Politics

Re:Minimum Wage Increase-What You Will Not Hear About Kennedy's Efforts

This week the Senate is expected to take up the Defense Authorization bill, S. 2766. However, because there is no requirement in the Senate that amendments be germane to the underlying bill (remember, this is also the place that requires a super-majority -- 60 votes -- to cut off debate), Sen. Kennedy (D-MA) will reportedly be offering an amendment to raise the minimum wage. A few points:-- As a rule of thumb, the minimum wage almost always comes up in a year divisible by 2, i.e., an election year. It is more prevalent still in years divisible by 4. It is not an economic issue, but rather a political issue.-- You will read in almost any MSM commentary that the current minimum wage worker doesn't earn enough to pull a family of 4 out of poverty. That's correct. However, it's fair to ask, "How many minimum wage earners are the sole breadwinners of families of 4?" Answer: Not many.

-- You will hear that minimum wage workers "haven't gotten a raise" in X number of years. This is an old (albeit effective) rhetorical trick. It assumes the minimum wage population is a static universe. It is not. The minimum wage population tomorrow is different than the minimum wage population today, a dynamic group.

-- The minimum wage is meant to be a bottom rung, from which people can climb to higher earnings. Try this test: How many people that you know (including yourself) ever made the minimum wage? Almost all, no doubt. How many make it today? Probably very few, if any.

-- The fact is that raising the minimum wage costs jobs. It does every time it's raised. Those marginal jobs at the bottom rung just get eliminated.

-- For those who cry crocodile tears about helping the so-called "working poor" (most of whom make far in excess of the minimum wage), there is a direct correlation between skills and education levels and wages. If you want to lift people out of poverty, support efforts (as we do) to train workers and give them the skills they need to succeed in this 21st century workforce.

In any event, keep this primer handy as the debate plays out this week. You're not likely to hear these points in the media coverage of Sen. Kennedy's biennial effort.

 

 
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Oversight of DHS Should Begin Before July 4th Recess

Troubling revelations and a historically poor track record at the Department of Homeland Security means that the Homeland Security Committee must conduct aggressive oversight and hold the Department's leadership responsible for its problems. If we don't hold the DHS leadership to account for their failures, it will look like the Department is just doing bad business as usual. I hope that we can hear directly from Secretary Chertoff and Deputy Secretary Jackson in the weeks to come on these and other issues of concern at DHS.Our Committee must conduct aggressive oversight and hold Department leaders accountable for the waste, fraud, and abuse fiascos that permeate throughout the agency. We should do this before Congress recesses for a whole week for the 4th of July. America's security cannot wait. 

 
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Re:Minimum Wage Increase-Taking Care of Employer and Employee

Employers simply can't absorb a 41 percent increase in their costs without decreasing the number of jobs or benefits they provide workers. As a result, unskilled and low-skilled workers will suffer by being among the first to be let go and the last to be hired.

Any wage increase that is imposed on a small business poses difficulties for that business owner and his or her employees. My amendment, which would raise the minimum wage progressively over the next 18 months by $1.10, recognizes this reality and provides a necessary measure of relief for those employers.
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Inexcusable for Congress Not to Raise the Minimum Wage

The Center for American Progress

Almas Sayeed, Research Fellow, and John Burton, Research Associate for Economic Policy
Yesterday Senator Ted Kennedy proposed a minimum wage amendment to the Department of Defense appropriations bill. The amendment calls for a $2.10 increase to the minimum wage over two years. As it stands, the debate has focused on the impact of raising the minimum wage on [employers and low-wage earners]. Less attention has been focused on the [recent explosion of the payday loan industry] and its impact on low-wage families. The high fee and exorbitant interest rates of the industry continue to trap many low-wage earners and their families. Raising the minimum wage could increase families’ ability to save—and put a dent in their debt.

It is inexcusable for Congress to continue raising its own wages while ignoring America’s minimum-wage workers. Since President Bush took office, the number of Americans living in poverty has increased by 5.4 million. The minimum wage is currently at its lowest level in 50 years, adjusting for inflation. To give some perspective, it now takes more than a full day of work for a minimum-wage worker to earn enough money to [fill up a tank of gas.]

Employers and low-wage earners link:

http://www.americanprogress.org/site/pp.asp?c=biJRJ8OVF&b=1648601

Recent explosion of the payday loan industry link:

http://www.americanprogress.org/site/pp.asp?c=biJRJ8OVF&b=1804545

Fill up a tank of gas link: http://www.americanprogress.org/site/apps/s/custom.asp?c=biJRJ8OVF&b=1706375
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The American People Want a Line Item Veto

I feel really good about the Line Item Veto.  When I was in the Georgia Assembly, I saw it used efficiently by a Democratic Governor.  I believe that we have pretty much resolved the opposition's concern by reducing the number of rescissions that the President can back send to Congress to five.

I know that there is some concern from appropriations members, but I think that the American people would perceive this as an act of fiscal restraint.
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Supreme Court on Wetlands Decision Was Scary

It is a little scary to see how close we were to losing this environmental framework. It appears that the new members of the Supreme Court have such a narrow philosophical vision that we almost lost control of major waterwarys. There are major rivers that dry-up, but based on their interpretation the federal government could not deal with them.
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Why We Need to Amend the Defense Appropriations Bill

We have tried to target things that do not belong in a defense bill. This is a bill meant to fund defense operations, and I feel to see what they have to do with each other.

For example, there is an appropriation for the Mystic Aquariam, which is in Connecticut, but the money is going to Ohio. Why should we be funding this with defense money?

There is a technology transfer center in Illinois. This may be a good thing, but why are we funding this with the defense bill.
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President's Heart is in the Right Place on Iran

President Bush's address on Iran yesterday was forceful. The President has made a clear choice for Iran.

I would prefer a harsher approach in which we would already impose sanctions. Iran has been buying time, using diplomacy to build-up its nuclear facilities.

But I have faith in the President, whose heart is in the right place. The President has laid-out a lear path for Iran - now it is up to the Iranian leaders, and I hope that they choose wisely.
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Nuclear Energy

I truly believe that nuclear energy is a viable energy source that has been neglected for too long.  We need to have a responsible debate about it.  We are just frozen in time on this issue.
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