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Rep. George Miller
Rep. George Miller (Official photo)

Congressional Democrats face a disagreement amongst themselves over what goals to set in their efforts to raise the minimum wage. Rep. George Miller of California, the ranking member of the House Workforce Committee, is following Sen. Tom Harkin's lead by introducing legislation that would raise the minimum wage gradually over a period of years; Harkin is proposing that it would go from its current level of $7.25 to $9.80 in three stages over three years. By contrast, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois is pushing Democrats to embrace an immediate increase of the minimum wage to $10, then indexing it to inflation so that it would increase gradually but automatically in the future.

Neither approach will pass while Republicans control the House, but this is a core principle Democrats should be organizing around now, and that does seem to be the plan:

[House Democratic Caucus Chair John] Larson, for his part, conceded that [Miller's] bill has no chance of moving before November's elections. But he hinted that Democrats would try to attach it to any number of the many fiscal and tax-related packages Congress will likely be forced to tackle in this year's lame duck.
The last minimum wage increase was passed the month Democrats retook Congress in 2007 after exactly such a campaign to force votes on it under Republican leadership.

While Democrats vigorously debate how much and how quickly they'd like to raise the minimum wage, Republican politicians variously don't even know what the minimum wage is, ignore it, or want to abolish it. Republican voters tend to be much more favorable, as in New York where a majority of Republican voters support an increase to $8.50, or Florida, where a minimum wage bill was passed by 72 percent of voters in 2004. At the current rate of $7.25 an hour, a full-time minimum wage worker earns $15,080 per year.

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Comment Preferences

  •  That states have had to take the initiative should (6+ / 0-)

    be clear that the federal minimum wage needs increased. And actually significantly increased. If we pegged it to its maximum level and to inflation the minimum wage would be something like 10.50 an hour.

    Nothing near a living wage, but definitely well beyond the exploitative one we have now.

    --Enlighten the people, generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like spirits at the dawn of day. - Thomas Jefferson--

    by idbecrazyif on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 07:59:14 AM PDT

    •  Referendums to write an inflation (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Calamity Jean, Larsstephens

      indexed minimum wage into the state law strike me as the way to go.

      If Republicans know that they will face a referendum of this sort each year in the states that allow it, eventually they will act at the federal level to defuse the electoral disadvantage that bringing in lower-income voters who normally don't turn out hits them with.

      Doing the right thing for the wrong reasons still means that the right thing gets done.

      by ManfromMiddletown on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 08:11:25 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I agree with you there for the most part (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Calamity Jean

        Though I might disagree with the path, that the final result ends up being positive could make it worth it.

        One of those instances where the state might actually know better what to peg minimum wage to anyway. If we went with that 10.50 amount for instance that is technically a livable wage here in my local town for a single person, but almost what might be called indentured servitude in say places like Chicago.

        I feel that minimum wage should always stand as a barrier towards exploitation of labor.

        --Enlighten the people, generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like spirits at the dawn of day. - Thomas Jefferson--

        by idbecrazyif on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 08:20:35 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  The Australian minimum wage is $15.00+/hr... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gooserock, happy camper

    ...according to what I read somewhere in the MSM over the weekend. Sorry, no links...but, it's interesting to make a comparison. I believe this is in Australian dollars; but, the difference between Aussie dollars and U.S. dollars is only a few percentage points...and, I've understated the $15 amount to compensate for the difference...actually, the Aussie minimum wage is about 25 to 50 cents (it's actually around $15.25-$15.50+/-) higher than that!

    "I always thought if you worked hard enough and tried hard enough, things would work out. I was wrong." --Katharine Graham

    by bobswern on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 08:08:16 AM PDT

  •  Since minimum wage has never been indexed to (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    happy camper

    anything, it's a completely arbitrary figure that has worked for years to DEPRESS wages rather than the opposite.

    Utilities go up, rents go up, gasoline goes up, food goes up, insurance and health care go up - and yet wages stay stagnant. Isn't there something glaringly obviously wrong with this picture?

    The 99% have been bearing the entire burden with no concession at all from the employers. The people at the top extract millions for themselves and deny basic decent living wages to their employees, most of which are scammed into working just under full-time so that healthcare can be avoided. People accept these jobs hoping to avoid homelessness and starvation and they might, barely.

    Disgusting what has happened to the workers and employees in this country.

    Even if Dems make it part of their platform, who goes out and does the kind of presentation needed to address wealth inequality and how labor is being screwed in this country? The predictable answer will be - no one. Oh, no - the media will call you a Commie! You want to re-distribute wealth? OMG! Next you'll want government run healthcare!

    “Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.” FDR

    by Phoebe Loosinhouse on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 09:12:05 AM PDT

  •  The minimum wage (0+ / 0-)

    is higher in other developed countries. The larger point is that the minimum sets a floor, and drives all wages above it. If the minimum had been indexed to inflation back in the early 70's, it would now be over $15 per hour. Instead we are faced with an economy where full time workers who make more than the minimum still qualify for poverty relief programs, and employers like Walmart hand out info to their workers on how to sign up for Medicaid.

    We are a low wage nation.

    "A lie is not the other side of a story; it's just a lie."

    by happy camper on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 10:59:20 AM PDT

  •  Any employers out there? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    If there are any small business employers reading story, I would like to hear from you what the impact of raising the minimum wage 35% in three years will have on your business.

  •  May be the Republicans have a point. The goal is (0+ / 0-)

    full employment and payong people too much can get in the way of that. In fact, if we just reinstate slavery, my sense is that even I could finally find a place to work (and a bale of straw in a shack to lay or, and kitchen scraps to eat, etc. Republican Nirvana.

    There can be no protection locally if we're content to ignore the fact that there are no controls globally.

    by oldpotsmuggler on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 02:35:57 PM PDT

  •  Sounds good to me (0+ / 0-)

    So Democrats are going to outlaw automation and outsourcing?

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