Friday, February 15, 2013

It's the very least he could do

In his State of the Union address, President Obama announced that he would push for an increase in the minimum wage to $9 an hour. He proclaimed that this change would allow more working folk to make it into the mythical middle class.

Well, let's take a look at that number. At $9 an hour, that makes $360 a week for a full-time employee -- if nothing is taken out of that check. Of course with federal income tax withholding and FICA tax withholding and health care premiums coming out there won't be much left (but let's just pretend).

That $9 an hour works out to $1,560 a month and a whopping $18,720 a year. I'm sorry to burst the President's bubble, but ain't nobody escaping poverty at $9 an hour.

But it's all a moot point because the Republican-controlled House will never pass legislation raising the minimum wage. They will argue that raising the minimum wage will kill jobs. They will argue that it will drive up costs for businesses. Of course no one will raise a peep about the millions of dollars showered down on CEO's and other top-level executives year after year. No one will talk about the vast stores of cash major corporations have been hoarding since the crash.

And let us never forget that these are the same wingnuts who argued that taxes shouldn't be raised on the wealthiest among us during the "debate" over the so-called fiscal cliff. The same folks shouting that raising the minimum wage is a bad idea are the folks who championed cutting Medicare and Social Security at the end of last year.

And, lest President Obama escape unscathed, let's recall that back in 2009 he promised to raise the minimum wage to $9.50 during his first term. Let's not get too ambitious there, Mr. President.

While the minimum wage does need to rise, let's not kid ourselves about the benefits of raising it a bit over a buck on hour.

Real wages (wages adjusted for inflation) have stagnated in this country over the past 40 years while corporate profits have skyrocketed. The official unemployment rate hovers near 8% while executives are taking home more money than ever before.

The minimum wage should be increased - but that alone will not solve the problems of growing inequality in this country.

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