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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

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To Save Americans From Starving, Congress Must Raise The Minimum Wage

Reprinted with permission from DC Report

Imagine Washington announcing today that for the next three decades your pay will increase each January. You'll get a boost to cover inflation plus 10-cents more an hour. That means your real pay next year, before taxes, will be $4 more per week.

Ask yourself, would you even notice an extra $4 a week in gross pay? Would you feel like playing by the rules and being a good worker was worth it?

Well, that's what has happened to the typical American worker since 1990, but no one announced it back then. And it's happened as unions have been pretty much destroyed, representing only about one in 15 private-sector workers.

As a middle-aged widow who lost her job and took minimum-wage work at a major national retailer to feed herself and her son, who live together in a town with low-cost housing, told me:

"You can't make ends meet on the minimum wage no matter how much you try. It is just not possible."

That's the prime reason Congress and President Biden must raise the minimum wage.

As private-sector unions have faded away, wages have fallen in tandem. The numbers and the pain of people like the widow show that Congress must step in, acting as a proxy union for the lowest-paid workers by raising the floor on wages in America. If lawmakers fail then taxpayers should expect rising costs for welfare to cope with social pathologies. We should all expect popular support for our tattered democracy will wither even more, putting our liberties in danger.

Inflation Toll

The story I pulled from the official data shows things are much worse than just the awful fact that the minimum wage has been stuck since 2009 at $7.25 an hour, its value being eroded by inflation even as America grows ever richer.

Each year, I do detailed analyses of W-2 wage and salary reports that employers send to the Social Security Administration. Its computers add up every filing and then a report shows how many people make how much in broad pay categories whether they had one employer or many.

What the wage data show is disturbing. America is becoming two nations separate and unequal, one with a minority of workers who are prospering, some making each year enough for a hundred families for a lifetime. Across the income divide more than 130 million workers struggle.

Republicans and some Senate Democrats claim that raising the minimum wage will kill jobs and force small businesses to close. That's not what past actual experience shows, at least not on this planet.

Faulty Argument

That argument is actually silly because it assumes that prices never increase so if wages go up businesses must fail. Nonsense. But should you find a dealer advertising new cars today at 1990 prices please let me know.

What the facts show that since 1990 our national wage pie, adjusted for inflation, has grown much bigger. Adjusted for inflation it was $8.8 trillion in 2019, up from $5 trillion in 1990.

But the way the wage pie was cut into slices changed significantly.

Let's look first at workers who always earn only the minimum wage. Such people exist, though they are not common.

In 1990 the minimum wage was $3.80. Adjusted for inflation it would have to have risen to $7.48 in 2019 just to stay even. But the minimum wage was only $7.25, the same as today. In absolute terms these workers are worse off, their meager slice of income pie shrinking.

In 2019 half of America's 169 million workers made less than $35,000; a third made less than $20,000. Only one in three workers earn more than $1,000 per week.

$620 a Week

What about the typical worker? That's measured by examining median pay; half make more, half less. In 2019 the median wage was $34,250 or $620 a week.

That's a real increase since 1990 of $5,712. That sounds good until you realize that in round numbers it works out to that dime an hour raise every January.

How about the average wage which includes those with ginormous paychecks? Real average pay rose by $12,225 to $51,916. That's two dimes and a penny more per hour each January. How much would you notice an extra $8.40 a week – before taxes?

Now let's turn to the extremely well paid, people whose pay increases alone meant they gorged on wage pie while most everyone else got crumbs.

Let's consider all workers making $1 million or more, roughly one in every thousand workers. Their share of the national wage pie rose mightily, from 3 cents in 1990 to a nickel in 2019. That leaves everyone else with a smaller share of the pie to divvy up.

What about the super-paid workers who made $10 million or more in 1990 and 2019 using 2019 dollars?

More Super-Rich

The number of super-paid workers is for sure small. But it grew five-fold from 739 to 4,024.

Their average gross pay increased from just shy of $2 million to almost $2.5 million. Simply put in 2019 they got six days of pay for five days of 1990 work.

Also, a record 222 of these workers were paid more than $50 million in 2019, averaging $89 million each.

