Joyce L. Arnold, Liberally Independent, Queer Talk, equality activist, writer.
Talking about the minimum wage is just boring. Like talking about poverty. And talking about the consistently widening gap between the consistently increasing number of millions of people living in poverty, and the consistently increasing wealth of a tiny number of people living in unimaginable luxury … isn’t that un-American? Now, expressing concern for the “middle class” and “hard working American families who deserve a break,” that’s good for stump speechifying. Fans love to cheer themselves for picking the guy/gal who is less evil in his/her intentions toward them.
Yesterday, July 24, was the three year anniversary of the last time the federal minimum wage was increased, to $7.25 an hour. The National Employment Law Project coordinated a National Day of Action to Raise the Minimum Wage, with events in over thirty cities. For example, in NYC, via OWS:
#RiseUpNY Actions for a Living Wage …
Why are we marching today? For one, Obama promised during his campaign to raise the minimum wage each year after he took office. He has yet to do it even once. In every state in the United States, it is literally impossible to afford rent while working minimum wage even if you have a full time job.
But that’s not the kind of things Campaigners want to talk about. Poverty Issue Missing on the Presidential Campaign Trail:
Two reports issued the same day told of two appalling realities. One report on poverty was based on an AP survey. It found that the poor are getting poorer, and more numerous than at any time in the last half century. The other report from the Tax Justice Network found that the super-rich are getting richer, and they are squirreling their money away to the tune of tens of trillions in offshore tax havens … .
Yet, there is not a faint mention of the word poverty on the presidential campaign trail.
The OpEd News piece goes on to talk about reasons for this omission, including
… that the existence of so many poor flies in the face of the embedded laissez faire notion that the poor aren’t poor because of the hyper concentration of wealth, or worse, any failing of the system, but because of their personal failings.
So, if you’re unemployed, that’s all your fault. And if you’re fortunate enough to have a job, even at minimum wage, then the only thing keeping you from “bettering” yourself is you. Further, if you’re struggling to make it on $7.25 an hour, that’s because you’re poor at budgeting.
The $7.25 Minimum Wage Is Too Low for 21st Century America
The minimum wage is not adjusted for inflation. The United States has had a national minimum wage since 1938, but it has only been increased 22 times in the past 74 years. …
But Campaigners don’t talk about that. And they’re very careful how they talk about what Sarah Jaffe, at AlterNet, writes:
7 Ultra-Rich Companies Rake in Profits While Paying Workers Peanuts …
A new report from the National Employment Law Project … found that more than one in four private-sector jobs pays less than $10 an hour—and those jobs are mostly with large corporations, not small businesses. … .
Meanwhile, the executives at those companies are pocketing the money that isn’t going to their workers. The NELP study found that top executive compensation at those firms averaged over $9 million last year. Assuming they work a 40-hour week, that’s $4,326 an hour, about what 600 employees make at today’s minimum wage. …
Those seven “ultra-rich” companies: 1. Toys ‘R’ Us; 2. Walmart; 3. Con Edison; 4. Lage Management Corp Car Washes; 5. Air Serv; 6. McDonald’s; 7. Starbucks.
An inadequate and static minimum wage, accompanied by high unemployment, means it’s no surprise to read US Poverty Rate Reaching 50-Year High:
Poverty in the U.S. is on track to be at its highest level in 50 years, according to analysis collected by the Associated Press. Meanwhile, social safety nets are being pulled out from under those in need, leaving them in a spiral downward with little hope of escape. …
For more “boring” or unpleasant news and analysis regarding that 1% / 99% gap, read The Sinking Economy: ‘We’re going to be up the creek for the next 100 years or so’.
Campaigner Obama, in 2008, said he’d raise the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2011. But when Austerity rules, minimum wage and poverty are not even campaign issues, much less WH or Congressional priorities.
How bad are things for the milliond working at or near minimum wage? From Common Dreams:
With the federal minimum wage stuck at $7.25 an hour since July 24, 2009, workers now have less buying power than they did in 1997 at the start of the longest period in history without a raise.
… A worker would need $7.36 today to match the buying power of the $5.15 minimum wage in 1997. …
You’d have to climb higher up the mountain to reach base camp for 1956 when minimum wage was worth $8.44 in today’s dollars.
You’d have to climb much higher to get to the peak reached in 1968, when the minimum wage was $10.55, adjusted for inflation.
The article points out that in 2010, when the economy was growing, 93% of income went to the top 1%. The bottom 90% saw no growth. That’s very different from the period of 1938 to 1968, when that bottom 90% of households “shared 69 percent of the nation’s growth.”
We’re screwed. It isn’t by way of an accident or ignorance. The Electeds, Wannabe’s and Elites know what’s going on. And they aren’t talking. Pontificating, marketing and spinning, but not talking. Thank goodness some people are, like The National Employment Law Project.