11 Things The Senate Should Remember While Voting On The Minimum Wage

— by CAP Action War Room

After returning from a two-week recess, the Senate is planning to vote on raising the minimum wage to $10.10 this Wednesday. The bill, called the “Minimum Wage Fairness Act,” needs 60 votes to advance thanks to the de facto GOP filibuster threat. And while in the past we have used this space to outline many of the different benefits of raising the minimum wage to $10.10, in anticipation of this important vote we wanted to go over some of the most important reasons one more time. Here they are:

  1. Increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 and indexing it to inflation would raise the wages of 28 million workers by $35 billion. Raising the minimum wage would provide Americans who work hard a better opportunity to get ahead while giving the economy a needed shot in the arm.
  2. In 2013, CEOs made 774 times the pay of minimum wage workers.While the top CEOs made an average of $11.7 million in 2013, full-time workers making the minimum wage took home only $15,080 a year.
  3. Nearly two-thirds of all minimum wage workers are women. Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 would benefit 15 million women.
  4. One million veterans would benefit from a minimum wage increase.After risking their lives to protect our country, 1 in 10 veterans working in America today are paid wages low enough that they would receive a raise if the minimum wage is raised to $10.10.
  5. Raising the minimum wage will cut government spending on food stamps. Millions of workers earning the minimum wage make so little that they qualify for food stamps (SNAP benefits). This, in effect, amounts to taxpayers subsidizing corporations paying low-wages. Raising wages for low-income workers would actually cut government spending on SNAP by $4.6 billion a year, or $46 billion over the next 10 years, as workers earn enough on their own to no longer rely on the program.
  6. Minimum wage workers are older than you think. Nearly 90 percent of minimum wage workers are 20 years or older. The average minimum wage worker is 35 years old. A higher minimum wage doesn’t just mean more spending money for a teenager, it means greater economic security for the millions of Americans who rely on it as their primary income.
  7. Businesses see the value in increasing the minimum wage. Nearly 60 percent of small business owners recognize that raising the minimum wage would benefit businesses and support raising it. In fact, 82 percent of those surveyed don’t pay any of their workers the federal minimum wage of $7.25.
  8. It won’t hurt job creation. States have raised the minimum wage 91 times since 1987 during periods of high unemployment, and in more than half of those instances the unemployment rate actually fell. Over 600 economists signed a letter agreeing that a minimum wage increase doesn’t hurt job creation.
  9. In polls, nearly three-quarters of Americans support a minimum wage increase to $10.10. Pew Research found that 73 percent of Americans back a minimum wage increase.
  10. Millions of children will be more secure. If we raise the minimum wage to $10.10, 21 million children will have at least one parent whose pay will go up.
  11. A $10.10 minimum wage means a $16.1 billion boost for people of colorRaising the minimum wage is a matter of racial justice: people of color are far more likely to work minimum wage jobs and those who do are far more likely to be in poverty. A $10.10 minimum wage would lift three and a half million people of color out of poverty and add $16.1 billion to their incomes.

BOTTOM LINE: Over the next few days, as Senators take to the chamber floor to debate and then vote on this legislation that would help the economy and millions of American workers, they should make sure they keep in mind these vital facts on why the minimum wage should be raised to $10.10. A vote against increasing the minimum wage is quite simply a vote against working Americans.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

What I signed today

Earlier today, I signed an Executive Order to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 for federal contract workers.

It’s the right thing to do. But what’s more, companies have found that when their employees earn more, they’re more motivated, they work harder, and they stick around longer. You should expect the same of your federal government.

The bottom line is this: We are a nation that believes in rewarding honest work with honest wages. And America deserves a raise.

If you agree, let me know you’re standing with me — and take a look at what else we’re going to do in 2014.

The order I signed today will help folks across the country. But it’s not enough.

Right now, there’s a bill in Congress that would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour for all Americans. It would lift wages for more than 28 million current workers, and would move millions of Americans out of poverty. That means businesses would have customers with more money to spend.

Raising the minimum wage would grow the economy for everyone.

You don’t need to believe me: Believe the 600 economists — including seven Nobel Prize winners — who wrote both houses of Congress last month to remind them that the bill before them will have little or no negative effect on jobs.

When I stood before both chambers of Congress and said that I intended for 2014 to be a year of action, that wasn’t just a nice line in a speech. It was an acknowledgment that we’ve got to restore opportunity for everyone in America — the idea that no matter who you are, or how you started out, you can get ahead here if you’re responsible and willing to work for it. That’s what this “year of action” is all about.

