Thursday, August 03, 2006

franken-bill or do-nothing-congress? ...a dilemma that epitomizes American political life for average citizens

I don't always catch Harold Meyerson's columns, but when I do they never disappoint...

Yesterday, he autopsied, more elegantly than they deserve, the GOP's craven attempt to join a bill to increase the minimum wage to another-- yes, another! --estate tax cut.

I hope you will read the entire column, but just in case you don't, here's a paragraph and a bit more in which Meyerson characterizes the [current] GOP's entire approach to partisan politics:

[....] The whole point of the exercise was to come up with a bill that might force some Democrats to vote for an estate tax cut they would otherwise oppose, and enable Republicans to claim they weren't really the Dickensian grotesques that many of them in fact are.

Which may be why the Republicans' midnight orations in favor of raising the wage bore minimal resemblance to, say, the Sermon on the Mount. Their tone was best captured by Tennessee Rep. Zach Wamp, a Mayberry Machiavelli if ever there was one, who could not restrain himself from telling House Democrats, "You have seen us really outfox you on this issue tonight." [emphasis added]

However, rather than paint too negative a picture, lest we forget how to get up in the mornings... Meyerson is careful to mention some hopeful markers to hearten us:

So the solutions for national problems get kicked downstairs. To date 23 states have passed minimum-wage standards higher than the feds' -- and none of them in statutes designed to subvert themselves or play gotcha with the opposition party. States have begun to enact universal health insurance plans, while cities are passing living-wage ordinances. And just this Monday, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tony Blair signed an agreement between the sovereign state of California and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to curb greenhouse gas emissions, promote clean fuels and fight global warming. "California will not wait for our federal government to take strong action on global warming," said Schwarzenegger, who understands that for a Republican to win election in Democratic California, he has to be a down-the-line environmentalist.

Why is the story of this particular bill an important story here at Lyssa Strada?

One, because, as we've written before, the minimum wage bill is a bill that will significantly affect single and divorced mothers and their children.

Two, because the passing of even one more unneeded estate tax cut will benefit very few, and many of them have already significantly benefitted financially from the global war on terror, for which they are contributing far less in the way of resources-- whether funding or bodies in the field-- than they are receiving, since the war is being purchased on credit. Long term credit.

UPDATE: The GOP-controlled senate failed to pass this misbegotten bill, despite their best efforts at arm-twisting. Kudos to Harry Reid for his leadership in keeping the bill from coming to a vote before the full senate, where a simple majority might have passed it.

This story is not over, though, because the Democratic minority (for now) is still dedicated to passing a minimum wage bill without any strings attached. Even waiting for a turnover in congress might not delay it much longer than the GOP's three-step phase in would have. Assuming, that is, that the Democrats take over at least one chamber of congress.

Now, if we could just get the politicians to start thinking in terms of $10 per hour as a more reasonable minimum wage...

[photo of Rep. Zach Wamp from here]


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