Lesser Evil Dems Faux-Fight for Near-Starvation Minimum Wage
Don’t hold your breath about a minimum wage increase from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour. But even if it did happen, what would it really mean for a struggling American working -- or, formerly working -- class?
In the “lesser evilism” Obama-world view I should just STFU and appreciate how so very evil and cruel those millionaire Congressional Republicans are being and appreciate that those millionaire crony-capitalist Dem pols, just in time for election 2014 coincidentally, are “championing” (not terribly hard) struggling Americans to get a few more “crumbs” for bottom-line survival.
“Lesser evilism.” Ya gotta love it. It just keeps on giving. Well, at least to the monumentally hypocritical Dem election-time populist-posing politicians, with Mr.-Hypocrisy-on-Steroids Obama out in front.
According to Andre Damon in “The US Minimum Wage Debate” the recent Congressional Budget Report concluded that an increase in the minimum wage to the proposed level of $10.10 would increase pay for 16.5 million Americans, but eliminate 500,000 jobs. The increase would “lift” 900,000 people out of poverty. Sounds good, except Damon calculates that this would raise ONLY 0.2 PERCENT OF THE POPULATION OUT OF POVERTY. A “tiny fraction”, points out Damon, in relation to the 46.5 MILLION PEOPLE IN AMERICA, 15% of the population -- 15 out of every 100 Americans -- who are now living below the federal poverty line.
The Democratic proposal would leave the minimum wage at a lower level, in real terms, than it was in 1968, nearly 50 years ago. At $10.10 an hour, a worker laboring 34 hours a week—the average in America—would earn an annual pre-tax income of $17,856. This is significantly lower than the government’s absurdly low poverty threshold for a family of three.
If the minimum wage had kept up with increases in worker productivity in the US, it would have reached $21.72 an hour in 2012, according to a study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
The very fact that a minor increase in the minimum wage from a level that ensures near-destitution provokes such controversy within the political establishment, under conditions of the deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression, only underscores the bankruptcy of the entire political system and its contempt for the great majority of the population.
The underlying premise of both sides in the “debate” is that no measure is possible that significantly impinges on corporate profits or the wealth of the American corporate-financial elite. The prerogatives of the financial aristocracy take absolute priority over the access of millions of people to adequate nutrition, livable housing, a decent education and a secure retirement.
That the Democrats present their paltry proposal as a major social reform and significant step to reduce social inequality is an expression of the longstanding abandonment by the Democrats of any program of social reform. The minimum wage proposal is a diversion and public relations maneuver, designed to distract attention from the brutal austerity measures the Obama administration is carrying out.
The Obama presidency is all about defying domestic and international law, crony-capitalism, disaster-capital militarism abroad and always, always, always IMPRESSION MANAGEMENT. The incredibly audacious public relations stylings of our say-anything president along with a craven Congressional coven of Dems willing to basket the benefits of “lesser evilism” for as long as they can has conned us Americans long enough. We must also acknowledge the bureaucratic sell-outs running the labor unions, who have been cashing in, too, on a “lesser evilsim” political stance. Power and profit they gain on the backs of us, the American working, or formerly working, class. They fawn over us at election time, faking empathy to our needs, only to shrug and point to the obstructionist Republicans when the campaign commitments ultimately fail.
You won’t hear it on the corporate media, but more and more Americans are coming to grips with the emptiness of Obama’s rhetoric. They are finally acknowledging his profound betrayal of the millions that counted on him to right the country after the nightmare of the Bush regime. Damon explains that so many millions who voted for Obama were deluded into believing that an African American president would have an extra capacity for empathy of the working and poor classes in America and they now have “bitterly concluded that they were taken for a ride.”
Damon goes on to point out that AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is doing his part for the 2014 midterm election “lesser evilism” posturing. He told a press conference at the AFL-CIO’s annual winter meeting this past week that “Raising wages for all workers is the issue of our time and, hopefully, will be the issue of this election.”
Raising wages, but not enough to seriously matter to workers and not enough to threaten the obscene levels of wealth of the ruling class elite (although already they are screaming in outrage at having to give up a single cent!). A modest fight that probably will fail because realpolitik crony-capitalism prevails.
It used to be that the necessity of raising the federal minimum wage was a given on both sides of the aisle in Congress. In 1938 the New Deal established a federal minimum wage. it has been increased over a dozen times since. In 2007 Congress raised the wage from $5.15 to $7.25. Back then and not all that long ago, declares Damon, ONLY THREE REPUBLICAN SENATORS VOTED AGAINST IT.
WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED SINCE 2007????
How did Franklin D. Roosevelt respond to the financial crisis in America when he was president? According to Damon with reforms that reduced poverty and NARROWED the gap between the very rich and the very poor. Not so with Mr. Obama and the current Democrats and our seemingly and tragically too complacent and easily manipulated citizenry. Damon writes:
... The New Deal instituted Social Security, enacted a minimum wage, banned child labor, raised taxes on the rich, gave legal sanction to the unions and legislated the eight-hour day.
These were not charitable gifts from the ruling class, but concessions won through mass social struggles, including a wave of semi-insurrectionary strikes and plant occupations that led to the birth of the mass industrial trade unions. None of these measures challenged the basic class interests of the American ruling elite, whom Roosevelt was seeking to save from the threat of social revolution, but they did facilitate a substantial rise in living standards for millions of workers.
There are no social reforms on offer today. The Democrats’ proposal for a trivial increase in the minimum wage comes as social inequality is hitting unprecedented levels. The net worth of America’s billionaires reached $1.2 trillion last year, more than double what it was in 2009. Meanwhile, median household income in the US plummeted by 8.3 percent between 2007 and 2012.
Obama in 2009 helped to “restructure” the auto industry. Thanks to that, worker wages have declined an average of 10%, helping to generate record profits today for the three major auto companies’ executive cabal and shareholders.
Under the Obama administration, Damon asserts, corporate profits are up 170%. Wages are at record lows. He offers Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt as an example. Schmidt makes $190 every minute and in one hour makes what a typical minimum-wage worker makes in a year! Schmidt has $100 million in stock and got a $6 million cash bonus in 2013. He is worth $8 billion.
The money that rightfully should be directed to the welfare of America’s entire citizenry, enabling and supporting the “common good” -- DECENT INCOME, DECENT HOUSING, DECENT HEALTH CARE, DECENT EDUCATION -- is being funneled to a relatively tiny group of financial oligarchs thanks to a betraying political class. Damon calls out this as the “stranglehood of plutocracy”. All levers of political power are controlled by the reptilian ultra-rich.
We as citizens need to find ways to push back against our own exploitation enabled by the betrayers in all three branches of government as well as in the media.
At the very least, we need to acknowledge the farce of “lesser evilism” -- the craven pr pretense that Obama and the Dem corporate party are doing right by us. The pretense that they are fighting for serious and at least minimally meaningful reforms. THEY ASSUREDLY ARE NOT!
[cross-posted on open salon]