And since that speech, I have taken actions on my own to make it easier for folks to save for retirement, help working Americans get the skills that good jobs demand, and assist millions of Americans who have been looking for work for several months. I’ve announced a major new commitment toward connecting our schools to 21st-century technology.

That action continues today, and in the months to come.

Take a look at what we’ve done already and what’s to come.

Thank you,

President Barack Obama

Are We Doomed to Ever More Inequality?

New research suggests that we’re certainly headed that way unless we go beyond token changes.

— by Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati

America’s ongoing debate over economic inequality may be turning a new page.

Starting in the 1980s, during the debate’s first chapter, pundits and policymakers battled over whether the United States was in fact becoming more unequal. This initial debate is over now. No serious analyst argues any longer that the gulf between America’s rich and everyone else hasn’t jumped substantially.

The debate’s second chapter — over the impact of the wealth of the ultra-rich — is still playing out. A decade ago, mainstream orthodoxy held that we didn’t need to worry about how much wealth the ultra-rich were amassing. We needed to focus instead — and only — on creating opportunity for people at the bottom of the economic ladder.

pizzigati-inequalitysuitmoneypowerceowallstreetbankerpaymoneycashcorporatecorporations-Truthout.orgTruthout.org/Flickr

This perspective has lost substantial ground. Most top analysts now agree that we endanger our democracy and destabilize our economy whenever we let income and wealth concentrate.

Today’s inequality experts have moved on. They’re now debating a more fundamental proposition. Is growing inequality, they’re asking, the default for modern market economies?

Before World War II, that seemed to be the case. Deep inequality and equally deep economic crises appeared inevitable in market economies. Then, in the decades right after World War II, everything seemed to change.

The United States became significantly more equal. The wealthy saw their share of national income plummet. A new prosperous mass-middle class took shape, first in the United States and then across the developed world.

But this middle class golden age didn’t last. Since the 1970s, our plutocrats have returned and middle class prosperity has faded. Can that prosperity be restored?

Enter the French economist Thomas Piketty, a global superstar on matters of distribution. A dozen years ago, a Piketty book on French incomes helped revolutionize how researchers calculate — and think about — the incomes of society’s richest.

All those numbers you see about the incomes of America’s top 1 percent? They typically trace back to Piketty’s pioneering work. Now this French scholar has a new book, due out this March in English, and some of the world’s most respected experts on inequality are positively swooning over it.

The World Bank’s Branko Milanovic has dubbed Piketty’s new work, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, “one of the watershed books in economic thinking.”

Piketty’s analysis actually begins back in the 18th century. This historical sweep helps him present equality’s mid-20th century heyday as an “unrepeatable phenomenon,” the product of cataclysmic world war and severe shocks to the body politic.

In the mid-20th century epoch, Piketty details, the economies of major developed nations grew at a faster rate than the return the wealthy could collect from their income-producing assets. That had never happened before — and hasn’t since. The return from capital — the income that asset ownership generates — has always outpaced the overall economic growth rate.

Why does this matter? The wealthy own a disproportionate share of society’s assets. If the income these assets generate is rising faster than the economy is growing, society’s wealth will inevitably end up concentrating at the top, as we’ve seen over the past four decades.

Left uninterrupted, Piketty argues, this dynamic might well return us to levels of inequality last seen in 19th-century Europe, a time when the top 1 percent held 60 percent of all wealth — almost double the share of national wealth America’s current top 1 percent holds.

What will it take to interrupt this intense wealth concentration? Nothing short of full-throttled redistribution, says Piketty. We would need to levy a progressive wealth tax on a global scale to prevent the world’s super rich from shifting their assets to low-tax havens.

Piketty’s work, in effect, changes our frame of reference. If modern market economies generate growing inequality as a matter of course, then reversing that inequality will take a great deal more than a few tweaks around the edges.


OtherWords columnist Sam Pizzigati, an Institute for Policy Studies associate fellow, edits the inequality weekly Too Much. His latest book is The Rich Don’t Always Win: The Forgotten Triumph over Plutocracy that Created the American Middle Class. OtherWords.org

What I’ve Been Reading Lately— Monday, 3/25/2013

Lean in, Women; Corporations and Government, Brush Off Your Hands

Veena Trehan, Op-Ed: Fifty years ago, Betty Friedan’s “Feminine Mystique” explained how wives were not fulfilled by homemaking and childbearing. Woman couldn’t get credit, were fired when their pregnancy showed and held mostly assistant or teaching positions in the 1960s. We’ve come a long way. Today, women comprise 58 percent of college students, 33 percent more college graduates than men, and a strong presence in most industries. Yet, they make up only 20 percent of Congress, 4 percent of Fortune 500 companies’ CEOs, and 15 percent of senior executives.

