyone who makes that wage, or the upcoming $5.85. In American dollars, it is a slave wage. It is time that hard work should be rewarded. It is time for universal healthcare, cracking down on Predatory lending, and most of all strengthening our unions once more. Edwards should be commended by everyone for making these things a part of our nomination process this time. After all, these are the things I thought that Democrats are supposed to fight for.
Anyway, Edwards goes on detailing the problem:
The Minimum Wage Remains below Historic Levels: Even at $7.25 an hour, the real value of the minimum wage will be more than $1 below half the average wage, a historic benchmark. The $7.25 wage is only about 40 percent of the average wage. [EPI, 2007]
For Families, the Minimum Wage Is a Poverty Wage: Almost 80 percent of workers benefiting from a minimum wage increase are adult workers. Americans working full-time at the minimum wage today take home only about $10,700 a year before taxes, nearly 40 percent below the poverty line for a family of three. Even after this month's scheduled increase to $5.85, minimum-wage workers will earn about $12,200, still nearly 30 percent below the poverty line for these families. [Kennedy, 2007; EPI, 2007]
Some people may find these numbers shocking and disturbing, but being a relatively low-wage worker myself, I could only imagine what those making even lower wages are going through.
Edwards now makes a monumental statement. Reading things like this make me proud to be an Edwards supporter, and even more determined to get his message out:
Our Shared Prosperity Depends on Improving Low-Wage Jobs: As the number of service jobs in our economy continues to grow, improving the quality of these jobs is critical to the strength of the middle class. Eighteen of the 30 fastest-growing occupations pay low or very low wages, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. [BLS, 2004]
Is my area the only area in the country where we have seen a shift to an almost completely service oriented economy over the last twenty years or so? We are seeing plenty of resteraunts, convenience stores and well just stores being built daily, but what of the plants and manufacturing jobs we used to do? If they are being allowed to disappear, and we are replacing them with low wage service jobs, how will we ever maintain a middle-class. I beg all of you to read that last paragraph one more time. If service jobs are all that are to be provided then we must improve the wages and benefits in these jobs. If not, the middle class will eventually disappear.
Besides this, next Edwards goes on to detail why raising wages actually helps the economy despite the naysayers:
Raising the Minimum Wage Is Good for the Economy: Our economy works best when regular families are sharing in its prosperity. Raising the minimum wage gives millions of workers more buying power and allows them to support their families with less government aid and contribute to the economy. Studies have shown no negative employment effects from recent minimum wage increases, and higher wages can lead to lower employee turnover and absenteeism and improved productivity. [Card and Krueger, 1994; Fiscal Policy Institute, 2004; EPI, 2007]
To me this is only common sense. If more people besides the very rich actually have more money left over to spend because they are being paid fair wages, then more money gets spent by more people and more businesses make more money. Besides this, with lower turnover and higher productivity, business owners enjoy even more benefit. The only reason to oppose it is flat-out greed.
Edwards then goes on to outline some things he would do as President:
A longtime champion of raising the minimum wage, John Edwards worked to help pass minimum wage ballot initiatives in six states in 2006. He believes that the minimum wage should be more than a safety net: it can lift more than a million workers out of poverty and play a meaningful role in reducing inequality. As president he will:
Raise the Wage to $9.50 by 2012: Edwards will set a national goal of a minimum wage that equals half the average wage. To accomplish this goal, he will raise the minimum wage by 75 cents a year until it reaches $9.50 in 2012. Edwards will also restore the minimum wage for tipped workers to half the full minimum wage; the minimum wage for these workers has stood at $2.13 since 1997. [EPI, 2007]
Those are actually very good ideas. I think a minimum wage at half the national average is both fair and sensible. I also believe that the tipped worker wage should be half the minimum wage. That is just fair also.
The next part is what sets Edwards ahead of the pack as the leader that would most benefit working people in this primary:
Ensure Continued Rising Wages: Working families cannot rely on Washington to stand up for them. Instead, recent decades saw Congress tolerating a stagnant minimum wage while millions of families lost ground. Once the minimum wage reaches $9.50 an hour, Edwards will index it so that it automatically rises each year along with average wages, ensuring that all workers share in America's growth. [CBPP, 2006]
This is a brilliant idea. This government has shown that once big business gets in bed with the right people, working people suffer. Year after year, we see Congress voting themselves a raise like clockwork, and we see corporate profits shoot through the roof. Both of these groups of people have shown that they care little if the average American shares in the prosperity. It is time that minimum wage was tied to rise with other wages. As Edwards says, all workers should share in the prosperity they helpled create.
Edwards ends addressing an issue he has already been out in front of the pack on:
Take Care of the Caretakers: The Supreme Court recently ruled that home health care workers are not eligible for federal minimum wage protections. Millions of these care providers work long hours without overtime and at hourly rates below the minimum wage, and the occupation is projected to grow faster than any other job in America. Edwards will amend the Fair Labor Standards Act to include home health care workers. [Washington Post, 6/12/2007; BLS, 2004]
The fact that these professionals have been denied access to minimum wage and overtime protections is a travesty in our country. It is good to see that John Edwards agrees. He has been outspoken on this issue.
It is past time that America once again had a leader who respected the working men and women who sacrifice daily to make our country great. Too many times in the last thirty years their concerns have constantly been outweighed in the interests of big business. Like our troops, our working people have been stretched to the brink constantly asked to work harder and harder for less pay, all the while losing hard-earned benefits and pensions. It is time once again to have a President who fights hard for those who work hard. It is time we had a President who respected everyone's right to make a living, not just the investors on Wall St. Please join me in electing that leader, John Edwards.