The Lamp

Where truth can be shared.

Waging War Over Wages and War

Posted by thelamp on June 18, 2007

The current federal minimum wage is insufficient to keep hard-working men and women out of poverty. So when the new Democrat-controlled Congress announced plans to increase pay at the bottom of the scale from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour, America’s workers logically assumed they would be getting a raise. Now, it seems that what the congressional leadership really meant was that hourly workers would get a raise if U.S. troops pull out of Iraq.

Click here to urge Congress to give workers the minimum wage increase they were promised.

Inflation has eroded the value of the minimum wage over the past decade to the point where it is worth less today, in real terms, than at any time since 1955. Putting more money in laborers’ pockets is important – so important that five months ago House Speaker Nancy Pelosi vowed the matter would be addressed within the first 100 hours of the 110th Congress. Although Congress has debated the raise Americans need and deserve, lawmakers haven’t exactly delivered on their promise.

Instead of pushing the pay hike on its merits through the House and Senate, Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., tethered the minimum-wage provisions to the contentious $100-billion Iraq war spending bill. What a dirty trick to pull on people who work for a living, because President Bush has made it clear he will veto the war bill.

“This isn’t about getting a minimum wage increase done, it’s another political stunt that only further delays action,” said White House spokesman Tony Fratto.

If President Bush does in fact veto the legislation, lawmakers who support a minimum wage increase will have to go back to the drawing board. This is a needless detour.

On the wage issue alone, Democrats and Republicans had reached a compromise. Democrats want an increase in the federal minimum wage so the nation’s lowest paid workers don’t have to live like paupers. Republicans oppose an increase in the minimum wage because it could hurt the small businesses that employ those workers. Nevertheless, the president has said he will sign a bill with a minimum wage increase if it includes tax cuts for businesses.

Last week, House and Senate negotiators had crafted a deal. The lawmakers agreed to a package of $4.8 billion in tax breaks for businesses to accompany the minimum wage increase.

Unfortunately, finding common ground regarding the war in Iraq isn’t as cut and dried. Whether to fund the war – and any accompanying timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq – is a passionate issue on all sides.

Consequently, it is completely inappropriate for legislators to attach any other bills to it – particularly the proposed pay increase for minimum-wage employees.

Click here to urge Congress to give workers the minimum wage increase they were promised.


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