Senate Passes Monsanto Protection Act Granting Monsanto Power Over U.S. Govt.

Anthony Gucciardi, News Report: In case you’re not familiar, the Monsanto Protection Act is the name given to what’s known as a legislative rider that was inserted into the Senate Continuing Resolution spending bill. Using the deceptive title of Farmer Assurance Provision, Sec. 735 of this bill actually grants Monsanto the immunity from federal courts pending the review of any GM crop that is thought to be dangerous. Under the section, courts would be helpless to stop Monsanto from continuing to plant GM crops that are thought even by the US government to be a danger to health or the environment.

Drone Warfare is Neither Cheap, Nor Surgical, Nor Decisive

William Astore, Op-Ed: Today’s unmanned aerial vehicles, most famously Predator and Reaper drones, have been celebrated as the culmination of the longtime dreams of airpower enthusiasts, offering the possibility of victory through quick, clean and selective destruction. Those drones, so the (very old) story goes, assure the U.S. military of command of the high ground and so provide the royal road to a speedy and decisive triumph over helpless enemies below. Fantasies about the certain success of air power in transforming, even ending, war as we know it arose with the plane itself.

Don’t Like Your Health Insurance? Make Your Own

Nina Rogozen, News Report: Millions of Americans lack adequate health care, using emergency rooms as a costly alternative or getting no care at all. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), often called “Obamacare,” opened the door for an affordable option. The December 31, 2012 deal between Congress and the administration that avoided the so-called “fiscal cliff” has, at least for the moment, closed that door for 26 states. The ACA funds private, nonprofit health insurers called Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans—CO-OPs. It originally set aside $3.4 billion for low-interest loans—seed money for at least one health cooperative in each state, plus Washington, D.C.

Capitalism in Crisis: Richard Wolff Urges End to Austerity, New Jobs Program, Democratizing Work

Amy Goodman, Video Interview: As Washington lawmakers pushes new austerity measures, economist Richard Wolff calls for a radical restructuring of the U.S. economic and financial systems. We talk about the $85 billion budget cuts as part of the sequester, banks too big to fail, Congress’ failure to learn the lessons of the 2008 economic collapse and his new book, “Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism.” Wolff also gives FOX news host Bill O’Reilly a lesson in economics 101.

America Split in Two: Five Ugly Extremes of Inequality

Paul Buchheit, Op-Ed: The first step is to learn the facts, and then to get angry and to ask ourselves as progressives and caring human beings, what we can do about the relentless transfer of wealth to a small group of well-positioned Americans. End the capital gains giveaway, which benefits the wealthy almost exclusively. Institute a Financial Speculation Tax; both to raise needed funds from a currently untaxed subsidy on stock purchases and to reduce the risk of the irresponsible trading that nearly brought down the economy.

Thirteen Offensive Things Justice Scalia’s Compared to Homosexuality

Ian Millhiser, News Report: Tomorrow, the Supreme Court will hear the first of two cases which could end discrimination against same-sex couples and ensure that all Americans can marry the person they love. Whatever happens in those two cases, one thing is all but certain: Justice Antonin Scalia will vote to maintain marriage discrimination and he will spend much of this week’s oral arguments making insulting comments about LGBT Americans. After the offensive things Scalia compared homosexuality to in his past opinions, Scalia concludes his Lawrence dissent with a plea that he is not in the least bit anti-gay. “Let me be clear,” Scalia writes, “that I have nothing against homosexuals.”

Asia and a Post-American Middle East

Yuriko Koike, Op-Ed: When the consequences of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq ten years ago are fully assessed, the importance of the subsequent rise of political Islam there—and throughout the wider Middle East—may well pale in comparison to that of a geostrategic shift that no one foresaw at the time. That shift, however, has now come into view. With America approaching energy self-sufficiency, a U.S. strategic disengagement from the region may become a reality. China’s dependence on Middle East energy imports means that it is almost certain to seek to fill any regional security vacuum.

How to Avoid Fake Organic Products

Anthony Gucciardi, News Report: Thanks to corporate loopholes and profit-driven manufacturers, it’s harder than ever to really know what you are putting into your body — or perhaps even more importantly the mouths of your children. That said, it is possible to make sure you’re getting what is not just labeled organic and shipped from a contaminated facility in China, but actually high quality. The fact of the matter is that the decision to switch to organic food is one that signifies a serious change in lifestyle across the board, leading to a wealth of information and serious optimizations for your health.

Dozens Arrested as Keystone XL Protests Erupt Across the U.S.

