Newsflash:
Elizabeth Warren Economic and Social Justice Greedy Oligarchs Oppose Minimum Wage
Saturday, 12 April 2014 18:25

Greedy Oligarchs Oppose Minimum Wage

Written by 
Chicago Raise the Minimum Wage Rally Chicago Raise the Minimum Wage Rally SEIU

One of the hot issues in this year’s political races is whether the Federal minimum wage should be increased.  It might seem obvious that if lower-income people had more money to spend it would be good for almost everyone.  President Obama and the Democrats have proposed that it be raised from its current $7.25 an hour to $10.10.  Certainly, it would benefit the 17 million workers who’d get the increase—two-thirds of them women, who generally make less than men to start with.  So raising the minimum wage would be a step toward pay equity. Some states have higher minimums, but none above the proposed level. Two states, Maryland and Connecticut have moved theirs up to the $10.10 level.

Many small business owners support a higher minimum wage. A 2013 poll by Greenberg Research showed 67% believe a higher wage is not only fairer, but will increase sales as customers have more money to spend. Smart business people have known this since at least 100 years ago when Henry Ford voluntarily raised wages at his Ford plant to get the best workers, keep them longer, and pay them enough money to buy his Model T’s.

So why do some folks, including most Republican members of Congress, oppose increasing the minimum wage? Some may honestly believe raising wages will cause unemployment. They found a bit of support for this view in estimates from the Congressional Budget Office. But the CBO, it turns out, looked mostly at academic literature, rather than reality on the ground. The fact is that states with the highest wages tend to have lower unemployment. And we know that since the first national minimum wage was signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt during the Great Depression, our economy has gone mostly up. More recently, since the value of the minimum wage—measured against the value of the dollar—peaked in 1968, the real wages of ordinary working people have gone down. For those of us coming up in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s, with the gains in civil rights and women’s rights, as well as the economy, things were looking up. It was an optimistic future.

The strongest opposition to raising wages seems to come from libertarians who believe almost all government regulation is bad, and the super wealthy who seem never to be satisfied with their massive wealth and want to get even more, by holding everyone else down. Both of these groups—which often overlap, as when David Koch was a Libertarian candidate--say that if employers are free to pay lower wages they’ll hire more people and that will help them and the economy. But a look at history will make clear that doesn’t work.

I used to ask my students, “What was the minimum wage in the South before 1860?” Of course, the answer is zero. Millions of people were forced to work in the South for literally slave wages—zero. For those who were enslaved, there was full employment alright, whether you wanted it or not. People were minimally fed and housed, and that’s about it. I don’t mean to minimize the horrible institution of slavery, and I’m not saying the oligarchs of today want to return to actual slavery, but they do favor abolishing minimum wages, which would force people to compete for jobs at ever lower pay. In such a system, especially with a labor surplus, there would be a downward spiral, with the end result something like slavery, where you’re forced to work for food and shelter, but you’re paid almost nothing, and the owner typically lives far away where he can’t see the suffering caused by his low wages. Yes, you might have the freedom to move, but how far can you go without money? In today’s world, as a few high-living, greedy billionaires gobble up businesses coast to coast, it may be pointless to move. And they oppose unions, which could help by increasing pressure for better pay. It should be pointed out that the same oligarchs who oppose minimum wages and unions also fund efforts to make it harder for us to vote. They talk about an opportunity society, but what they really mean is an exploitive society, with them using us to make more money.

Exaggerated picture? Maybe. But it’s no exaggeration to note that for millions of working Americans, no matter how hard they work, they barely tread water. It’s not a matter of education, either, since the large majority of minimum wage earners now have high school degrees or more—and in spite of the propaganda aimed at downgrading and privatizing our schools, kids are better educated than ever. Nor are the minimum wage earners “kids.” Their average age is 35 and they bring home about half of their family’s income.

No one knows for sure all the effects of any government or business policy in the long run, but we certainly know it’s not fair for people to work day in and day out and barely be able to keep a roof over their heads. America’s future can be brighter than that—if we organize and if we vote.

