Sunday, July 30, 2006

Another Clarion Call From the House of Shame

Not satisfied by merely putting off a meaningful minimum wage increase for another three years, the House insists on the quid pro-quo of immediate relief of the estate tax.

The Senate is, and has been for some years, the only hope for reason on the soap-opera that is Washington politics. By contrast, the House of Representatives is the nitwitery of lawmaking.
Repjohnboehner_1 Example #4,278 (and counting) came just Friday, as the House released their years-long grip on the minimum wage, only after holding a gun to the head of the poor. John Boehner is Whip over there and Dennis-the Menace Hastert is Speaker.
A little background. The current minimum wage is $5.15 an hour and hasn’t been adjusted since it was passed in (get this) 1996.
That was
  • Five years before 9-11
  • Four years before the Supreme Court seated the current ‘compassionate conservative
  • Six years before a tsunami of tax cuts for the super-rich of the nation
  • Three years before the country’s kids were sent off to battle for the security we require to not raise the minimum wage.
Repdennishastert_1Ancient history. Dishonest, dissembling, self-serving and with the worst possible smell--the odor of ‘counting money in front of the poor.’
Back in 1996, when the minimum wage was last visited, the ‘poverty level’ for a family of four was $15,600. In their nobility of purpose and caring for the less fortunate, that Congress (under the gun in an election year) voted in a minimum wage that provided enough to be considered two thirds poor. Two-thirds poor amounted to a head-of-household (working 40 hours a week for 52 weeks with no time off) earning $10,712 from his minimum wage.
The '96 Congress might not have understood the meaning of a workingman's wage, but they sure as hell knew how to define minimum.
Minimumwage Fast-forward ten years to Friday’s legislation. Grudgingly (and again, only under pressure of elections) the House agreed to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour, but only if it's phased in over the next three years. Ka, ka, ka-ching. Stutter stepping their way to new levels of shame.
The poverty level for that same destitute family of four Congress glanced at and abandoned in 1996 has now ‘risen’ to $19,350. The House of unRepresentatives is, if nothing else, consistent. Three years from now (after sufficient phasing) they will again achieve a wage that provides two-thirds poverty.
The American poor deserve better. Full poverty is the right of every down-and-out family. Don’t consign our children to partial poverty when the real thing is within reach.
The shame in which the House bathed itself yesterday had to do with the way in which it stiffed the poor. Not satisfied by merely putting off the goal of two thirds poverty for another three years, the House insists on the quid pro-quo of immediate relief of the estate tax.
No phasing-in on that front. No waiting around for the super-rich--they have a direct line to the Representative of their choice, a sort of pre-approved bribe and a wink. Estates already pass untaxed up to $2 million, but unless that’s raised to $10 million, the working poor will bloody well stay at the half-poverty they currently enjoy.
Or is it twice-poverty?
Hard to tell. $5.15 gets you $10,712 and poverty is $19,350, so you figure it out. House members haven’t time. They already make 16 times the 40-hour minimum wage and are in Washington so seldom they barely have time to stop by for their checks from K-Street. They passed this shameful bill and then blew town to take five weeks vacation to soothe their bruised consciences (and bank another $16,000, not including K-Street).
Now Republicans say this maneuver is aimed at heading off the minimum wage as an issue in the mid-term elections.
How raising the half-poor to two-thirds poor (and taking three years to do it) heads off the issue of 50 million Americans being financially flat on their ass, is beyond me. But this is Washington. The tragic fact is that these people are a constituency to no one, they have been abandoned by Democrat and Republican alike.
Reptomfeeney It’s important to know that not everyone in the House is part of this. Take Tom Feeney for example. Tom is from Florida and he is against any raise at all in the wage scale of America’s poorest citizens.
"Every principled conservative knows this is horrible stuff," he is said to have announced.
Well Tom is principled, but he isn’t poor himself, you realize. But he once knew a poor person. Tom likes money and poor people never gave him any, so it’s easy to see how he came to be a principled conservative. K-Street and the people who like to give Tom money have thus far chipped in to the tune of nearly $4 million for him personally. And they don’t pay him off to mess around with raising the wages of the poor.
The problem at election time is to balance needs. There is the need to blather that you are willing to raise the wages of the poor from half-poor to two-thirds poor and then there's need to bend over for the rich. It’s a shame there isn’t a less visible way to do that.
No longer a representative house, it’s making the new and conservatively principled reputation as a House of Shame.