Suicide is intentionally causing one’s own death and is usually committed out of despair that may be attributed to a mental disorder such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, alcoholism, or drug abuse. Human beings in the modern era may also be driven to take their own life due to seemingly overwhelming stress factors such as the inability to cope with interpersonal relationships or financial difficulties. Mental health experts are constantly making efforts to prevent suicides including limiting access to firearms, treating mental illness and drug misuse, and improving economic situations. For Speaker of the House John Boehner, it is the prospect of the government attempting to improve the economic situation of underpaid workers that drives him to consider suicide.
Boehner seriously wants Americans earning minimum wage to stay in poverty and has no plan to allow a vote on raising the minimum wage. When Boehner was head of the House Republican Conference in 1996, he said, “I’ll commit suicide before I vote on a clean minimum-wage bill” during an interview with the Weekly Standard. Four months later President Bill Clinton signed a minimum wage increase of 90 cents from $4.25 per hour to $5.15 despite Boehner’s objections and suicide threat even though the bill contained Republican demands for tax breaks for businesses. Boehner voted against another wage hike in 2007 when Democrats took over the House that raised the minimum to its current rate of $7.25.
The only time Boehner voted to increase the minimum wage came in 2006, and that was because the legislation destined to fail. Boehner backed a measure that raised the minimum wage to $7.25 over three years, but it also included deep cuts to the estate tax that made the bill dead-on-arrival in the Senate. Boehner’s opposition to help hardworking Americans out of poverty is still so stressful he reiterated this past week that he would rather kill himself than raise the minimum wage. If Boehner had his way, minimum wage workers would still be earning $4.25 per hour and it informs his desire to see a nation of peasants and big businesses posting more obscene profits than they already regularly record.
For over a year President Obama has sought Congress’s assistance in raising the federal minimum wage to help tens-of-millions of underpaid workers escape poverty, if only barely, and boost the economy because minimum wage workers would have more money to spend. Yesterday during his Saturday radio address the President called on Americans to plead with Republicans in Congress to raise the minimum wage and reiterated that raising the pathetic $7.25 minimum “would lift wages for more than 16 million Americans without requiring a single dollar in new taxes or spending. But even though a majority of Democrats, independents and Republicans across the country support raising the minimum wage, Republicans in Congress don’t want to give it a vote.” However, it is highly likely that if the President called for eliminating the minimum wage or reducing it to $1.00 per hour, Republicans led by John Boehner would vote for it in a heartbeat to provide big businesses like Walmart and McDonald’s a giant boost to their bottom line.
The President is correct that there is overwhelming support for raising the minimum wage, but like anything this President and the American people want, Republicans serve higher powers and as slaves to big business Boehner will not allow a vote. The President recognizes the opposition in the House and told radio listeners that “Hardworking Americans deserve better than ‘no’. Let’s tell Congress to say ‘yes.’ Pass that bill. Give America a raise. Because here in America, no one who works hard should have to live in poverty– and everyone who works hard should have a chance to get ahead.” It is possible President Obama is unaware of Boehner’s suicidal tendencies at the mere mention of lifting Americans out of poverty, or the principle that hard-working Americans should not live in financial despair, but he is likely aware that Boehner and Republicans truly want a nation of peasants groveling before the rich for an existence that would drive lesser peoples to suicide.
It is true that Boehner and Republicans want the entire American workforce earning poverty wages and it has everything to do with their association and adoration of corporations funding lobbyists producing tainted economic reports detailing the existential threat to America if workers earn a penny more than poverty wages. One corporate-backed organization is the Employment Policies Institute conservatives depend on to bolster their contention that a nation of peasants is key to a thriving economy. In fact, the group regularly produces reports warning that raising the minimum wage will severely damage the American economy and send poverty wage employees into deeper poverty. Last month during a briefing to Capitol Hill staffers, Joseph J. Sabia, an associate professor of economics at San Diego State University who has earned at least $180,000 in grant money from the Employment Policies Institute (EPI) said “There is never a good time to raise the minimum wage, because you are not reaching the poor workers you want to help.” One wonders what perversion afflicts conservative economists who claim raising poor workers’ minimum wages does not reach the poor workers earning minimum wages, but conservative economists’ minds are perverse indeed and fit nicely with Republicans’ views of the poor.
The organization’s reports are generally prepared by outside academics like Sabia, and internal company documents show that members of the EPI team regularly discuss ways to massage academic data to change outcomes when they benefit corporate-backed projects such as thwarting a hike in the minimum wage. The man leading EPI, Richard Berman, said “I get very upset when people say we are putting out junk science and twisted economics, because that happens to be our criticism of other people,” and yet Berman’s group used seven separate reports concluding that increasing the minimum wage causes damage to poverty wage workers and the economy. Maybe Boehner is so wrought with sorrow and compassion for workers earning $3.00 more per hour now than in 1996 when he first considered suicide that his conscience will not allow a vote to raise the minimum, or he and his fellow Republicans just hate the poor and love big business.
Regardless of what President Obama or the American people want, Boehner will not allow a vote on a minimum wage increase and it has nothing to do with his aversion to staying alive. Doing anything to help poverty wage workers is contrary to everything Republicans and their corporate sponsors believe in. Besides, Boehner earns $223,500 and House members $ 174,000 annually for 113 scheduled days of doing absolutely nothing and it does not include tens-of-thousands of dollars in honoraria and corporate gifts or their taxpayer-funded health insurance benefits. It is remarkable that while Boehner is willing to commit suicide instead of raising the minimum wage, House members pay increased from $133,600 in 1996 to $174,000 currently and there are no reports of Boehner threatening suicide or calling for a reduction in congressional pay to relieve the stress of receiving a minimum congressional pay hike.
As President Obama wisely elucidated in his radio address, raising the minimum wage will not require a tax increase or any additional government spending which has been the Republican objection to anything he has proposed to help the economy or Americans barely surviving on less-than-poverty wages. The President can make all the impassioned pleas to Americans to demand Congress vote for a minimum wage hike and chastise Republicans to no avail because Boehner is not going to call for and Republicans will not vote for a raise. It has nothing to do with Boehner’s suicide threat and everything to do with their desire for a nation of poverty-level workers and regular record quarterly profits for corporations.