FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Obama’s $9 Per Hour Minimum Wage

Legendary comedian Mort Sahl (who’s still alive and kicking, by the way) used to tell this joke during the Nixon administration.  If a man were drowning 15-feet from shore, President Nixon would throw him a 10-foot rope.  Then Henry Kissinger would go on television and declare that “the President had met him more than halfway.”

In his State of the Union speech (February 12), President Obama announced with great fanfare that he wanted to raise the federal minimum wage, in stages, from its present $7.25 per hour to $9.00 per hour by 2015.

There are at least three ways to interpret this announcement:  (1) The U.S. Chamber of Commerce way (i.e., as ruinous to our national economy), (2) the Jay Carney (Obama’s press secretary), and Cody Keenan (Obama’s speech writer) way (i.e., as political dynamite), and (3) the minimum-wage worker’s way (i.e., as a step in the right direction).

Consider the numbers.  If you’re a full-time worker—40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, with no days off—$9.00/hour computes to $18,720 per year, before any withholding is taken out.  Yes, $18,720 is way better than the $15,080 you make at the present minimum of $7.25.  But let’s be honest….you’re still very poor.  No one is saying the minimum wage should propel folks into the middle-class, because, clearly, that wasn’t its intention.  So Obama’s proposed bump is significant.  But even at $9 per hour, you’re still poor.  You’re just less poor.

As for exposing the bogus interpretation provided by the Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, and various Republican fat cats, all we need do is cite actual figures from the U.S. Department of Commerce.  Even with near-record unemployment, the DOC reported in November of 2010 that U.S. companies just had their best quarter ever.

Repeat:  THEIR BEST QUARTER EVER!  Businesses recorded profits at an annual rate of $1.66 trillion in the third quarter of 2010, which is the highest rate (in non-inflation-adjusted figures) since the government began keeping records more than 60 years ago.

The take-away from this astonishing statistic is obvious.  All that talk about the recession having crippled the American business community was either an extravagant hoax or a wild exaggeration.  In either case, it resulted in us witnessing the middle and lower-income class being victimized.  The middle-class dwindled, the number of poor sky-rocketed, and the number of wealthy rose significantly.

Clearly, there is money to be made by working people.  The hard part is finding a way to get employers to part with it.  An increase in the minimum wage is one method of doing it, but because it requires government sponsorship, it’s an undependable and inadequate method.  A far better way is for the workers to hire an agent to negotiate better wages, benefits and working conditions.  Hire an agent whose sole job is to represent working people.  In other words, a labor union.

Of all the lies told to the American worker (and there have been some whoppers), the biggest one of all is that labor and management do not have to be adversaries—that an adversarial relationship is, in fact, counterproductive.  Management constantly tells workers that “they (labor and management) both want the same thing.”  That is an outright lie.  Those Dept. of Commerce figures prove it.

Workers want a larger slice of the pie, and management wants to prevent them from getting it.  Owners want to pay their workers as little as possible.  That’s the nature of business, and that’s the unvarnished crux of the relationship.  Only when we admit that the management-labor dynamic is fundamentally adversarial in nature, will we begin to make progress.  Save those cornball, touchy-feely slogans for Madison Avenue.

David Macaray, a Los Angeles playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor,” 2nd Edition), was a former labor union rep.  He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

More articles by:

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

July 18, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
Politics and Psychiatry: the Cost of the Trauma Cover-Up
Frank Stricker
The Crummy Good Economy and the New Serfdom
Linda Ford
Red Fawn Fallis and the Felony of Being Attacked by Cops
David Mattson
Entrusting Grizzlies to a Basket of Deplorables?
Stephen F. Eisenman
Want Gun Control? Arm the Left (It Worked Before)
CJ Hopkins
Trump’s Treasonous Traitor Summit or: How Liberals Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the New McCarthyism
Patrick Bond
State of the BRICS class struggle: Repression, Austerity and Worker Militancy
Dan Corjescu
The USA and Russia: Two Sides of the Same Criminal Corporate Coin
The Hudson Report
How Argentina Got the Biggest Loan in the History of the IMF
Kenn Orphan
You Call This Treason?
Max Parry
Ukraine’s Anti-Roma Pogroms Ignored as Russia is Blamed for Global Far Right Resurgence
Ed Meek
Acts of Resistance
July 17, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Trump & The Big Bad Bugs
Robert Hunziker
Trump Kills Science, Nature Strikes Back
John Grant
The Politics of Cruelty
Kenneth Surin
Calculated Buffoonery: Trump in the UK
Binoy Kampmark
Helsinki Theatrics: Trump Meets Putin
Patrick Bond
BRICS From Above, Seen Critically From Below
Jim Kavanagh
Fighting Fake Stories: The New Yorker, Israel and Obama
Daniel Falcone
Chomsky on the Trump NATO Ruse
W. T. Whitney
Oil Underground in Neuquén, Argentina – and a New US Military Base There
Doug Rawlings
Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” was Nominated for an Emmy, Does It Deserve It?
Rajan Menon
The United States of Inequality
Thomas Knapp
Have Mueller and Rosenstein Finally Gone Too Far?
Cesar Chelala
An Insatiable Salesman
Dean Baker
Truth, Trump and the Washington Post
Mel Gurtov
Human Rights Trumped
Binoy Kampmark
Putin’s Football Gambit: How the World Cup Paid Off
July 16, 2018
Sheldon Richman
Trump Turns to Gaza as Middle East Deal of the Century Collapses
Charles Pierson
Kirstjen Nielsen Just Wants to Protect You
Brett Wilkins
The Lydda Death March and the Israeli State of Denial
Patrick Cockburn
Trump Knows That the US Can Exercise More Power in a UK Weakened by Brexit
Robert Fisk
The Fisherman of Sarajevo Told Tales Past Wars and Wars to Come
Gary Leupp
When Did Russia Become an Adversary?
Uri Avnery
“Not Enough!”
Dave Lindorff
Undermining Trump-Putin Summit Means Promoting War
Manuel E. Yepe
World Trade War Has Begun
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Stomps Britain
Wim Laven
The Best Deals are the Deals that Develop Peace
Kary Love
Can We Learn from Heinrich Himmler’s Daughter? Should We?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Franklin Lamb, Requiescat in Pace
Weekend Edition
July 13, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Brian Cloughley
Lessons That Should Have Been Learned From NATO’s Destruction of Libya
Paul Street
Time to Stop Playing “Simon Says” with James Madison and Alexander Hamilton
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of Formula and Honey
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s Intellectuals Bow to the Queen of Chaos 
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail