Obama Has Been Speechless on Minimum Wage
The impoverishment of politics in the Age of Obama has been nothing short of amazing. This president has so suppressed every vestigial remnant of progressivism in the political discourse, that the most fundamental bread and butter issues have become taboo. I’m talking about raising the federal minimum wage, which has been stuck at $7.25 an hour since 2007, the year before the bottom fell out of the economy.
A new study shows that the Great Recession was most destructive of decent-paying jobs, the middle tier where working people earned between about $14 and $21 an hour. That’s where sixty percent of job losses occurred between 2008 and 2010, and most of those jobs have not come back. Instead, the greatest increase in jobs has come in the low-wage sector, with a median pay from $7.69 – just above the federal minimum – to $13.83 an hour. The lowest wage sector now accounts for almost 60 percent of job growth, with traditionally bad-paying jobs in food preparation and retail sales leading the way.
High unemployment, on top of the disappearance of living wage jobs. You would think that in an election year, the party that is most identified with working people and folks that need to find work would be screaming at the top of their lungs: Raise the minimum wage! But, you will hear little or nothing of that from the Democratic convention festivities in Charlotte.
It’s not that the delegates are unaware of the crying need for a higher minimum wage. The Democratic platform – for what its worth – declares that “we will raise the minimum wage, and index it to inflation.” However, it doesn’t say how much, or when. And that’s in deference to the party’s standard bearer, who has not said anything meaningful about the minimum wage since he was campaigning for president in 2008. Back then, Obama promised to work to raise the minimum to $9.50 by 2011. Then he got elected, and we heard nothing more about it.
When the president is mum on an issue, then the party faithful put themselves on mute. There are bills in the House and the Senate to raise the minimum wage – the best one is sponsored by Chicago Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., calling for an immediate $10 an hour minimum, tied to inflation. But, there’s no chance of these bills going anywhere without the cooperation of Democratic leadership. Ralph Nader and others have beseeched party leaders to break the silence, but they don’t dare raise the issue for fear of embarrassing their President.
Apologists for Obama will claim that pushing for a $10 minimum wage indexed to inflation – or any significant raise – would hurt his chances for re-election. But the poll numbers show differently, with huge public support for an increase, including among lots of Republicans. Even Mitt Romney says he supports linking the minimum wage to inflation – just not right now. Obama has effectively been saying “no, not now” to underpaid workers for almost four years. So, why in the hell is labor getting ready to spend tens of millions of dollars to re-elect him, instead of building a movement that will force politicians to do the right thing?
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
- A Bold New Labor Call for a ‘Maximum Wage’ (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- STUDY: Raising The Minimum Wage Especially Benefits Women (thinkprogress.org)
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