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In my diary about the minimum wage last week, $7.25, one commenter offered the observation that critics of the tax deal were perhaps indulging in a "narcissism of small differences" in our criticism of the President.

(Primps in front of mirror.) Count me guilty as charged.

If we could pass George Miller's Fair Minimum Wage Act, 28 million American wage earners, most of them women, would see a pay increase for every hour that they work. In three years, the minimum wage would increase to $9.80 per hour (For million of workers that would be an increase of $20 per day) and the wages of tipped workers would increase dramatically.

Small difference? Not so much. 28 million workers is 18% of the American workforce.

Given what's at stake for working families, should we stop talking about economic justice? No way.

On that note, here's a must-read opinion piece about income inequality, One Economic Pickle, from Steven Greenhouse in the New York Times.

Greenhouse lays it out clear and simple.

Productivity has increased. Wages for working people have not:

From 1973 to 2011, worker productivity grew 80 percent, while median hourly compensation, after inflation, grew by just one-eighth that amount, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal research group. And since 2000, productivity has risen 23 percent while real hourly pay has essentially stagnated.

Meanwhile, it’s been a lost economic decade for many households. According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, median income for working-age households (headed by someone under age 65) slid 12.4 percent from 2000 to 2011, to $55,640. During that time the American economy grew more than 18 percent.

Emmanuel Saez, an economist at the University of California at Berkeley, found that the top 1 percent of households garnered 65 percent of all the nation’s income growth from 2002 to 2007, when the recession hit. Another study found that one-third of the overall increase in income going to the richest 1 percent has resulted from the surge in corporate profits.

Greenhouse goes on to note that raising the minimum wage, along with investing in creating good jobs and building the power of the labor movement, are exactly what's needed to begin to reduce the obscene inequality in our economic system.  In fact, one prominent economist suggests that redistribution from the top 1% to the rest of us would actually help to grow the pie for all of us.

And with more money in their pockets, working people will have more time to engage in our political system and to help fight the common crises we face, like the climate crisis, gun violence and ongoing racist attacks on immigrant families.

Small differences? Nope. Not really.

So, forgive me for my narcissism, when, along with many others who worked to elect and re-elect Obama-Biden, I use my diaries to hold President Obama accountable to his own clear commitments:

Raise the Minimum Wage to $9.50 an Hour by 2011:

Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe that people who work full-time should not live in poverty. Even though the minimum wage will rise to $7.25 an hour by 2009, the minimum wage's real purchasing power will still be below what it was in 1968. As president, Obama will further raise the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2011, index it to inflation and increase the Earned Income Tax Credit to make sure that full-time workers can earn a living wage that allows them to raise their families and pay for basic needs such as food, transportation, and housing -- things so many people take for granted.

Mr. President, with all due respect, why is it so easy to honor and amend your promises when it benefits the wealthiest, but so hard for the Democratic Party to honor our commitments when it comes to the fight for economic justice?


{This documentary video about the 2011 Occupy Oakland General Strike did not get enough views at the time--probably because it is non-sensationalistic; the vid captures participants' thoughts in a way many other docs did not, by letting people speak out personally about economic justice and how rapacious greed on the part of banks has impacted Oakland's communities.}

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