Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Should The Minimum Wage Be Raised

Should the Democratic Party embrace raising the minimum wage as a major theme in 2006?

There were two posts over at DailyKos yesterday that talked about this quite a bit (Pay vs. Gay in Turning Out the Base and Feeding the minimum wage debate: some graphs on income inequality). There was also quite a bit of discussion on this as a ballot initiative in all states that don't have a state minimum wage law. Many think it hasn't and won't be as good for Democrats as gay marriage was for Republicans. I disagree with that. I believe if it is taken up as a cause by all Democrats and repeated over and over wherever they show up (TV, radio, speeches, etc.), it would become a big boost for the party. It would once again show that Democrats are for working Americans.

It's an issue the Democrats have an advantage on, Fixing a Sagging Wage Floor:
There is one fight, however, that liberals are winning this year, even in states where the numbers would seem to be against them. They are winning on the minimum wage.

When Wisconsin raised its minimum last month, to $5.70 and then $6.50 in a two-step process, it became the 17th state to establish a wage floor higher than the $5.15 level that has prevailed under federal law since 1997. A dozen of those states have acted in the past 18 months alone. Most of them have Republican legislatures, or Republican governors, or both.
When a minimum wage is discussed inevitably two things happen. We are told that it will cause unemployment and it leads to Democrats being accused of class-warfare - in other words stop pointing out that the rich are getting richer and everyone else is getting poorer. (Al Gore didn't catch up to Bush until he adopted that type on popular message in 2000). The first point about unemployment is false, maybe if it was raised too high, but with "..the minimum wage's buying power at its second-lowest level since 1955..". Like this commenter in the DKos diary said:
Quote from Henry Ford, "If I pay people enough money to buy my car, they will buy my car" or something very close to that.

Small businesses benefit when everyone is making enough money to use their services. The cost in wages will be more than offset by the ability of more people to afford their goods and services.
I don't think raising it will cause economic problems. As far as the class warfare argument I think it's way past time for the Democratic Party to embrace workers issues again. If they accuse of class warfare we should say it is, you started it and we are on the side of working Americans.

Rep. Lon Burnam introduced a bill to raise the minimum wage in Texas to $6.15/hr. last session, HB 816, it never got out of committee of course. Every Republican running in Texas should be made to ask why the minimum wage shouldn't be raised and they should not be allowed to use the false argument that it will cause unemployment. The minimum wage issue is a safe, effective and defining issue for Democrats to use in the 2006 election.

What do you think?


At 12/28/2005 11:47 AM, Anonymous Treehugger said...

Here is my 6 pack minimum wage economics model: In 1974, my freshman year of college, a six pack of Bud was $2.26 (convenience store--retail). Coincidentally the minimum wage was $2.26. Since that time I've always tracked the comparison of a 6-pack of premium domestic beer to minimum wage. Fast forward to 2005 and a 6-pack is 6 bucks and change. Only during the last administration has there been a disparity of, more than 50 cents or so. Minimum wage oughta be enough to buy a 6 pack of something other than Natch. I did graduate...to buying cases.


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