House Republicans Vote to Keep Millions in Poverty by Refusing to Raise the Minimum Wage

minimum wage poverty

Most Americans understand that a business is some kind of enterprise involved in the trade of goods, services, or both to consumers for a profit, and that there is a difference between a small business and a giant organization. Republicans though, conflate small businesses with giant corporate retailers and manufacturers because it plays into their narrative that government exists to either work to advance profits of giant corporations or terrorize small local businesses and drive them into bankruptcy. Republicans conveniently use businesses in their never-ending deregulation frenzy and perpetual tax cut crusade, but they are never protecting small businesses that complain their businesses are not hurt by over-taxation or crushing government regulations, but because consumers are not buying their goods and services. It is just one reason the President’s stimulus was so  successful creating millions of jobs because it put people to work making good wages and when people earn more, they spend more, and businesses prosper.

In the furor and enthralling reporting on the CPAC2013 events, or the news that the Steubenville rapists were found guilty, there was little mention that on Friday, House Republicans unanimously voted against raising the federal minimum wage. Republicans effectively guaranteed that the working poor will continue falling deeper into poverty, and giant retailers will continue posting record profits. The Republicans justified voting against the minimum wage hike with the same tired reason they use to cut corporate taxes and kill regulations; “it will drive up unemployment by making it harder for small businesses to hire.” When President Obama called for an increase in the minimum wage during his State of the Union address, Speaker John Boehner immediately dismissed the idea and said “when you raise the price of employment, it makes it harder for small employers to hire people.” However, the worn-out Republican argument is not borne out by the facts, or testimony from small business owners, and Republicans know it because their definition of “small businesses” is giant retailers such as Walmart.

Protecting corporations like Walmart from paying slightly more than poverty level wages may help the Walton family’s profit margin, but it hurts the economy, the workers, and costs the American people tax dollars. Walmart employees earn such low wages they are encouraged by the retail giant to sign up for food stamps and Medicare or Medicaid because they know their employees will qualify for assistance even though they are employed. Americans have been subsidizing Walmart’s payroll and bottom line because they pay less-than-living wages and keep most employees on part-time status, while they post record profits. But as  Walmart and other giant retailers profit from Republican protection, Americans are falling deeper into poverty that raising the minimum wage will hardly prevent.

As it is now, close to 30-million people earn the minimum wage at their jobs, and these hard-working Americans are locked in with same paycheck year after year, while the cost of living climbs steadily. A worker earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour earns $14,500 a year if they are fortunate enough to work full time. Not only are they at or below poverty, they are working harder and their productivity is at record levels and climbing. If the minimum wage kept pace with productivity since 1968, it should have reached $21.72 an hour in 2012 according to a new study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research. President Obama called for the minimum to increase to $9.00 an hour, and Republicans immediately went into “protect small business” mode and said any raise will “make it harder for small businesses to  hire people.” However, that is not true; most small businesses and many large businesses like Costco and Starbucks pay substantially more than the minimum wage, provide benefits, make record profits, expand their businesses, and still hire people.

Businesses will benefit from raising the minimum to $9.00 an hour because people who are not wealthy spend every last penny they earn on basic survival. As Americans earn more, they will spend more and the business community will prosper, but a full-time worker at poverty level wage contributes to Medicare and food stamp spending that Republicans are frantic to slash. Minimum wage workers need food and healthcare assistance because at the current minimum, working 40-hours per week cannot afford rent for an apartment in any state in the nation. In some states, a worker would need to put in at least 63 hours a week just to afford rent, and up to 130 hours in several others. It means Republicans not only want Americans to barely afford a roof over their head, they are determined to keep them either starving and sick, or dependent on food stamps and Medicaid;  the GOP’s favorite targets for Draconian cuts.

Admittedly, even a paltry increase to $9.00 an hour will help every minimum wage worker and put more money into the economy that in turn helps businesses hire new employees, but while corporate profits soar and the stock market breaks new records almost daily, the working poor continue to fall farther behind and slip deeper into poverty. All the while, Republicans beholden to big business and corporate profits deliberately keep tens-of-millions of Americans in poverty level jobs and look for new ways to take away the food and healthcare assistance that American taxpayers provide as payroll subsidies to corporate giants like Walmart. Republicans are crushing real small businesses they claim to protect by keeping a major portion of the workforce too poor to buy goods and services, and that is the only reason a small business is unable to hire new workers and reduce unemployment. Republicans could not care less about small businesses any more than they do minimum wage workers, but they do care about and  protect corporate giants like Walmart’s profit margin regardless it increases poverty. The depth of Republicans’ malice is they are deliberately increasing the number of people dependent on food stamps and Medicaid they claim are unsustainable entitlements that they appear to be increasing to bolster their argument they must be drastically cut making them evil personified.

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