Saturday, March 05, 2005

An Increase in the Federal Minimum Wage? Read the Fine Print!

The Senate is preparing to vote on Monday on whether to raise the federal minimum wage.

Due to federal inaction on this issue for almost a decade, states such as New York and New Jersey have recently gotten into the act and raised the minimum wage within their borders. We have applauded these efforts to pick up the federal slack: the minimum wage is a critical Christian issue, being, by definition, intimately concerned with "the least of these."

Now the Congress is finally considering taking a step in the interest of social justice.

Or is it?

The Democrats have offered a plan which would raise the minimum wage by $2.10 per hour to $7.25.

The Republican plan offers minimum-wage workers a much smaller raise - $1.10 per hour. Moreover, it forces workers (and progressives) to take a lot of bitter with what little sweet it offers. First, it provides $4 billion in tax breaks for businesses to go along with the minimum wage increases. Second, it provides "regulatory breaks" which (1) erode the 40 hour work week and (2) exempt more businesses (all businesses with receipts of less than $1 million per year) from the fair Labor Standards Act altogether (which, among other things, sets the minimum wage and overtime standards).

More broadly and most importantly, the only reason we are even talking about the minimum wage at the federal level right now is because the Republicans need their bankruptcy bill passed. The minimum wage provisions are being attached as amendments to a bankruptcy bill in order to persuade moderates to vote for a what is otherwise a grotesque gift to the credit card industry at the expense of consumers.

More troubling: the uber conservatives in the House won't even consider the Republicans' flawed minimum wage plan. They want the bitter bankruptcy bill with no sweet whatsoever. Tom DeLay has declared the House "ready to quickly pass the Senate's bankruptcy bill under the condition that the Senate reject any further substantive amendments," [read: the minimum wage amendment].

The bottom line: don't be fooled by minimum wage talk at the federal level. It looks like even if a modest increase is passed (which is unlikely), the overall net result will be a setback for "the least of these."


At 7:14 PM, Blogger donzelion said...

Hadn't linked the bankruptcy to minimum wage. I think you're on to something.

One textual basis for linking both thoughts is the Philemon enjoinder: "Slaves, go back to your masters; Masters, be kind to your slaves when they return to fulfill their obligations."

To adapt it to present times: the worker compares to the 'slave.' Likewise, personal bankruptcy could be construed as a modernized expression of 'runaway slaves' (albeit, with capital fleeing contractual chains, rather than a human being).

Thus, Philemon would link both thoughts and explain a coherent, consistent, Christian-based logic behind the current horsetrading.

Of course, raising the Philemon view would be political suicide, given how it was deployed to justify chattel slavery before the Civil War .

At 8:40 AM, Blogger jj said...

Passages like that hold no weight with me.

I see the analogy you're drawing. I do. But this is a perfect example of an apostle blatantly misinterpreting Jesus' message (the thing that really counts) despite the apostle's proximity to it. Consequently, it holds no authority.


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