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Tag: minimum wage

Super-Rich GOP Senate Candidate Says Keep Minimum Wage At $7.25

Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidate Dave McCormick opposes increasing the federal minimum wage and wants to keep it at its current level of $7.25 an hour, set in 2009, when it was raised from $6.55.

With tens of millions of dollars earned running a hedge fund business, McCormick does not need a higher minimum wage to pay for his basic needs. But for the more than 10 percent of Pennsylvanians who live below the poverty line, a higher minimum wage would make a huge difference.

In an interview on the podcast Politics PA podcast, first flagged this week by the progressive research group American Bridge 21st Century, McCormick was asked whether he supported having any federal minimum wage at all.

"I wouldn't change the minimum wage we have now," the former George W. Bush administration Treasury Department official responded. "But I wouldn't raise it."

Pennsylvania has not opted to raise its state minimum above the federal floor, though Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has increased it for state employees and unsuccessfully prodded the GOP-controlled legislature to do the same for other workers.

But the $7.25 minimum set in 2009 is only worth about $5.34 in 2022 dollars. A person working 40 hours a week at that rate would make about $15,080 a year, well below the $18,310 federal poverty line for a family of two.

McCormick said on Feb. 18, "Inflation across our nation continues to rise — spiking costs for all Pennsylvanians, especially working families, at the store and at the pump." However, instead of supporting a minimum wage increase, he proposes to get rid of President Joe Biden's investments in infrastructure and families, cut taxes, and eliminate federal regulations on businesses.

All of Pennsylvania's neighboring states have opted to increase their minimum wages above the $7.25 level. In total, at least 25 states voluntarily raised their wage floor for 2022.

While recent polling shows about two-thirds of Pennsylvania voters support a minimum wage increase, Republican lawmakers at the state and federal levels have blocked Democratic proposals for a more livable minimum wage.

A McCormick spokesperson did not respond immediately to an inquiry for this story.

But according to a February report by Insider, McCormick is personally quite wealthy.

Between 2010 and 2013, he received at least $70 million in discretionary awards from his then-employer, the Bridgewater Associates investment management firm, according to information contained in his 2015 divorce records.

Had he been working at the minimum wage he does support in a 40-hour-per-week full-time job, it would have taken him more than 4,641 years to earn that much.

McCormick is one of several Republican candidates running in November's race to succeed retiring Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

To Fix The Labor Shortage, Start With The Wage Shortage

A recent newspaper article had an astonishing headline: "Labor shortages end when wages rise."

Gosh, Captain Obvious, what an amazing discovery! Someone notify the Nobel Prize committee, for this revolutionary revelation about How-Things-Work surely will win this year's prize in economics. Better yet, someone notify Sen. Mitch McConnell and that whole gaggle of Republican governors whose theory of labor economics begins and ends with the medieval demand that workers be whacked with a stick to make them do what the bosses want.

At issue is the furious complaint by restaurant chains, nursing homes, call centers, Big Ag, and other low-wage employers that they have a critical labor shortage. It seems that millions of workers today are hesitant to take jobs because there's no affordable child care, or the jobs they're offered expose them and their families to illness and death from COVID-19, or the work itself is abusive and demeaning... or all of the above.

Business chieftains wail that, with the economy reopening, they've been advertising thousands of jobs for waiters, nursing assistants, poultry workers, and such, but they can't get enough takers. So, the Congress critters and governors who obsequiously serve the corporate powers have rushed to their rescue. Shouting, "Whack 'em with a stick!" these mingy politicians are stripping away jobless benefits for America's workers, trying to leave them with no choice but to take any crappy job they're offered. It gives new meaning to the term "workforce."

In fact, the bosses themselves already have an honest way to get the workers they need without calling in government muscle: Offer fair wages! As the owner of a small chain of restaurants in Atlanta notes, the struggle to find the staff he needs suddenly turned easy when he stopped lowballing wages, going from $8 to $15 an hour. Not only did he get the workers he needed, but he says, "We started to get a better quality of applicants." That translated to better service, happier customers, and more business.

The real economic factor in play here is not wages; it's value. If you treat employees as cheap, then that's what you'll get. But if you view them as valuable assets, then that's what they'll be — and you'll all be better off.

At a recent congressional hearing on America's so-called labor shortage that corporate bosses have been wailing about, mega-banker Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, offered this insight: "People actually have a lot of money, and they don't particularly feel like going back to work."

Uh... Jamie... a lot of money? Most people are living paycheck to paycheck, and since COVID-19 hit, millions of Americans have lost their jobs, savings and even homes. So, they're not exactly lolly-gagging around the house, counting their cash.

