Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Who Needs a Minimum Wage Anyway?

Yes, it is time for the Republicans to show us (Americans) the true meaning of family values by once again denying the working poor even the promise of a decent wage from which to raise their families. Can a family of three, let alone a family of four or five survive on $824.00 a month? Can a single person for that matter?

The Democratic proposal—sponsored by that champion of the American worker, the Honorable Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts—was to increase the minimum wage by 41 percent, to $7.25 and hour over the next two years. It was roundly defeated by Republicans in the Senate in what was largely seen as a known outcome. Before the 49 to 46 vote count an angry Senator Kennedy denounced the coming defeat saying,
"The height of hypocrisy will be this afternoon, when those individuals in this Senate say no to a minimum wage increase of $7.25 an hour when this institution voted themselves a $28,500 pay increase over the last five years…minimum wage has been flat all these years, but not for the members of this Congress."

And he is right, after four years without a salary increase, the members of Congress quietly voted themselves one in the fall of 1997. The 2.3 percent hike amounted to about a $3,000 a year increase, bringing the average Congressman’s salary to $136,673. Leaders of both parties got considerably more; e.g. the Speaker of the House, then one Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), salary rose to $175,445.

And it didn’t stop there; Congress has voted itself a pay raise almost every year since 1996 seeing their income raise approximately $24,500 since January 1998 to some $158,100 by January 2004. Meanwhile, the federal minimum wage standard has not been adjusted since 1996. Anyone who runs a household will relate to you that $5.15 an hour is not enough to live on, not with the price of everything it takes to live a decent life continuing to increase on an almost monthly basis.

I am not saying the members of Congress do not deserve a raise(s), they do after all have to support two separate households, but the disparity between their salaries tan those of their constituents is grossly out of whack.

The Republicans of course denounced Senator Kennedy’s bid to raise the minimum wage saying that it would do more harm than good. Senator John E. Sununu, (R-NH) said that by
“raising minimum wage, you are pricing some workers out of the market…it is an economic fact. Proponents of the minimum-wage increase like to dismiss this."
Someone please explain to me what this means! What market is he referring to; the market to flip burgers for a living? Or is he saying that paying unskilled workers $7.25 an hour will make them too expensive to hire? If so by whom? Even the unskilled deserve a decent wage, a place to live, and sleep, and eat and raise a family if they so choose.

Are we striving to become more like Third World nations where unskilled labor is an expendable resource we as a society can write off at will. That because they as unskilled, their worth as citizens is not work measuring. What about the children? How moral a choice is this?

I agree with Senator Kennedy on one other point: the hypocrisy of the Republicans is glaring…shame on them for once again showing the average American that their concerns matter not a wit…what a wasted vote. Is this the America we want to bequeath to our children?

Monday, March 07, 2005

Can The U.S. Claim Sole Credit For Democratic Movement Sweeping the Middle East?

Is Bush right when he announces that "freedom is on the march"across the Middle East? It certainly appears as though there has been an attitude shift in and among the people of the Middle East of late that seems to embrace the tenants of democratic principles.

Lebanon is just the latest example in a growing list of countries where freedom is the new buzzword. Egypt’s president recently called for multi-party presidential elections, after almost four decades as authoritarian rule. Even the Palestinians are beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel that might shine the light of freedom upon their war weary heads. Can a nation built on democratic principles really, finally take form in the West bank and Gaza Strip?

But is this explosion of democratic thought a direct result of the invasion of Iraq by the U.S. and the resulting elections held there at the end of January, or would this have come to pass without U.S. intervention? And will freedom ever take hold in the three most important counties in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Egypt? With large populations of Muslim fundamentalist whose interest it is to maintain the status quo, can democratic ideals informed by Western traditions and principles ever really take hold in these three nations?

Can Bush take credit for this movement towards democracy, and in so doing justify a war that has cost so many lives, both American and Iraqi?