News Report: One month after the largest climate rally in U.S. history urging President Obama to deny the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline’s northern segment, protesters in dozens of cities throughout the U.S. are confronting Keystone XL’s corporate backers directly. Thirty-seven have been arrested over the last 10 days for disrupting business as usual at TransCanada and their investors’ offices, with more actions planned over the next couple of days.

Debt Friendly Stimulus

Robert J. Shiller, Op-Ed: With much of the global economy apparently trapped in a long and painful austerity-induced slump, it is time to admit that the trap is entirely of our own making. We have constructed it from unfortunate habits of thought about how to handle spiraling public debt. People developed these habits on the basis of the experiences of their families and friends: when in debt trouble, one must cut spending and pass through a period of austerity until the burden (debt relative to income) is reduced.

Fox: Americans Need Assault Weapons to Protect Themselves from an Iranian Invasion, Al Qaeda

Igor Volsky, News Report: During a roundtable discussion on Friday, Fox News’ Lou Dobbs agreed with a network contributor who argued that Americans need to access military-style assault weapons to protect themselves from an Iranian invasion. “What scares the hell out of me we have a president, as we were discussing during break, that wants to take away our guns, but yet he wants to attack Iran and Syria. So if they come and attack us here, we don’t have the right to bear arms under this Obama administration,” Angela McGlowan, a former lobbyist for News Corp., said in the midst of a conversation about violence in Syria.

Climate Change Now Seen as Security Threat Worldwide

Jim Lobe, News Report: Defense establishments around the world increasingly see climate change as posing potentially serious threats to national and international security, according to a review of high-level statements by the world’s governments released here Thursday. The review, “The Global Security Defense Index on Climate Change: Preliminary Results,” found that nearly three out of four governments for which relevant information is available view the possible effects of climate change as a serious national security issue.

Tea Party Aligned S. Carolina Candidate Bankrolled by Kentucky Natural Gas Exec

Michael Beckel, News Analysis: Natural gas executive James Willard Kinzer of Kentucky is one of more than 100 small business owners listed online as supporting Curtis Bostic, the former Charleston County council member who appears to have advanced to a runoff against former Gov. Mark Sanford following Tuesday’s 16-way GOP primary in South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District. But he’s much more than that. Not only did Kinzer donate the legal maximum to Bostic’s underdog campaign, he pumped $30,000 into a pro-Bostic super PAC called the “Coastal Conservative Fund.”

BBC-Guardian Exposé Uses WikiLeaks to Link Iraq Torture Centers to U.S. Col. Steele and Gen. Petraeus

Amy Goodman, Video Feature: A shocking new report has been released by The Guardian newspaper and BBC Arabic detailing how the United States armed and trained Iraqi police commando units that ran torture centers and death squads. It’s a story that stretches from the U.S.-backed involvement in Latin America to the imprisoned Army whistleblower Bradley Manning. Amy Goodman is joined by Chief Reporter Maggie O’Kane

Beware the New Corporate Tax-Cut Scam: LIFT is a Big LIE

Dave Johnson, Op-Ed: The executives who run the giant multinationals want to be let off the hook for paying taxes on profits they make outside our borders. As an Apple executive said to The New York Times, giant multinationals “don’t have an obligation to solve America’s problems.” And to prove it, American corporations are holding $1.7 trillion in profits outside the country—just sitting there—rather than bringing that money home, paying the taxes due and then paying it out to shareholders or using it to “create jobs” with new factories, research facilities and equipment.

Full Show: What Has Capitalism Done for Us Lately?

Bill Moyers, Video Interview: Sheila Bair, the longtime Republican who served as chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) during the fiscal meltdown five years ago, joins to talk about American banks’ continuing risky and manipulative practices, their seeming immunity from prosecution and growing anger from Congress and the public. Also, Richard Wolff, whose smart, blunt talk about the crisis of capitalism the first time around now answers questions sent in by viewers, diving further into economic inequality, the limitations of industry regulation and the widening gap between a booming stock market and a population that increasingly lives in poverty.

An Open Letter to Mitch McConnell, From a Kentuckian

Carl Gibson, Op-Ed: Kentuckians live by the phrase, “United We Stand, Divided We Fall.” It’s emblazoned on our flag, and shows two men, a frontiersman (Daniel Boone) and a statesman (Henry Clay) standing together. They may be standing on opposite sides of the seal, but their embrace symbolizes a spirit of cooperation and caring for your fellow man even though you may sometimes disagree with him. Yet, as Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell proudly announced that his chief goal as the top Republican member was not to create jobs or help schools or look out for struggling middle class, but to deny President Obama a second term.

