Sign up for email alerts, from breaking news to weekly commentary:
The GOP's disdain for low-wage workers
When President Obama called for raising America's wage floor to nine bucks an hour, GOP House leader John Boehner attacked it like a gater on a poodle.
Incredibly, he claimed that raising the wages of our country's most-poorly-paid workers would hurt – guess who? – America's most-poorly-paid workers! This disingenuous pitting of poor people against themselves is derived from a corporate-manufactured myth that hiking the minimum forces small business owners to fire employees or even go bankrupt. "When you raise the price of employment," he grumped, "guess what happens? You get less of it."
Well guess again, John. That "job killer" fable has been debunked again and again by real world experience. The pay floor has constantly been elevated by Congress, states, and cities, causing little-to-zero negative impacts on job numbers, but very positive results for employee morale, productivity, and turnover. It also generates a spending boost for local economies (especially for – guess who? – small businesses).
Obviously, the major impact of the raise is to lift the incomes of about 18 million hard-working people in low-wage jobs, allowing them to make a down payment on a used car or enroll in a couple of community college classes. Plus, it gives at least a token nod to the essential need of bridging America's dangerously-widening chasm of economic inequality.
The real shame in the Republican leader's attack is not its flagrant dishonesty, but the raw disdain that it flings at low-wage workers – 60 percent of whom are women. The Boehners, Romneys, Koch brothers and Wall Street billionaires, see such people only in terms of their price tags, not in their value. That dehumanized contempt for the working class not only stains those who look down on the non-rich, but it's also holding back public policies to help America reach its full economic potential – and it is social dynamite.
"Raise That Wage," The New York Times, February 18, 2013.
"From The Bottom Up," The New York Times, February 18, 2013.
"Wage proposal ignites debate," Austin American Statesman," February 17, 2013.
"Raising Minimum Wage Would Ease Income Gap but Carries Political Risks, www.nytimes.com, February 13, 2013.