Now it’s official. The Republicans who control Congress are utterly without shame. They stacked a bill that had been introduced by Democratic lawmakers to raise the minimum wage, loading it up with billions in benefits for the wealthy (again) and attempting to make an out-of-balance quid pro quo in which the poor got a few pennies while the rich got yet more billions and the country got yet more debt. Since the GOP took control of Congress, it’s turned that branch of government into an ATM for the wealthiest people in the country.
With the kind of hard-heartedness that would have made Ebenezer Scrooge blush, our political leaders have managed to keep the national minimum wage locked in at $5.15 per hour for almost a decade (and they had, of course, fought the attempts mounted back in the mid-’90s to raise the minimum wage to that pitiful level).
In 1996, the last time Congress managed to hike the minimum wage up to the munificent sum of $5.15 per hour, the GOP tacked on more than $21 billion in corporate tax breaks to that bill. And the reason Democrats were unable to pass a new minimum-wage bill this year is because Republicans, true to form, wanted to turn such a bill into yet another big gift basket of tax breaks for the wealthy that would have added almost a trillion dollars to the national debt.
If you work full time at minimum wage for 52 weeks a year (no vacations for the working poor since you couldn’t afford to go anywhere anyway), then you’re going to earn an annual gross salary of $10,712 before anything at all is withheld. You’re going to take home somewhere around $8,000, and if anyone knows how to live on that kind of pay, there probably a lot of money to be made telling other people how that’s possible.
If there’s a hell, and if people go there for being shameless, then Senator Bill Frist is surely hell-bound. He’s the guy who loaded up the minimum-wage bill with goodies for the rich. Once in hell, the only just punishment for guys like him would be to try to get by on the kind of pay they seem to think is adequate for others.
But not for them, of course. Over that decade during which the minimum wage has remained frozen, politicians of both parties in the House and Senate have managed to set partisanship aside long enough to vote themselves some $29,000 in pay increases, but they’ve been unable to forge enough bipartisan unity to pass a national minimum wage for the working stiffs of the nation who, unlike them, often do actual work.
Congress voted hastily to defeat the minimum-wage bill because the pols were all anxious to get out of town for their annual month-long vacations. Those who are up for re-election couldn’t wait to get back to their home districts so they could begin to use their votes on this bogus bill to make it appear that they actually were doing the people’s work.
But they weren’t. And now it’s official. They are without any sense of shame whatsoever.