Just the Kind of Thing A Liberal Would Say

In the wealthiest country in the history of the world, it is an outrage that anyone who works full time would still wind up in poverty. Everyone who puts in an honest day’s work should receive a fair day’s pay.

That’s Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, quoted in an AP article about the federal minimum wage, which will rise to a stunning $5.85 an hour on Tuesday:

Many lawmakers, along with advocates for low-wage workers, are celebrating the first increase in the federal minimum wage in a decade. Yet many acknowledge that raising it from $5.15 an hour to $5.85 will provide only meager help for some of the lowest paid workers.

About 1.7 million people made $5.15 or less in 2006, according to the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“The reality for a minimum wage worker is that every penny makes a difference because low-wage workers make the choice between putting food on the table and paying for electricity or buying clothes for their children,” said Beth Shulman, former vice president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.

“Saying that, it’s clear going up to $5.85 is not enough to really make sure that people really can afford the things that all families need,” said Shulman, author of “The Betrayal of Work: How Low-Wage Jobs Fail 30 Million Americans.”

Minimum wage workers will get an additional 70-cent boost each summer for the next two years, ending in 2009 at $7.25 an hour. That comes to just above $15,000 yearly before taxes for a 52-week work year.

Now, someone in such a job and earning $5.85 an hour would bring home $12,168 a year before taxes. The federal poverty level for singles is $10,210, couples is $13,690 and $17,170 for families of three.

“In the wealthiest country in the history of the world, it is an outrage that anyone who works full time would still wind up in poverty,” said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee. “Everyone who puts in an honest day’s work should receive a fair day’s pay.”

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17 Comments

Filed under 05_kathy

17 responses to “Just the Kind of Thing A Liberal Would Say

  1. fletch

    “In the wealthiest country in the history of the world, it is an outrage that anyone who works full time would still wind up in poverty. Everyone who puts in an honest day’s work should receive a fair day’s pay.”

    If I am an “extremist right-winger” working for Richard Scaife— whose only ‘job’ is to devote 40 hrs/wk at calling you a ‘communist traitor’ in the comments on your blog(among others…)- would this be an “honest day’s work”?

    What would be “a fair day’s pay” for my work?

  2. Brynn

    The federal poverty level for singles is $10,210, couples is $13,690 and $17,170 for families of three.

    Quite simply, that is disgusting.

    In a just world, members of Congress, Senators, the president and the VP should be required to live on whatever they set as the minimum wage.

  3. bernarda

    If you haven’t done so already, you must read Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Nickel and Dimed”. Subtitle, “On (Not)Getting by in America”.

  4. what is most irritating is the fact that the Congress always approves a raise for itself. yuck.

    also, many of the workers who are struggling on minimum wage are loyal to the politicians who continually deny an increase. very sad.

  5. I make far above the minimum wage and I can barely get by. You can’t rent an apartment in my burg for less than $1400 a month. That’s $16k right there. I see families living in my complex with 3 or 4 working adults and the kids all crammed into two bedrooms. I guess that’s the new American dream.

  6. goldsmith_ie

    Seems this article from today’s Observer fits right into the discussion:

    http://observer.guardian.co.uk/world/story/0,,2131974,00.html

    It notes, among other things, that there are 36 million people in the US who are below the poverty line.

    Goldsmith, who actually owns a Montblanc pen (without diamonds, please!), but still has to aquire a car…

  7. trailrider

    Raising the minimum wage doesn’t hurt anything but it also doesn’t help anyone. Once the increase ripples through the economy and currency markets make the appropriate adjustment to the value of the dollar, everyone ends up exactly where they were before the minimum wage was raised. This has got to be the greatest political con of all time. Politicians get to scream and shout about helping the poor without actually doing anything. I’m sorry but we need real solutions to real problems and if the Democrats are going to return to power by pandering, they are wasting a unique opportunity to discuss and develop policies that might actually benefit real people.

  8. But far too many of those 36 million (goldsmith_ie) will either 1. not vote or 2. vote for republicans out of fear (fear of terrah or fear of queer)

    Sad…

  9. The hospital I worked for used below THREE TIMES the federal poverty level as their qualifier for sponsored care. That’s $51,000 for a family.

    I made nearly twice that and could barely get by in my area as a single person (it is one of the most expensive in the nation).

    I don’t know how working families get by here. Certainly no one here lives on minimum wage.

    A family who lived across the street before a recent foreclosure were renting out a lean-to shed to immigrant workers. They had several other adults living in the house.

  10. Paen

    I wonder how much politicians get paid in campaign contributions from Macdeathburgers and Mao Mart in order to keep wages low.

  11. If I am an “extremist right-winger” working for Richard Scaife— whose only ‘job’ is to devote 40 hrs/wk at calling you a ‘communist traitor’ in the comments on your blog(among others…)- would this be an “honest day’s work”?

    Fletch,

    I’m not really certain what you mean by this, but George Miller’s statement, which I quote at the opening of my post, refers to Americans working minimum wage jobs that pay, as of Tuesday, $5.85 an hour, and who cannot survive economically even working full-time on those wages.

    He’s not talking about Richard Mellon Scaife.

  12. Bernarda,

    I have actually been meaning to read “Nickel and Dimed” since it came out. Haven’t gotten to it yet, but I’m sure I will.

  13. Raising the minimum wage doesn’t hurt anything but it also doesn’t help anyone.

    That’s because a “minimum wage” and a “living wage” are not the same thing. A minimum wage of $5.85 an hour is not going to help anyone significantly, of course it isn’t.

    The minimum wage should not be lower than what is required, in whatever part of the country you live in and given the size of your family, to adequately support yourself and your family and pay for what is necessary to live an independent life in decent conditions.

  14. Chief

    “The minimum wage should not be lower than what is required, in whatever part of the country you live in and given the size of your family, to adequately support yourself and your family and pay for what is necessary to live an independent life in decent conditions.

    Including affordable health insurance/health care.

  15. nightshift66

    Trailrider,
    If raising the minimum wage had no net effect after inflation, then the GOP are fools for not being out in front pushing for a raise. In fact, it would be a freebie that no politician would pass up IF you accurately described the effect.

    The fact that businesses and the Chamber of Commerce spend millions to fight any increase in the minimum wage, ever, tells me that you are in error in your analysis. Besides, Rush and other mouthpieces of the right have claimed for years that raising the minimum wage forces employers to lay people off and postpone hiring. But it has no effect on anything?

    Further, in many rural areas (e.g. my home), the minimum wage is THE wage for any job that you can actually find. Raising it has immediate effects for millions of Americans.

  16. Kathy Kattenburg

    Including affordable health insurance/health care.

    In the absence of national health care, absolutely.

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