Tag Archives: Money

No Minimum Wage? Toilet Paper costs us all the same price!

Whenever discussions about raising the minimum wage enter the public consciousness, those opposed to raising it argue (among other things) that it will cost jobs; that employers will cut staff rather than pay people a wage that allows them to feed their families. There are even those, who in the second decade of the 21st century argue that there should be no minimum wage at all.

Charles Koch is a billionaire
Billionaire Charles Koch says, “The U.S. needs to get rid of the minimum wage — it’s a major obstacle to economic growth”

These people say employers and employees should bargain individually for wages, and that a $3.00 an hour wage is fine — as long as it’s not for them.

But this is a different story. It’s the story of what living at the minimum is really all about.

Keep in mind that in cities and towns all across this country, the Great Recession had the effect of tossing millions of people out of decent, well-paying jobs. The overwhelming majority of these people lost their jobs through no fault of their own. When they recovered from the shock, they found the American employment landscape had profoundly changed. Suddenly, they were forced to swallow their pride and compete as best they could for jobs that paid a fraction of what they were making.

unemployed, underemployed

For many, recovery has been fleeting, or non existent.

Working Poor 1

That’s just one component of those who have struggled to keep their heads above water. Working alongside them in some cases are folks who never had the pleasure of working a middle class job. For them, the minimum wage is a fact of life, trapping them in a cycle that puts a permanent knot in the pit of their stomach.

Consider for a moment what happens when a person gets to the middle of the week, and realize they don’t have the money to pay a major bill, like rent or food. Where is that money to come from?

People working for the minimum wage live on the margins.

Some would have you believe they’re nothing more than students who work while living a comfy life with their parents.  Fact is, over the past decade, more and more adults are taking these low paying jobs, and staying in them. Few if any had access to healthcare before the Affordable Care Act, many are food stamp recipients (a government gift to their employers), and most are a single illness away from unemployment.

2014 minimum wage rates by state

Yet numbers, grim as they may be, don’t tell the whole story. The real story is in the faces of the working poor.

Some show betrayal, some resignation.

Many have little hope that the lives of their children will be any better.

I see their faces every day, walking the streets of New York City. I see them, and they pain me. They pain me because we should be doing better. In a nation of skyrocketing income inequality, where those at the top never miss a tee time while threatening to lay off workers if they have the temerity to ask for a raise, sick days, or maybe a vacation, we must do better.

Job-seekers line up outside of a New-York-City unemployment office
Job-seekers line up outside of a New-York-City unemployment office

There are those who scoff when we ask why a $15.00 an hour minimum wage is so tough to imagine. I say if $15.00 an hour is almost enough to take that knot out of the pits of folks’ stomachs, it’s well worth the price.

All over America, fast food workers, car washers, and yes, even retail workers are starting to wake up to their collective power. Those of us fortunate enough to have jobs that pay our bills need to stand with them. If we don’t, we might wake up one day to find the American Dream referred to with sarcasm in the past tense. After all, doesn’t toilet paper still cost the same price…whether you’re a billionaire or not?

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Supercomittee… Epic Fail!

If ever there was a cynical, transparent creation in recent political memory, it has to be the so-called supercommittee that’s just imploded in Washington.

From the minute this foolishness was announced, anyone with eyes could see it was doomed to failure. That wouldn’t be just ordinary failure, but, in the words of G4 TV, EPIC FAIL (this cable channel actually has a segment called that)!

So this supercommittee, charged with figuring a way to cut $1.2 trillion dollars from the nation’s budget, came up with nothing.

The traditional rationale is that Democrats wouldn’t agree to gutting programs like Social Security and Medicare, while Republicans swore a blood oath not to raise taxes on anybody, regardless of wealth. And yes, all of that is true.

Yet it obscures the issue at hand. When will politicians start to take their work seriously? When will the GOP move off its agenda of making President Barack Obama look bad so they can recapture the White House? And when will Democrats devise a winning strategy for truly speaking to the concerns of the American people?

From the day the supercommittee was announced, it was doomed to failure and all the players knew it. It wasn’t created with a tiebreaker (a 13th vote- too partisan), and unless somebody was ready to compromise nothing was going to happen. So now the American people have a series of automatic cuts to look forward to just after next year’s presidential election (note the timing).

As is typical of congressional tap dancing, there are now some people who voted to create the supercommittee in the first place who now want to create an out such that the committee’s fail has no consequences at all. They don’t want to see the military budget cut (check and see how many have big defense contractors in their home states), and they’re willing to risk looking like complete hypocrites to accomplish that goal.

President Obama is right to say he’ll veto any attempt to do an end around the mandatory spending cuts. If only he’d gotten hard with these folks a bit earlier.

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Cash for Clunkers…cars… A New Partisan Fight?

It sure looks that way. The Cash for Clunkers program, which gives buyers of new, fuel efficient cars rebates of up to $4500 for turning in old gas guzzlers, has become a political football.

That should be no surprise. What’s interesting is the fighting now is directly because of the program’s popularity. The $1 billion dollars budgeted for the program has quickly run out. Now, the House has passed an additional $2 billion dollars, but the Senate may not follow suit.

So what’s not to like? New car sales during Cash for Clunkers have gone up, dealer inventory has dropped, and in theory, gas guzzling relics are leaving American roads.

cash.for.clunkers

The problem, say Republican senators, is the cost and the fear on the part of people like John McCain that speculators are already abusing the program. In fact, he threatens to lead a filibuster against extending Cash for Clunkers any more money.

As usual, the McCains and Jim DeMints of the Congress are just saying no. Never mind that buyers exhausted all the money in the program in about a week. Never mind that Ford will post its first monthly sales increase since 2007. The point is to never give an inch, unless you absolutely have to. The government says it will continue the program until the Senate acts (or doesn’t), but like with health care, one has to ask why the GOP is so good at forging a united front, while Democrats seem to be hedging their bets.

To be sure, no one is saying Cash for Clunkers should go on forever, And yes, there have been some problems, like the government’s Website crashing, and too much paperwork. But still, it’s a popular program even has an environmental benefit (though no one’s talking about it).

Cash For Clunkers

Maybe this time Republicans are overreacting. It’s hard to argue with a program that offers a serious discount during times like these. Americans like Cash for Clunkers. Otherwise, the McCains and DeMints would be arguing it was a bad idea in the first place.

So give it the extra $2 billion, and let it run its course. More than that the Republicans might have a point. US car buyers know that nothing is forever, not zero percent financing, not employee pricing, and certainly not Cash for Clunkers. It’s a shot in the arm the economy could use, and, more importantly, you can’t treat every Obama Administration initiative like it’s health care.

But the Republicans should know that by now, shouldn’t they?

What do you think? More Cash for Clunkers, or no?

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