Instead of listening to the uber-rich class ignorance of Dimon (who pocketed $35 million last year), Congress ought to be listening to actual workers explaining why they're not rushing back to the jobs being offered by restaurant chains and poultry factories. They would point out that there is no labor shortage; there's a wage shortage.

More fundamentally, there's a fairness shortage. It was not lost on restaurant workers, for example, that while millions of them were jobless last year, their corporate CEOs were grabbing millions, buying yachts, and living large. Yet more than half of laid-off restaurant workers couldn't get unemployment benefits because their wages had been too low to qualify. Then there's the high risk of COVID-19 exposure for restaurant employees, an appalling level of sexual harassment in their workplace, and demeaning treatment from abusive bosses and customers.

No surprise, then, that more than half of employees said in a recent survey that they're not going back to those jobs. After all, even a dog knows the difference between being stumbled over and being kicked!

So rather than demanding that government officials force workers to return to the old exploitative system, corporate giants should try the free-enterprise solution right at their fingertips: Raise pay, improve conditions, and show respect. Create a place where people want to work!

For a straightforward view from workers themselves, go to the advocacy group, OneFairWage.site.

To find out more about Jim Hightower and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

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.

Biden Proposes Massive $2 Trillion Pandemic Rescue Plan

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

President-elect Joe Biden believes that rescuing the faltering economy and crushing the coronavirus are the most important challenges he faces right out of the gate when taking office on Jan. 20. To address these problems, he proposed a bold and aggressive $1.9 trillion legislative package on Thursday to tackle them head on.

"The US government can borrow money for less than the rate of inflation, which means we owe it to ourselves to borrow, borrow, borrow," said writer Matt Yglesias in praise of the plan. "I'm excited to see a new administration thinking big."

A key question, of course, is whether the plan can pass Congress. It will likely have support in the House, where Democrats are in control, but Biden will be working with the thinnest possible majority in the Senate. And under current rules, a bill typically needs 60 votes to pass the Senate — which would require 10 Republicans to sign on. Biden hopes to convince members of the opposition to join him, but if he can't, his team also has plans to use a procedure known as budget reconciliation to pass the bill with just 51 votes.

Here are seven key features of the plan as it is currently conceived:

1. $600 + $1,400 = $2,000 checks

One of the most popular elements of the first two rounds of COVID rescue funds was direct government payments to individuals and families. After the first round, which sent $1,200 to individuals under a set income threshold, Congress authorized another set of $600 payments starting in December — even though Democrats and President Donald Trump were demanding $2,000. The $2,000 figure became a rallying point in the Georgia runoffs which Democrats won, so Biden plans to follow through on the promise of delivering this amount. But be careful, though — since the $600 has already gone out to many people, the amount individuals will likely receive if the Biden bill passes as proposed will be an additional $1,400, rounding out the combined payments to a total of $2,000.

Some have already begun criticizing the plan for this plank. But it's important to remember it has many other moving parts.

2. Help for unemployed people, hunger, and people at risk of eviction

The plan also increases the federal boost to weekly unemployment payments from $300 to $400 and extends the applicable period to September. Under current law, the payments would run out in March. There's another $25 billion of support for renters and an extension of the eviction moratorium from the end of January to the end of September. People who get support for buying food through programs such as SNAP will also see increased funds.

3. Ramp up a national vaccination program

If the plan passes, there will be $400 billion to fight the coronavirus. These funds will help enact a $20 billion national vaccination plan, which is the best hope the country has of putting the virus behind it quickly. Under Trump, vaccination rates have been slow as states have largely been left on their own to get shots in arms.

4. More COVID testing

There's also $50 billion allocated for expanding COVID testing, which will continue to be crucial until the population approaches herd immunity through vaccination. Biden hopes to be able to have schools open in the spring, which will require widespread and frequent testing.

5. $350 billion for state and local aid

State and local governments have been hit especially hard by the coronavirus downturn since they depend on tax revenues, which have fallen, to keep their budgets balanced. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Republicans have resisted calls to provide support for localities, denouncing it as a "blue state bailout" — even though states need help regardless of their politics. Under the Biden plan, $350 billion would be earmarked for these governments,

6. Tax credits

In addition to the direct payments of an additional $1,400, the plan gives extra support to families by expanding select tax credits, as CNBC explained:

The president-elect wants to increase the child tax credit to $3,000 for qualifying children aged 17 and under. Kids under age 6 would be eligible for a $3,600 credit.
Biden is calling to put these expansions into effect for the year on an emergency basis.
In comparison, families can currently claim up to $2,000 per child under age 17.
To further benefit low-income families, Biden also wants to make the child tax credit fully refundable. That means taxpayers get a refund check, even if the credit exceeds their tax liability.