GMO Boycott: Major Supermarkets Say NO to GM Salmon

Anthony Gucciardi, News Report: Whether or not the FDA chooses to approve genetically modified salmon for sale in the marketplace, supermarkets themselves have decided to take a stand in the form of a mass boycott. One that would serve to crush the profits of the unlabeled seafood abomination. In a move that signifies the growing opposition to genetically modified creations from a grassroots level all the way to corporate understanding of consumer demand, chains like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Aldi, and others are now all reporting that they will refuse the sale of AquaBounty Technology’s modified salmon.

Faced with F-35 Failures, Costs; Congress Says to Push On

William Boardman, News Report: The F-35 is a case study of government failure at all levels—civilian and military, federal, state, local, even airport authority. Not one critical government agency is meeting its obligation to protect the people it presumably represents. Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who wrote the F-35 critique above, is hardly unique as an illustration of how government fails, but he sees no alternative to failure. The F-35 is a nuclear-capable weapon of mass destruction that was supposed to be the “fighter of the future” when it was undertaken in 2001.

The Capital of Inequality

The Washington region’s increasingly rich elite are now zipping along in Lexus lanes.

By Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati

Politicians inside the Beltway that circles Washington, D.C., most of us would agree, don’t understand the challenges of daily life that average Americans face outside the Beltway.

But these days, if you really want to understand everyday life in our deeply unequal society, the best place to look may now be on the Beltway.

The highway officials who run the Beltway’s stretch that winds through Northern Virginia have just opened up the nation’s latest set of “Lexus lanes.” For a stiff fee, affluent motorists can now zip around the Beltway in “express toll lanes” while less affluent fellow motorists sit stalled in rush-hour traffic jams.

And those fellow motorists do a lot of stalling. The Washington region has more traffic congestion than any other major U.S. metro area. In 2010, commuters in the D.C. area lost an incredible 74 hours to traffic jams, up from just 20 hours in 1982.

Something else fundamental — besides traffic — has changed around Washington. The area has become substantially more unequal.

The national capital region used to be a middle class haven, a place where average federal employees, The Washington Post recalls, could take home “modest but steady paychecks.”

But the federal government has been outsourcing federal jobs, over recent decades, to private contractors. For average workers, this change has meant less secure employment and smaller paychecks. For Washington’s “growing upper class of federal contractors, lobbyists, and lawyers,” notes a recent Reuters analysis, this switch has brought a steady gusher of windfalls.

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Two decades ago, a family had to make $368,000, in today’s dollars, to enter the Washington area’s most affluent 1 percent. Top 1 percent status today doesn’t kick in until $527,000. In 2011, the top 5 percent of D.C. area households took home 54 times more income than the bottom 20 percent. No state in the entire nation has a wider top-to-bottom gap.

Economists see powerful links between levels of inequality this high and traffic congestion. In deeply unequal regions, the wealthy bid up the price of the choicest real estate, and that forces cash-squeezed middle class families to move further out to find decent housing.

The further away people live from their work, the more traffic on the roads. Those American counties where commuting times have increased the most, Cornell economist Robert Frank points out, just happen to be those counties “with the largest increases in inequality.”

How should we respond to all this congested commuting? Americans have traditionally battled traffic jams by building new roads with the dollars that come from gas taxes. But state gas taxes in the United States, on average, haven’t increased in a decade. Overall government spending for infrastructure, meanwhile, has been dropping, from 3.3 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product in 1968 to 1.3 percent in 2011. This long-term decline began at almost exactly the same time as the level of inequality in the United States started rising.

Researchers see no coincidence here. The states where the rich have gained the most at the expense of the middle class turn out to be the states that invest the least in infrastructure.

Enter “Lexus lanes.” These “dynamically priced” roadways solve the problem of traffic congestion — but only for the affluent. If too many people start using a Lexus lane and traffic slows, the tolls rise — and keep rising until the car volume drops enough to get traffic moving again.

Toll fees on Washington’s new Lexus lanes have no cap. In really bad traffic, officials acknowledge, tolls might jump to $1.25 per mile.

That’s no problem for the affluent. They get speedy, tension-free commutes — at a cost they find negligible.

The rest of us do get something out of the Lexus Lane deal. We get confirmation, as we sit and stew in horrific traffic, that inequality as deep as ours simply makes no sense.


OtherWords columnist Sam Pizzigati is an Institute for Policy Studies associate fellow. His latest book is The Rich Don’t Always Win: The Forgotten Triumph over Plutocracy that Created the American Middle Class. OtherWords.org