Read 7651 times Last modified on Saturday, 12 April 2014 18:36
Jack Burgess

Jack Burgess, retired teacher and writer, has been a union staffer for the Columbus Education, where he helped lead the effort to get endorsements for the Equal Rights Amendment, negotiated the first maternity leave benefits for teachers, equal funding for girls' sports, and racial desegregation of staff and students of the Columbus Public Schools. He's also served as Ohio Coordinator for SEIU, working with 925 toward legislation helping women and men working in Ohio's offices. In addition, he organized and chaired the West Side Civic Association in Chillicothe, served as board president of the Godman Guild Settlement House in Columbus, and spokesperson for several progressive organizations. He's a published poet and married to Kathleen Burgess, music teacher and poet as well. He has four children, now grown. His columns on education, government, and politics appear regularly in several Ohio newspapers.

ERA Legislation in your State

Unratified states Gold - Ratified States Purple

Latest News from the Warren Campaign

  • Will new senators push Democrats to the left?
    Will new senators push Democrats to the left?

    When Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren and the rest of the 2013 class of liberal senators start work this month, they'll have to do more than figure out the byzantine ways of getting things done in Washington.

    They'll also have to decide how seriously to engage a progressive movement that sees their assent a historic opportunity to shift the Democratic Party to the left.

    Written on Saturday, 05 January 2013 19:11 Read more...
  • Elizabeth Warren Wins Senate Banking Committee Seat: Sources
    Elizabeth Warren Wins Senate Banking Committee Seat: Sources

    WASHINGTON -- Nearly two years after Wall Street waged a successful campaign to keep consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren from running the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the incoming senator will be tapped to serve on the Banking Committee, according to four sources familiar with the situation. 

    Written on Tuesday, 04 December 2012 19:22 Read more...
  • Elizabeth Warren Redefines "Balanced Approach"
    Elizabeth Warren Redefines "Balanced Approach"

    Politico recently declared, "The Senate is about to become a liberal lion’s den." 

    In 2012, groups like the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, MoveOn.org, CREDO Action, and Democracy for America worked hard to build progressive power in Congress. This week's iconic photo of Senators-elect Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) walking together down the corridors of power is symbolic of the rising progressive tide. 

    Written on Sunday, 18 November 2012 14:20 Read more...
  • Elizabeth Warren Wins the "Which Side Are You On?" Debate
    Elizabeth Warren Wins the "Which Side Are You On?" Debate

    An overbearing and at times ridiculously aggressive Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown came across as a desperate man Thursday night, as he attempted to gain the upper hand in the first debateof this year's most closely-watched U.S. Senate race and, by extension, in a reelection contest that seems to be slipping away from him.

    Written on Sunday, 23 September 2012 16:27 Read more...
  • Mayor Menino to endorse Elizabeth Warren in Senate race at Roslindale Square rally on Friday
    Mayor Menino to endorse Elizabeth Warren in Senate race at Roslindale Square rally on Friday

    Mayor Thomas M. Menino is expected to endorse Democrat Elizabeth Warren on Friday in her bid to unseat Republican US Senator Scott Brown, according to two people with knowledge of the plan.

    Written on Thursday, 20 September 2012 19:47 Read more...
  • Elizabeth Warren's DNC Speech: "Corporations Are Not People"
    Elizabeth Warren's DNC Speech: "Corporations Are Not People"

    Bill Clinton may have stolen the show at the DNC last night with his 45-minute, half-ad-libbed barn-burner of a speech, but there were a few other noteworthy speakers as well. After dragging for an hour or two, the night's program picked up when Massachusetts Senate candidate, CFPB creator, and economic realtalker extraordinaire Elizabeth Warren took the stage.

    Written on Thursday, 06 September 2012 18:54 Read more...
  • Elizabeth Warren: Yes She Can?
    Elizabeth Warren: Yes She Can?

    It was a grim, sleety day in Chicopee, a gritty postindustrial town in western Massachusetts, where paint flakes off worn-out bridges and boarded-up factories. At a community relations luncheon, kind security guards were opening back doors and holding out umbrellas for the few willing to brave the freezing slush.

