Today the Senate was finally able to end the Republican filibuster against raising the minimum wage. The Democratic leadership managed this by giving in on some of the demands, made by Republicans, to add a package of tax cuts aimed at small the businesses who hire many minimum-wage workers, and who are most susceptible to being hurt by even a small rise in their overhead.
The tax breaks in the Senate bill have divided the private sector, pitting small businesses and retailers that would benefit from them against the larger corporations and manufacturers that would have to pay for them. The package costs $8.3 billion in lost tax revenue over 10 years.
To help pay for the tax breaks, corporations no longer would be able to deduct the cost of jury verdicts or settlements in liability suits against them and their executives' tax-deferred pay packages would be capped at $1 million a year.
Although I hate giving any concessions to the Republicans on this issue, I am not unsympathetic to the financial position of small businesses. Ninety percent of the thirty-two jobs I've held have been for companies that were defined as small businesses. I know that the argument that some of the very smallest businesses, might have to lay off an employee if the minimum wage were to rise is true. I also know that most businesses in this position have fewer than six employees. Still, if the minimum wage bill helps those companies offset the cost of that increase in overhead, I'm all for it. Still, with that in mind, let's look at who opposed the current compromise.
First of all we have the institutional opposition.
"The permanent tax law changes here far outpace and outweigh the few benefits," said Bruce Josten, the chief lobbyist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which opposes the bill.
The Chambers of Commerce are an odd flock of ducks. The local chambers, in small communities, are widely varied. In my experience, most are very civically minded and responsive to local needs. But, the further up the food chain you go, the lees the care about such things. Until, at the level of the US Chamber of Commerce, it's nothing more than yet another lobby for major corporations. Here we have the Chamber lobbying against a tax break for small businesses. That should be all most people need to know about the US Chamber.
Of course, the other major opposition against this compromise, is that group of Republican Senators who voted against letting it go to a floor for--as they like to call it--an up or down vote. The ten who voted no are:
- * Richard Burr (R-NC)
- * Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
- * Tom Coburn (R-OK)
- * Jim DeMint (R-SC)
- * John Ensign (R-NV)
- * Judd Gregg (R-NH)
- * James Inhofe (R-OK)
- * Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
- * Jon Kyl (R-AZ)
- David Vitter (R-LA)
The nine marked with asterisks also voted to completely eliminate the minimum wage last week. As contemptible as we may find them; we can, at least, allow that they are voting for their convictions. They have disgusting, destructive convictions, but they are consistent in them. Some people find that admirable; so I will grant them that point. Personally, I think they should all be voted out at the first opportunity. But what about the other eighteen who voted to eliminate the minimum wage, but, when the wind is blowing against them, won't vote against raising the minimum wage? How much contempt do they deserve? Just to name three, Sens. McCain and Brownback are running for president and Sen. McConnell is regularly mentioned as a candidate for the Supreme Court.
Think Progress points out something that the ten who voted against the minimum wage have in common. They are all white males, all southern, except one and, combined, they are worth about thirty-five million dollars. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) alone accounts for more than half of that value.
Last year, Isakson gave a sppech in the Senate against raising the minimum wage. He began by misquoting an old Mills Brothers song ("You Always Hurt the One You Love", which he called an "old country song: 'You only hurt the ones you love'.”) He misrepresented the origin of the minimum wage:
One year after the first minimum wage was established, Franklin Roosevelt’s own Department of Labor made the following observation:
In a number of instances, there have been reports that workers who had been receiving less than [the new minimum wage] had been laid off, and replaced by more efficient workers.
In 1937, with unemployment still high, there were a great number of highly qualified workers available for employers to pick and choose from. Yet in the same speech, Isakson describes the current economy as the exact opposite of the 1937 situation.
In most of the years I worked, we were in the type of economy we are today. We were in full employment where you are competing for the best and the brightest.
I believe the minimum wage is appropriate, but I believe to take a time of full employment, a time of a vibrant economy, a time when study after study indicates the exact opposite of what the distinguished Senator said, would be sending the absolute worst signal.
Johnny Isakson's arguments are disjointed, illogical, and dishonest. Are any of those who oppose the minimum wage any better? Let's remember their names when they come up for reelection and send them home to live off their investments and not plague us with their retrogressive class warfare.