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U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) addresses the American Conservative Union's annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, February 9, 2012.
Sen. Marco Rubio
Democrats are planning to focus on fighting economic inequality, at least a little, for 2014. That means pushing to raise the minimum wage and extend unemployment benefits for starters, with President Barack Obama expected to focus on inequality in speeches including the State of the Union.

That has news outlets like Politico debating whether this is a matter of policy or politics for Democrats. Are they doing it to win seats in 2014, or because they think it's the right thing, the concerned Beltway media asks, as if it can't be both. But both it is, in reality. After all, Democrats are unlikely to be able to pass such legislation unless they control Congress. Making the point that raising the minimum wage and focusing on jobs and unemployment is what they'd do with a majority is pretty basic, not some kind of cynical ploy.

No, Republicans are the cynical ones, constantly seeking to keep the minimum wage at poverty level and block funding for things like unemployment insurance, then—having weakened the programs through underfunding—claiming that they don't work. Sen. Marco Rubio is the latest in a long chain of Republicans claiming that the war on poverty has failed. But that's not what the evidence says. In addition to reduced poverty, malnutrition and infant mortality have dropped in the United States since the beginning of the war on poverty. And that's despite Republicans trying to weaken safety net programs and keep wages low. During the brief period when anti-poverty programs were adequately funded:

According to Joseph Califano, who worked in the Johnson White House, “the portion of Americans living below the poverty line dropped from 22.2 percent to 12.6 percent, the most dramatic decline over such a brief period in this century.” That’s a staggering 43 percent reduction. In six years.
So, yes, it's very good politics for Democrats to focus on popular measures like raising the minimum wage. (And taxing the rich and closing corporate tax loopholes and expanding Social Security and much more.) But it's also good policy, and reporting, like that in Politico, that frames it just as an election-year ploy is the real cynical political manipulation.

Sign and send a petition now to Senate Republicans demanding that they restore benefits to the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Mon Jan 06, 2014 at 10:38 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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