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The Democrats, fresh from selling out the soldiers and marines in Iraq by handing the mad George Bush $120 billion to continue funding his war, are claiming victory.
Oh, they can’t hide the fact that they gave up on the war issue. But they’re quick to brag that they won a big one by cleverly including in the war funding supplemental bill a hike in the minimum wage, bringing the federal rate from the current $5.15/hour to $7.25.
But America’s long-suffering working poor better hold the champagne.
This bold stroke on their behalf by Congressional Democrats won’t happen right away. Although America’s lowest paid workers have been slaving away at $5.15 an hour since last September 1, they won’t get the first part of the new pay increase until the end of this summer, when it will go up a whopping 13 percent to $5.85 per hour (to put that in perspective, that’s $28/week more, less taxes, for someone working a 40-hour week). They’ll have to wait until around this time next year before they get another boost to $6.55 an hour, and they won’t get that full $7.25 an hour that the Democrats are hooting about until 2009.
And remember, we’re talking about blood money here.
This was a raise paid for in the blood of American servicepeople, and the blood of tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians, many of them innocent children.
Besides, that whole raise of 40 percent over two years will actually look a whole lot less by the time they get it, thanks to the actions of Bush and the Democratic Congress.
Figure that the Iraq War, which is costing the nation, at this point, over $300 billion a year in cold cash, and probably double that if you factor in the credit on the debt (the whole thing is being paid for on credit), is a major reason the dollar is sinking against major currencies. That means higher prices for most imported goods, which means just about everything that working stiffs have to buy. It also means higher than necessary interest rates, because keeping interest rates high relative to other countries is the only way the U.S. has left to keep the dollar from crashing totally to the level of a third world currency. Those higher interest rates mean higher mortgage costs and higher credit card interest payments to working people. And don’t forget gas prices. The oil companies will tell you that the doubling of gas prices since Bush took office is all a matter of "market forces," but the truth is it’s mostly been the war and threats to Middle East supplies that have bid up the per-barrel price and allowed the gouging to happen.
So netting it all out, it’s likely that the higher minimum wage the Democrats just bought at the price of giving Bush his war money will simply vanish by the time people get it.
Besides, the federal minimum wage increase is much less of a deal than it might even appear, since many states have already raised the minimum wage for their workers. In California, workers earn at least $7.50/hour, and that goes to $8.00/hour next January. In New York, the minimum wage is $7.15. It’s also $7.15/hour in Alaska, and will be on July 1 in Michigan and Pennsylvania. Illinois workers, currently earning $6.95/hour, will see their minimum go to $7.50 on July 1. Many other states have minimum wages close to or above $7.00/hour already.
Some deal those Democrats made with Bush!
Boy, they really stood tough with a president who was bargaining from a 28 percent approval rating in the polls.
Kind of makes you proud you voted them into control of Congress last November doesn’t it?
Spend it well!
DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His n book of CounterPunch columns titled "This Can’t be Happening!" is published by Common Courage Press. Lindorff’s newest book is "The Case for Impeachment",
co-authored by Barbara Olshansky.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org