Business & Money

Proposal to up minimum wage isn’t going anywhere

By Nisa Islam Muhammad -Staff Writer- | Last updated: Jun 21, 2012 - 2:53:56 PM

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“President Barack Obama should lead this drive, fulfilling the promise he made in 2008 to push for a higher minimum wage by 2011. Usually, minimum wage bills are coupled with tax breaks for small business. But in a reflection of how skewed our politics have been, small business has already gotten 17 tax breaks under Obama, while low wage workers have yet to get a raise.”
WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) - On the streets of the nation’s capital responses to Rep. Jesse Jackson’s (D-Ill.) proposal to raise the hourly minimum wage from $7.25 to $10 was mixed.

“Yes, it should be raised,” Freda Smith told The Final Call.  “How can people survive on just $7.25 an hour? No wonder so many people are homeless. That is barely enough for a student to live off of much less an adult with a family and responsibilities. People need more money. Not the banks and Wall Street crooks.”

Rep. Jackson proposed the “Catching Up To 1968 Act of 2012” on June 6. The $10-an-hour rate “may sound like a hefty wage increase but it doesn’t fully equal the purchasing power of the minimum wage in 1968, which today would be closer to $11 per hour,” he said at a press conference.

“The bill is really only allowing American workers a degree of ‘catch-up.’ Thus the name and theme around the bill: ‘Catching Up To 1968.’ Of course, the current federal minimum wage has been $7.25 per hour since 2007.”

Income equality was the rallying cry of the Occupy Movement which brought attention to the plight of the country’s economically insecure or struggling 99 Percent versus the super-rich and influential One Percent. 

“At a time when the issue of income inequality has been elevated in political discourse, it is surprising that a plight of millions of workers throughout the country hasn’t been addressed, the need to raise the minimum wage. For decades, the compensation packages and bonuses of the top one percent have been skyrocketing. The stagnant or declining wages of the middle and lower class have suffered at the hands of the insatiable greed of the oligarchy,” said attorney and consumer activist Ralph Nader.

“We live in a land of the absurd: the richest one percent controls as much financial wealth as the bottom combined 95 percent. Wall Street executives’ bonuses have reached gut-wrenching heights when Bloomberg News can, in a recent article; portray annual pay of $10 million to $23 million as normal. Nearly 23 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed. A single Wall Street executives’ compensation of $15 million would pay the annual wages of over 700 workers working at a minimum wage of $10 per hour.”

“I know it sounds good to say, ‘let’s raise the minimum wage,’ but for someone with a small business that increase can really break you,” countered Carl Williams, a small business owner.

“Workers get a raise but we don’t get a break in the costs it takes to do business. Everything is going up. Prices are not coming down. This may sound like a good idea but folks need to look at it from both sides,” he argued.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2011, 5.2 percent of hourly paid workers or about 3.8 million people were paid at or below the federal minimum wage.

In a 2010 poll by the Public Religion Research Institute, two-thirds of the American public, including a majority of Republicans supported raising the minimum wage. 

While there may be public support for this bill in an election year just how likely is a Republican-controlled House and Senate to pass the bill?

Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich told reporters the bill is timely “precisely because it’s an election year.” “President Obama could guarantee his election” if he came out in favor of Mr. Jackson’s proposal, said the Ohio Democrat.

Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., father of the congressman, agreed the president should spearhead the effort.

“President Barack Obama should lead this drive, fulfilling the promise he made in 2008 to push for a higher minimum wage by 2011. Usually, minimum wage bills are coupled with tax breaks for small business. But in a reflection of how skewed our politics have been, small business has already gotten 17 tax breaks under Obama, while low wage workers have yet to get a raise.”

Until Democrats get power in the Congress, the bill is more symbol than legislative substance. Frank E. Watkins, a spokesman for Rep. Jackson, doubts the bill will come up for vote. “In fact,” he said, “I’m fairly certain that it won’t under this Republican Congress.”

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