Even if we assume that employers pay these top earners what they are worth, a society whose rules and regulations lavish every more pay on those to the top while hardly growing wages for two-thirds or more of the workforce is neither stable nor enduring. The chasm between the super-paid and everyone else is huge and widening and can destroy support for democracy, as we saw with the failed coup on Jan. 6.

Without unions to bargain for workers pay simply is not going to improve. Indeed, our government has put downward pressure on wages through the welfare "reform" act President Bill Clinton signed, which flooded the market with women who have few job skills and little education, a stealth subsidy for many employers because they could pay less. The child tax credit for working parents has morphed over time into a subsidy for employers who now capture its benefits by not raising pay. Those are just of many anti-worker policies our government put in place during the past 40 years.

Congress can fix this. It has to step in as a proxy union for powerless workers and raise the minimum wage. If we could afford a minimum wage in the 1960s that's equal to about $12 an hour today then we can afford to raise our pay standards in today's much wealthier America.

And to those small businesses that say they will fold if they have to pay their workers more there is an answer: Raise prices.

If you can't afford to pay a living wage and you can't raise prices, your business is already failing so put it out of its misery. You can always start a new business in the future — and with people making more money your chances of success will be much better because more customers will have more money to spend.

Sanders, Wyden Push Back On Cruel Cuts To Pandemic Relief Checks

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Democrats are having a public fight over something that really matters: how much assistance hurting people are going to get from them in survival checks. It's a stupid fight, summed up best by Sen. Bernie Sanders:

He's not alone in this with powerful support from Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, the new chair of the Finance Committee. The other side is being spearheaded by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), with back-up from Mitch McConnell's favorite "bipartisan" water carrier, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). They're trying to keep payments from what they call "high-earning" families.

Look at how Manchin explains this: "An individual of $40,000 income or $50,000 income would receive it. And a family who is making $80,000 or $100,000, not to exceed $100,000, would receive it," Manchin said. "Anything over that would not be eligible, because they are the people who really are hurting right now and need the help the most." Who's missing there? Yeah, everybody making more than $50,001. So he's not even arguing in good faith here, couching this as cutting off payments at $80,000 when that's not what he wants to do.

The gap between $50,000 and $80,000 includes a lot of people who, as Sanders says, got two checks already from the Trump administration and are expecting the third one everybody is talking about, a point also made by Wyden: "I understand the desire to ensure those most in need receive checks, but families who received the first two checks will be counting on a third check to pay the bills." That's so glaringly apparent that it's hard to understand there is any constituency for this fight, including in the White House.

It gets even worse when you drill down to find out where the impetus for the cut comes from, as David Dayen has done at The American Prospect. The debate is being driven by a paper from Harvard economics professor Raj Chetty and others that showed higher-income households not spending the last, $600 round of checks immediately. Dayen uncovers the fact that the Chetty research is not on household-level income data. Instead, data for about ten percent of U.S. credit and debit card activity sorted into ZIP codes by the address associated with the card. Those ZIP codes are then grouped "using 2014-2018 ACS (The Census Bureau's American Community Survey) estimates of ZIP Code median household income," according to the appendix in the Chetty paper. So, as Dayen says, the conclusion that low-income people spent their checks immediately while higher-income people did not, "is by saying that ZIP codes that had lower-income people in them between three and seven years ago contained a higher level of immediate spending than ZIP codes with higher-income people during this period." A period before the pandemic.

That's a damned big supposition. Claudia Sahm, a former Federal Reserve and Council of Economic Advisers economist, tells Dayen, "I think the paper is unsuitable for the policy discussion. […] It's one paper at odds with 20 years of research. […] I know the sampling error has to be in the thousands of dollars, there's no way it's that precise." What's even worse about this paper is that they didn't even disclose the out-of-date ZIP code basis for their data until late last week, more than a week after it had been highlighted in the traditional media and started taking hold. It's still out there, with The New York Times opinion page giving Chetty and colleagues space to continue their badly sourced argument.

