Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Marco Rubio: "Minimum Wage Laws Have Never Worked"
Perhaps seeking to upstage his own awkward "watergate" moment last night, Florida Senator Marco Rubio came out swinging, not only against President Obama's proposal to raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour, but against the entire concept of minimum wage itself, telling CBS, "I don't think a minimum wage law works."
He could've just stopped speaking at, "I don't think."
When adjusted for inflation, the current minimum wage is the lowest it's been since 1951. And while minimum wage laws were originally intended to curb employer abuses and provide a livable wage, few would argue that a meager $15,000 a year is enough today to afford a year's worth of rent or housing, car notes (and car insurance), grocery costs (bottled water, hello), healthcare costs, gas, electricity and heating bills, water bills, much less other requirements of the modern labor force like mobile phones and Internet access.
The truth is, $9 isn't unreasonable at all, and neither was the $9.50 Obama first promised when he was running in 2008 (promise not kept). It certainly isn't unreasonable to suggest raising minimum wage to $9 and tethering it to the consumer price index (CPI). Even Mitt Romney liked the second idea.
If the minimum wage had kept pace with rises in inflation over the past 40 years, it wouldn't be $7.25 today. It wouldn't even be $9 or $9.50. Minimum wage would be $10.58 an hour.
But even that may be too low historically. A report last year indicated that "had the US income distribution and US standards of decency remained exactly what it was in 1968, the minimum wage would now be $21.16 per hour."
Still, we could get even more radical. Instead of tethering the minimum wage to the CPI, we could tether it to rises in CEO pay. Back in 2005, a report showed that, had minimum wage compensation risen as fast CEO pay since 1990, it would've been $23.03 in 2005, when minimum wage was still just $5.15. That report came out over 7 years ago, so we can safely assume it would be even higher today, because income inequality has only grown since then.
Yet, according to Marco Rubio, "Minimum wage laws have never worked in terms of helping the middle class attain more prosperity."
is greater than it has been since the pre-depression Gilded Age, we can't possibly expect our politicians, Democrat or Republican, to have the guts to even think about treating us as if we deserve the same rise in pay as corporate executives. For now, $9 an hour would be a definite step forward if it is chained to inflation. Chaining it to inflation would render arguments that minimum wage increases boost inflation both circular and moot, and would ensure that, at the very least, economic inequality doesn't continue to grow exponentially.
No one is asking for class warfare (the graph above suggests the 1% has been waging and winning that war for a long time). No one is trying to destroy business or bring down capitalism. We are only asking for the fulfillment of the promise of the American dream that we've heard about all our lives: If you dream big and work hard, you will succeed, and you will be able to provide for yourself and your family.
Is the so-called American dream real, or is it just snake oil?
Today, that dream is not a reality. And while we understand that Mr. Rubio and his fellow Republicans are highly concerned that their corporate buddies might lose their obscene advantage over the peasant class should the minimum wage be transformed into a living wage, most of us are more concerned with ensuring that everyone has a fair shot, and not just with ensuring the perpetuity of 1% exclusivity.