From Charlotte resident Chuck Kelly (firstname.lastname@example.org), in response to George Will’s column in Sunday’s Observer opposing a minimum wage hike:
Many low-wage Americans have been suckered by the Republican divide-and-conquer strategy. Skilled low-wage workers making $18 an hour – such as emergency medical technicians, mechanics, and low-level managers – unwittingly ally themselves with the top 1 percent when they complain that raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour for less-skilled workers is unfair to them.
They fail to appreciate the fact that, throughout our history, a rising minimum wage has always led to better wages for those higher on the economic ladder as well. This is the dreaded “wage inflation” phenomenon that the conservative news media warns us will destroy the economy. Actually, its main effect is lower corporate profits, lower incomes for executives and investors, and much greater purchasing power in the hands of the middle class and poor.
In fact, wage inflation was one of the reasons we created the world’s biggest middle class between 1941 and 1980. The income and wealth of the ultra-rich didn’t reach today’s stratospheric levels, but rising low- and middle-class wages gave us a thriving economy. When Republicans brag that President Reagan stopped inflation in the 1980s, they’re not referring to stock market inflation or investor income inflation. They’re referring to wage inflation.
Behind the premise that working class Americans are overpaid is the assumption that they don’t deserve to make enough money to own a home, have two cars, be able to take a vacation once a year, and finance their kid’s education at a state university. That’s only for those “successful” persons who don’t have to rely on manual labor for a living – corporate executives, business owners, investors, athletes, actors, physicians and so on.
The Republican blame-the-victim strategy is working beautifully for them, despite documentation of their efforts to destroy the ability of union or public sector workers to negotiate for decent wages. In an unguarded moment, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was videotaped explaining to one of his wealthy donors how he was going to “divide and conquer” the labor movement.
His strategy: get nonunion and private sector workers to resent – and politically oppose the interests of – higher paid union and public sector workers. This was easy to do because of a bad economy, and distressed unemployed or underemployed workers were seeking someone to blame.
Gov. Walker also was conned into believing he was in a phone conversation with David Koch, a donor to his political campaign. He was recorded saying that his attack on unions was part of his ideological battle and it had nothing to do with his publicly stated reason for balancing the state budget. Walker even said he had considered planting troublemakers to disrupt the protesters in his state capitol.
Republicans, and even some Democrats, have successfully diverted the blame for our degenerating economy. They say that our stagnant or declining wages aren’t the result of the huge tax cuts for the wealthy and their role in causing the exodus of our industries to low-wage countries. The cause of our national malaise, they say, is those darn high-paid low-wage workers, who used to make enough money to pay taxes.
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