Some For Me - None For You
In 1996, the average cost of gas was $1.15 - ten years later, that same gallon of gas costs $3.19, on average.
In 1996, the average cost of a gallon of milk was $2.60 - ten years later, that same gallon of milk costs $3.79, on average.
In 1996, Members of Congress earned $133,600 - ten years later, Congress just voted to give themselves a pay raise, making their salary $168,500.
In 1996, the minimum wage was set at $5.15 an hour. Ten years later, it remains at $5.15 an hour.
For the average full time employee, working 52 weeks of the year and 40 hours a week, that amounts to $10,712 - and that's gross salary.
In 2003, the poverty threshold for a family of four, established by the United States Census Bureau, was $18,810. By that standard, there were 35.9 million people living below the poverty line.
In 2004, that same poverty line was adjusted to $19,307, due to cost of living increases. The official number of people living below the poverty line increased to 37 million.
The numbers for 2005 will be reported on August 30 of this year, and we can only expect the numbers to once again increase, given the rising cost of gasoline and other goods.
What hasn't changed amidst this? That minimum wage remains at $5.15 an hour. $10,712 a year. The poverty line almost DOUBLES what a minimum wage worker is able to earn in the United States.
Keep in mind - these are not jobs that offer health insurance. No paid vacation. Clock in and clock out for lunch. Have to miss work because a child is sick? It's coming out of your pay. Death in the family? That's too bad. No pay. Can't get to work because the car broke down and it has to be repaired? Go ahead and get it fixed. But no pay.
There are those who would argue that the minimum wage is nothing more than a summer wage for high school kids,. but this is simply not true. 35 percent of those earning minimum wages are sole breadwinners and the typical minimum-wage worker brings in half of total family income.
The Republican-led Congress had an opportunity to remedy this huge problem yesterday, but decided to take a pass and let the problem exacerbate further. I specifically use the words "Republican-led" because the vote, as it has every year for the last ten years, fell largely along party lines. Democrats voted for the minimum wage increase, and Republicans, with some exception, voted against it.
Keep in mind, we're talking about an increase to $7.25 - over the course of more than TWO YEARS. $7.25 an hour. That brings that full-time employee up to $15,080 gross - and that's TWO YEARS from now. It still doesn't bring the family above the poverty line, and who knows where that line will be adjusted to in another two years.
But the Republican-led Senate, in its infinite wisdom, decided that this wouldn't be a good move. Except for four of the Republicans, who voted FOR the minimum wage increase, who also happen to be up for re-election in the fall. Somehow, THEY saw the wisdom in at least appearing as though they were in favor of the increase.
Gosh, wonder why they would want to give that appearance?
The same Republican-led Congress, whose own salary has gone up nearly $35,000 in the last ten years, felt that a $4500 increase for a full-time working parent raising their child in poverty would not be prudent.
The same Republican-led Congress, who can take billions of our tax dollars and throw it at the oil companies in the form of subsidies, all the while watching the price of gas continue to climb, which in turn pushes those under economic strain further over the edge - that same Congress decided that it was best to leave the minimum wage at $5.15 an hour.
There was a popular phrase used a few decades ago to describe communism - "Better Dead Than Red". This phrase seems entirely appropriate to now affix to the Red State Republicans and their utterly inneffectual leadership of this country.
Better Dead Than Red!!!
Tags: minimum wage, Senate, Congress, cost of living, working poor, poverty line, pay raise