All that's aside from the larger argument: We're in the middle of a global pandemic and the economy is in tatters—just spend the money helping as many people as possible and worry about sorting out who should have to pay any of it back later. Because the need is so great and this isn't a time to skimp. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said as much, and thankfully appears not to be so much on board with this push to reduce payments, though the White House has been vaguely supportive.

"The exact details of how it should be targeted are to be determined, but struggling middle-class families need help, too," Yellen said on CNN this weekend. Asked if she thinks the targeting should be higher than $50,000 per person but less than $75,000, Yellen responded: "Yes, I—I think the details can be worked out. And the president is certainly willing to work with Congress to find a good structure for these payments."

There's also this: They're still going to base the payments on 2019 income unless they have 2020 income filed by the time the relief bill is passed. Which means you need to file immediately if you've had a big drop in income. Which means the IRS is going to be flooded with returns at the same time it's trying to make income determinations and trying to determine who gets what. But at least there is the recognition that a lot of people did not have the same income in 2020 as 2019.

Again, the survival checks have been means-tested already, with the first rounds of checks phasing out starting at $75,000 based on out-of-date data. Compounding that is this new argument based on really bad and irrelevant information. Not that what anybody does with their survival checks really matters right now, anyway. Worry about saving the maximum number of people possible. That will make the economy come back stronger and faster and then the rest can be sorted out, if necessary, with tax reform.

Rep. Boebert’s Faked ‘Glock’ Video Sparks Twitter Firestorm

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Newly-elected Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) found herself at the center of controversy following the release of her latest campaign-style video ad. In the video, Boebert claimed she is going to "carry my Glock to Congress" to highlight her defense of Second Amendment rights.

In the clip, Boebert said, "Even though I now work in one of the most liberal cities in America, I refused to give up my rights, especially my Second Amendment rights. I will carry my firearm in D.C. and in Congress."

"I walk to my office each morning by myself," Boebert says. "So as a five-foot-tall, 100-pound woman I choose to protect myself legally, because I am my best security."

Twitter users quickly fired back with critical reactions to Boebert's video. One Twitter user slammed Boebert's clip tweeting, "'I'd like to thank [Lauren Boebert] for this excellent free footage that she's just provided us to slice & dice & use to show America why, since the GOP has been overtaken by radical nuts like her, it can't be trusted w governing power."


Another user also tweeted arguments suggesting Boebert is not exactly the epitome of a law-abiding citizen. That user said, "Lauren Boebert has been arrested four times and is under investigation for "unlawfully providing a handgun to a juvenile" who worked at her Colorado restaurant. She was with her husband when he was arrested for exposing his penis to a minor. Not exactly a law-abiding gun owner."






According to The Washington Post, Boebert's "own staff later admitted that the video had deceptively portrayed Boebert as carrying her handgun with her as she walked through the streets of Washington, D.C. In fact, she had not, since that would've violated D.C.'s strict laws limiting the carrying of concealed weapons."

Gallup Poll: Trump And Congressional Approval Ratings Plummet

Both President Donald Trump's and Congressional approval ratings have plummeted in the first half of December, according to a new Gallup poll.

Trump's approval rating has dipped to 39 percent, a 7 point decrease from the last Gallup survey, while Congressional satisfaction dropped 15%, the lowest rating for the 116th Congress, according to Gallup.

The president began December by ramping up political attacks while also increasing his threats to American democracy. His erratic behavior has even started to worry Trump's aides and his closest allies, leading to a "heated" Oval Office meeting with far-right conspiracists Michael Flynn and Sidney Powell. In that meeting Flynn proposed "martial law" to overturn the free and fair election that Joe Biden won by millions of votes.

Meanwhile, December was also a tumultuous month for Congress, as members bickered over a yearly defense spending bill (NDAA), a budget for FY 2021, and much needed COVID-19 relief. Late last night, right before a midnight deadline, Trump finally signed a joint bill which included COVID-19 relief and next year's budget. He also vetoed the defense bill, which Congress is expected to overturn.

Though American's moods are souring towards the current government, the Biden administration is receiving high marks for handling the transition. According to Gallup, nearly two-thirds of respondents reported they "approve" of Biden's actions during the transition.