Populist Revolt Over Minimum Wages

In the United States, the average CEO of a corporation makes more money in the four hours before lunch on a single business day than a minimum wage worker does in an entire year.

Because of startling statistics like that, ballot initiatives to raise the minimum wage at the state level are proving to be the Democratic Party’s version of the gay marriage ban, a wedge issue that will motivate its base of supporters to trek to the polls — potentially benefiting the party’s candidates elsewhere on the ballot in the process.

Six states nationwide have issues on the ballot to raise the minimum wage. In Ohio, state issue 2 would increase the state minimum wage from $5.15 to $6.85 per hour and would index the rate to the Consumer Price Index, so that it’s adjusted annually for inflation. The proposed constitutional amendment includes exceptions for some small and family-owned businesses, as well as for workers age 16 and under.

It has been more than nine years since Congress last approved an increase in the federal minimum wage, the longest period ever without an increase since the minimum wage was established in 1938. During that same period federal lawmakers have received eight pay raises.

During the current session, the Republican-controlled Congress voted against a federal minimum wage increase proposed by Democrats. Sensing political vulnerability on the issue, GOP lawmakers later tried to increase the wage by tying the measure to permanent cuts in the estate tax, reductions that benefit about 8,100 families nationwide, primarily the wealthy. That effort was blocked by Democrats, leaving the way clear for states to continue efforts at increasing the rate in a piecemeal fashion.

Opponents of raising the minimum wage say it will hurt small businesses and cause a spike in consumer prices, although that hasn’t occurred in the 18 states that have raised the minimum wage since President Clinton granted them the power to do so a few years ago. Oregon’s minimum wage is $7.50 per hour. Supporters counter that by raising the rate, low income workers will have more buying power and help stimulate the economy.

Critics of the proposal also say it’s inappropriate to include in state constitutions, which should be limited to matters of fundamental principles. But in many states, voters have become impatient with state and federal lawmakers afraid to buck business interests such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and are placing ballot initiatives to accomplish what legislators have been unwilling to do.

Besides Ohio, similar proposals are on the ballot in Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Montana and Nevada.

— Kevin Osborne

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9 Comments on “Populist Revolt Over Minimum Wages”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    This wage increase is a small step in the right direction. If the minimum wage were adjusted for inflation it would be $8.20 an hour. That might be just enough to squesk by.

    The Chamber of Commerce says it’s a privacy issue, but this just a redherring. They can’t win the argument in economic terms so they make up issues that aren’t there. If they were concerned about privacy they would’ve oppossed the unpatriotic Patriot Act.

  2. The King Says:

    It will be tragic if we repeal the Patriot Act and/or the NSA program. George Bush has made us safe for five years. You liberals weaken the nation’s security and I gurarntee we will be attacked on U.S. soil before Bush’s term is out. Coincidence? Hardly.

    9/11 victims: Richard Clarke has failed you.

  3. Westside John Says:

    Lets say I can get twenty people to work for me at $6.00 an hour and that lets me make a living….then you dictate what minimum wage is ….say $8.00 an hour and I can’t stay in business…..twentyone people will need to find a job! Let the marketplace dictate what a job is worth

  4. Gregory Flannery Says:

    Um, King, we were attacked on U.S. soil during Bush’s watch. Coincidence? Nah, dereliction of duty.

  5. Westside John Says:

    So Greg your saying that if, say, Kerry were t have been elected the terrorist would have collectively thought “Oh Kerry is know in office we are going to scrap our plans of destroying the western influence over the world and be nice neighbors ? I think not! Ralph Nader could be president and the terrorist will still strike out against anyone who does not support their beliefs. Actually more to the point, any government that does not fall either to conversion or subservience is directed to be destroyed!

  6. citybeat Says:

    Westside John, no, that’s not what I’m saying. John Kerry ran for president in 2004. (I would assert, however, that Al Gore was elected president in 2000, but the Supreme Court appointed George Bush to the office.) In any event, the terrorist attack occurred in 2001, during Bush’s tenure in the White House, and after he and his regime ignored warnings that Osama bin Laden planned to hijack planes and use them as missiles. See the 9/11 Commission’s report — you know, the one Bush tried to block.

  7. Westside John Says:

    I got it, those same warnings that were given to Bill Clinton in the 90’s. My point is that the “President ” actually has little real ability to influence the worlds view. Oh sure they get blamed or take credit depending on wether it is a positive or negative. Just as the president has little influence on the economy. Oh the 9/11 commission report was created by politicians so i don’t give it much credit.

  8. Kevin Osborne Says:

    Hey, this post is supposed to be about the minimum wage, not terrorism and George W. Bush.

  9. The King Says:

    “Hey, this post is supposed to be about the minimum wage, not terrorism and George W. Bush. ”

    They are the same thing; this country is being terrorized by unions.

    And it is liberals that caused 9/11. It goes back to the Church Commission gutting our inteligence communty of “humants.”

    The minimum wage increase will be a disaster. You wackos do the same thing with housing. Your typical liberal supports rent controls and then wonders why there is a scarcity of housing.

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