    Written on Wednesday, 16 May 2012 04:54 Read more...
  • Jonathan Klate: A candidate's connection
    Jonathan Klate: A candidate's connection

    Retired Amherst gentleman John Kick is not known as a political activist. In the Springfield union hall where he ventured last October to hear Democratic senatorial candidate Elizabeth Warren, he might have seemed a world-weary citizen with vague curiosity about the professor turned politician.

    But John's sorrowful demeanor and disconsolate eyes betrayed a woefully wounded heart. His son, Gabe, took his own life just a month earlier, at the age of 28. John keeps moving, somehow, in the dreadful private agony understood only by parents who persist in such an aftermath.

    Written on Monday, 26 March 2012 17:09 Read more...
  • The Ascendance of Elizabeth Warren
    The Ascendance of Elizabeth Warren

    If you’re reading this, you probably already know how you feel about Elizabeth Warren. Warren is currently running for Senate in Massachusetts, in the hopes of knocking out Republican incumbent Scott Brown. Very few first-time candidates are so well-known, or so passionately beloved.

    Written on Monday, 26 March 2012 00:00 Read more...
  • NOW PAC Endorses Elizabeth Warren
    NOW PAC Endorses Elizabeth Warren

    NOW/PAC is thrilled to announce its endorsement of Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren for the U. S. Senate from the state of Massachusetts. Warren is the most prominent of the three Democrats vying to run against incumbent Sen. Scott Brown (R) in the general election. Recent polls show Warren neck and neck with Brown.

    Written on Monday, 05 March 2012 19:48 Read more...
  • Elizabeth Warren Says Washington Must Act Now To Help Stem The Tide Of Foreclosure
    Elizabeth Warren Says Washington Must Act Now To Help Stem The Tide Of Foreclosure

    Backs MA Congressmen, Attorney General Coakley Calling on Federal Housing Finance Agency to Take Action To Prevent Unnecessary Foreclosures

    BOSTON – It is past time for the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to step up and help prevent unnecessary foreclosures in Massachusetts, said Consumer Advocate Elizabeth Warren, reinforcing calls from members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation and Attorney General Martha Coakley.

    Written on Wednesday, 22 February 2012 07:54 Read more...
  • U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern this week endorsed Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren for the United States Senate.

    U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern this week endorsed Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren for the United States Senate.

    Written on Friday, 27 January 2012 20:35 Read more...
  • The Woman Who Knew Too Much
    The Woman Who Knew Too Much

    Millions of Americans hoped President Obama would nominate Elizabeth Warren to head the consumer financial watchdog agency she had created. Instead, she was pushed aside. As Warren kicks off her run for Scott Brown’s Senate seat in Massachusetts, Suzanna Andrews charts the Harvard professor’s emergence as a champion of the beleaguered middle class, and her fight against a powerful alliance of bankers, lobbyists, and politicians.

    Written on Wednesday, 16 November 2011 00:00 Read more...
  • Elizabeth Warren's Appeal
    Elizabeth Warren's Appeal

    For a few years now, politicians straining against all of the antigovernment demagogy have been searching for a way to energize public interest and remind voters of the essential government services and protections they rely on and all too often take for granted.

    Written on Sunday, 16 October 2011 00:00 Read more...
  • Berkshire Democrats Want Elizabeth to Run, Run, Run
    Berkshire Democrats Want Elizabeth to Run, Run, Run

    PITTSFIELD, Mass. —  More than a few local Democrats would be ecstatic if Elizabeth Warren decides to run against Scott Brown for the U.S. Senate. Warren is kicking around the idea of running and stopped in Pittsfield on Friday to meet with party members to gauge their support as part of a listening tour across the state.

    Written on Friday, 19 August 2011 00:00 Read more...

Sign the ERA Petition

ERADemandButton

On Friday, September 12th more than 150 activists will go to DC and Demand that their Senators and Representatives support removing the ratification deadline from the ERA (SJ Res 15 and HJ Res 113)

Button-SignERAPetition

Sign the Petition - Sen. Sanders Run as a Democrat in 2016

Button-SandersPetition

Like Elizabeth Warren

Lori Wallach on the TPP from PDA Progressive Roundtable

Progressive Roundtable with Reps. Ellison and Pocan and Lori Wallach on TPP

TPP: The Biggest Threat to the Internet You've Probably Never Heard Of