7. $15 minimum wage

It seems unlikely that it will make it into the final version of the plan, but Biden's vision would include a hard-fought progressive goal: raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

This Holiday Season, Think About The Amazon Workers

During the hectic holiday shopping season, Jeff Bezos' Amazon may seem like a great option, especially for us procrastinators. Anything you want can be shipped directly to your doorstep. All it takes is a few clicks on the Amazon website — and, of course, some of your hard-earned money.

The media sings the praises of Bezos' concept and business. But what you may not know is that, as head of the Amazon beast, Bezos is hard on his labor force. In fact, he was awarded a less-coveted prize by the International Trade Union Confederation in 2014: "World's Worst Boss."

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Trump Discards Promises On Minimum Wage Increase

On July 1, Donald Trump said he would share good news about the minimum wage within two weeks.

Since then, 21 days have passed without a word from the White House on the subject.

"I'm going to have a statement on minimum wage," Trump told Fox Business during a White House interview. "I feel differently than a lot of people on minimum wage, some people in my own party. But I will have a statement over the next two weeks on minimum wage."

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Trump: Waitress Who Makes $2.13 An Hour Is ‘Overpaid’

Reprinted with permission from DCReport

By multiple measures, workers are faring poorly under Donald Trump compared to his predecessor. Yet Trump keeps telling workers that because of him they are doing better. Let's examine the facts.

The latest news shows that growth in the last three months of 2019 was at a modest pace of 2.1 percent. That's a third of what candidate Trump promised (a ridiculous promise that many believed). It's lower than the 3.2 percent average growth of the last 73 years. And it's lower than during the second Obama term.

Gross Domestic Product growth has been slower each year Trump has been in office, we reported earlier.

Still earlier we gave Trump a grade of C.

A big reason for slow growth is that while cash piles up for those at the top, most struggle to make ends meet.

'Our wages are too high. Everything is too high. Having a low minimum wage is not a bad thing for this country.'

The Trump administration is hostile to the idea of a minimum wage and opposes any increase. The federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 an hour since 2009. Adjusted for inflation, its shriveled to just $6.05 per hour.

For people who get tips, like waitstaff, the minimum wage has been stuck at $2.13 an hour since 1992. Its real value has been halved in the last 28 years. Tips, under federal law, make up the $5.12 an hour difference to meet the $7.25 minimum wage.

Paid Too Much

Candidate Trump asserted in 2015 that American workers are paid too much.

"Our wages are too high. Everything is too high," Trump said on MSNBC's Morning Joe. "Having a low minimum wage is not a bad thing for this country."

Trump said it again at a Republican primary debate sponsored by Fox News and the Wall Street Journal. "Wages too high."

America can't compete in global markets because workers make too much money, Trump asserted. Never mind that few low-wage Americans work in jobs making goods or providing services our country exports.

Taking Credit

In recent months Trump started crowing that pay is "rising fastest for low-income workers." He said it in the State of Union, at rallies and in White House lawn comments. And he said it is his economic and tax policies that are making pay at the bottom grow.

Pay at the bottom is indeed rising after years in the economic doldrums. But Trump deserves zero credit for that. The credit goes to lawmakers in 22 states—and many cities and counties—who voted to raise the minimum wage.

As this graphic from the Economic Policy Institute shows, wages at the bottom are up because of those states and localities that increased the minimum wage.

Income growth began sputtering after Trump took office, Census Bureau data show.

The 22 states that raised their minimum wages since the start of 2018 by either a dollar amount or inflation adjustments are politically and economically diverse: Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont and Washington.

Trump and Obama Equal

What if we look at workers as a whole, mixing together those earning a paltry $2.13 an hour to those whose salary and bonus exceed $1 million a week? A record 211 American workers were paid more than $50 million in 2018. And more than 155,000 were paid more than $1 million last year.

Now consider the average wage for private-sector workers, which mixes these extremes of paltry and fantastic pay along with everyone in between.

In Trump's first three years the inflation-adjusted average wage increased 3 percent. That's exactly the same 3 percent as for Obama's last three years, Bureau of Labor Statistics data show. In other words, Trump did nothing special.

Growth at the Top

And what if we look at a broader measure—household income. That's wages plus business profits, capital gains, dividends, farm sales, rents, pensions and more. For those at the top income, growth has been fabulous. For everyone else not so much.

