Friday, November 17, 2006

The bare minimum:

I see the Dems are poised to raise the minimum wage for the first time in 7 years (having never missed an opportunity to give themselves raises every one of those years). Nana Pelosi says this is legislation she's going to get passed within the first 100 hours of the next Congress. (Don't you just feel the urgency there?) But what the hell does the 'first 100 hours' mean exactly? It could take Congress five months to spend 100 hours actually working. They roll into to DC on Tuesday mornings and they roll out again on Thursday morning. [At that rate it would have taken FDR until 1964 to get all he got done in his first 100 days!] For all of us out there working crappy retail and food service jobs, we're used to getting only part time hours like that, but most of us actually have to get stuff done. If I slacked as bad as Congress does, I'd be out looking for another job.

This talk of raising the minimum to $7.25 per/hr may make the millionaires in the Senate like Ted Kennedy feel better about themselves, but in practical terms it’s too little too late. $7.25 at 40 hours a week would have made life livable 10 years ago, but now it's just chump change. The fact is that even if retailers and restaurants offered full time hours anymore -- which none of them do -- $7.25 is still poverty wages. I've noticed many retailers will offer a wage well above $5.15 -- because there's no way anyone, no matter how desperate, would bother working for what comes out to about $50 a week after taxes -- but they get around paying the wage by keep the hours low, low, low.

Here's a good project for you Teddy; go out and find me anyone working at a Wal-Mart, an IKEA, a Pier 1, or anyone other one of those crappy retailers -- who always talk a good game about wages and benefits in their ads -- making more than 20 hours a week. If a worker made $10 an hour at 20 hours a week they'd still only wind up with about $425 every two weeks after taxes. Try even paying the rent on that, never mind eating.

Back in the twenties progressives fought for a 40 hour work week and over-time pay, but now the situation is perversely reversed. Workers today need a guaranteed 40 hour work week and a minimum wage of at least $10 an hour. If the "liberals" in Congress really want to help the working poor, that's what they need to push for. Please don't insult me with this $7.25 an hour BS.


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