So what happened to median household income—half more, half less. It gives a solid sense of the typical American income.

During Trump's first two years, median household income rose $1,400. During Obama's last two years median income rose $4,810, more than three times as much.

Cuts Federal Workers' Raises

Finally, if you harbor any remaining belief that Trump is helping workers make more, consider these two facts from consecutive days earlier this month.

On Feb. 10 Trump said that due to a "national emergency or serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare," federal workers would not get a scheduled 3 percent pay raise. He cut their increase to just 1 percent, which considering inflation is a pay cut.

The next day Trump struck the opposite note when he tweeted:

"BEST USA ECONOMY IN HISTORY!"

Trump is nothing if not consistently inconsistent except for one thing: using his powers to make sure workers don't share in economic growth.

Will Democrats Be Democrats — Or Fraidy-Cats?

“Trust me!” bellowed the billionaire Donald Trump to working-class voters in 2016, promising he’d be the champion of what he called “the forgotten Americans.”

Trust him? He’s a lifetime real estate huckster infamous for ripping off workers and opposing union labor. You’d have better odds trusting a coyote to guard your last lamb chop!

Nonetheless, many working stiffs did buy his promises to stand up for them against corporate and political elites. But he quickly proved that, true to form, his promises had been just another Trump scam. Again and again, he has carelessly stiffed working stiffs, consistently siding with corporate powers to transfer more money and power from workers to corporations.

For example, candidate Trump pledged to hike the minimum wage to $10 an hour, but once in office, President Trump coldly turned his back on underpaid workers, never mentioning — much less fighting for — any increase in our nation’s shameful, poverty-level wage floor of $7.25 an hour.

Also, Trump’s Labor Department — headed by anti-labor corporate executives he intentionally appointed — ruled that millions of service workers are “independent contractors” rather than company employees. Thus, he decreed, they’re not entitled to any minimum wage, overtime pay or other labor protections. Then, last year, this “worker’s champion” mandated that, instead of monitoring corporate violations of wage laws, his administration would trust top executives to monitor themselves and self-report any violations. Plus, he grants them clemency if they do cheat workers.

Moreover, the Trumpsters have gutted the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, cutting the numbers of job safety inspectors to the lowest level in the agency’s history. As a result, it’s open season on maiming workers. For example, when an assembly line worker at an Arkansas chicken processing plant had a finger cut off last September, OSHA didn’t even send an investigator. The next month, Trump’s OSHA “regulators” let the plant’s owners speed up their assembly line. Then, two months later, another worker lost a finger. Again, Trump’s job safety officials didn’t inconvenience the corporation by sending an inspector to question its practices.

It’s true that Trump has not “forgotten” the forgotten working class. Indeed, the pampered son of privilege remembers to slap them with plutocratic policies every chance he gets.

As an old saying puts it, “Where there’s a will, there are a thousand won’ts.”

Sure enough, while there’s a large and steadily growing public will across our country to take bold steps to battle the plague of inequality ripping America apart, here come the won’ts: The corporate powers, plutocratic elites and their political hirelings hate the very idea of public action to restore economic fairness and equal opportunity for all people. So they’re frantically trying to scare the public away from big ideas like Medicare for All, free college tuition and a wealth tax by branding them with the hoary old right-wing bugaboo: “Socialism!”

However, they have three major problems in selling this scare tactic:

1. Such progressive ideas are quite popular.

2. The greedy rich are quite unpopular.

3. The cry of “socialism” has lost its sting.

A July poll shows that Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s idea of a new tax on fortunes greater than $50 million is favored by two-thirds of Americans, including 55 percent of Republicans. Nearly 6 out of 10 people favor Medicare for All, including a majority of high-income Americans. And nearly 60 percent of us — including 72 percent of independent voters — favor free tuition.

Ironically, the major barrier to passing such changes is not the one thrown up by big money lobbyists and Republican congress critters. Rather, it’s the meekness of establishment Democrats — including many elected officials and operatives — who don’t have the courage of their party’s democratic convictions. They whimper that it will be hard to pass the sweeping changes Americans need and want, that those ideas might offend some of the party’s big donors and scare off some crossover Republicans in 2020. So rather than respond to the grassroots will for real change, those weak-kneed forces are opposing strong advocates like Warren and Bernie Sanders. They’re urging the party to back off from its core values and fighting spirit and instead seek small incremental adjustments in the status quo that might win support from Republicans and corporate chieftains.

If the meek ever inherit the earth, these timid do-nothings will be land barons! If Democrats don’t stand for the people, why should people stand for them?