The vile—dare I even say putrescent—vote cast in March 2021 by the more centrist liberals over a federal minimum wage increase is the exact reason why I cannot bring myself to register as a Democrat. It's also the exact reason why if you are a liberal and think that your party is smart and truly knows what's going on, you're really just lying to yourself at this point. Oh, and please do not use the "well, if it were a Republican-led legislation it would have been so much worse" excuse. That's not a very high bar to meet ... the (kind of) bare minimum? Their votes say way more about the party wanting to remain as neutral as possible on some issues so it can be used as a defense for the attacks that will be upcoming in the 2022 mid-term elections; it's about retaining power. Today we're going to look at the defeat of the recent legislation that would have raised the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour. Who voted against it, potential reasons why, and how if President Joe Biden were to follow the actions of former-President Franklin Roosevelt, instead of just referencing his speeches (more on this later), this outcome of the vote would have been very different.
Written By: Anton Sawyer
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For context, I'm going to have to briefly reminisce about the key legislation of FDR's administration, The New Deal. I've gone over this in prior articles, so I'm just going to hit the key points that relate to the minimum wage bill getting killed. The first is that the minimum wage was supposed to be increased to coincide with inflation. In fact, it nearly doubled from $0.40 to $0.75 during the change from 1945-1950. In the bibliography, we link to a study where you can see every single time the minimum wage was increased from 1938 until as of this writing. In the last few decades, the number of times it was raised has significantly declined than was intended. The other big piece of the legislation was to offset the costs, taxes were raised on the top earners to create infrastructure projects for workers—all of which were now able to sustain a living wage. This lead to the greatest economically prosperous time for all classes of American citizens; the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. When Biden was on the campaign trail in 2020, he referenced FDR in a campaign stop in Warm Springs, Georgia, I took notice. The reference that Biden made to Roosevelt was in regards to a speech that he was writing right before he died in April of 1945. The now-President said he used that speech as guidance to how he wanted to run to his administration. "‘Today … we must cultivate the science of human relationships—the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together and work together in the same world at peace.’” Biden added, “To live together and work together. That’s how I see America. That’s how I see the presidency, and that’s how I see the future.”
It is a clear indication that the recent vote cast by the Democrats in regards to the minimum wage hike that they are definitely only going to follow the examples of FDR through speech and not action. Thankfully, those who had a vested interest in retaining power didn't make Biden put-up or shut-up when it came to signing it into law. I don't think he would have. The amount of time it would have taken to get a majority of Americans behind it was an uphill battle at best. At worst it could hurt the chances of the "Heir Apparent" Vice President Harris from winning in 2024.
So looking at those Democrats who voted against the measure and the reasons why you begin to see a trend. Most of them are running in 2022 and are looking towards that future. Whether for themselves or the party as a whole. Both New Hampshire Senators Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen (yes Shaheen won her election with 57% of the vote, but New Hampshire is a notorious battleground state). Both had different minutia to the bill they didn't like but they mostly agreed on what Shaheen was quoted as saying, “I think we should look at increasing it further moving forward.” Jon Tester of Montana is the best example of them playing to their home base. On PBS News Hour in February 2021, he used jargon that is usually reserved for those who are right-wingers. “There has to be some conversation about how it’s done, and it can be done like that,” he said, snapping his fingers. "I think the minimum wage needs to come up. But I think we need to extend it out a ways before it hits the $15 figure. How long that time frame is, is going to be up for debate.” Tester narrowly won reelection with 50.3% of the vote in 2018. Trump won the state by 20 points and 16 points in 2016 and 2020, respectively.
Since day one, if truth be told, they haven't had to worry too much about needing to put themselves in this kind of position. This is the "Biden Excuse." In early March 2021, Biden made his feelings about ending the filibuster (or “going nuclear” as the Republicans have done almost every time they’ve had control of the House and Senate during the better part of this century), pretty clearly. “The president’s preference is not to get rid of the filibuster,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, repeating Biden’s position on maintaining the rule. “His preference is not to make different changes to the rules, to the filibuster rules.” By taking this stance, he's going to trust that there are enough Republicans who are looking to jump ship off the S.S. "GOP Platform" completely to allow any legislation brought about by the House or Senate as standing any kind of a chance in passing. In all reality, this stance is great at saving face when it comes to legislation that may not be in his (i.e. Democratic National Committee) best interests.
There is one justified concern that I've heard sparked by some liberals as well. The cost. A Congressional Budget Office analysis in early 2021 projected that raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour would increase the cumulative budget deficit by $53 billion over a decade. The CBO also predicted a $15 minimum wage would cause the loss of 1.4 million jobs by 2025. This is all legitimate. The second half that made FDR's The New Deal work was in that the taxes were increased on the top earners to around 70%. Roosevelt knew that the wealthy were going to hoard their money and unless forced to do so, they will only act in self-interest. His opponents called him a "socialist" and the tax raise as a "soak the rich tax." All of the arguments made today were made back then. By getting the additional revenue, he created federal-based jobs for infrastructure. This lead to an economic boom. The CBO is correct. If there aren't other additional measures added, then it could be problematic. But these Democrats in purple states know they would never be able to sell both a tax hike and a wage increase to their right-leaning constituents.
To those who will say to me, "Anton, it's the 21st Century, and these are policies from the beginning of the industrial age. It can't work." It actually can.
While everyone was focused on Trump and national politics, the city of Stockton, California began an experiment. This experiment gave 125 people living in neighborhoods at or below Stockton's median household income, $500 per month for two years with no strings attached. They began measuring participants' job prospects, financial stability, and overall well-being. The funding was provided by The Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration, or SEED. It was founded in February 2019 by then-Mayor Michael Tubbs and funded by donors, including the Economic Security Project.
A study of the period from February 2019 to February 2020 that was recently released determined that full-time employment rose among those who received the guaranteed income. Not only that, but their financial, physical, and emotional health also improved. Among the key findings outlined in a 25-page paper are that the unconditional cash reduced the month-to-month income fluctuations that households face, increased recipients' full-time employment by 12%, and decreased their measurable feelings of anxiety and depression, compared with their control-group counterparts. It's going to be interesting to see the final results when they are released. It will allow us to see what would happen if we actually tried to help lift those out of poverty.
I know that every single thing I've written here would be skewered by any and every conservative who reads it as being "wack-o" or that I hate the US Government and want it overthrown into some Socialist utopia or whatever. Nothing that is here is conspiratorial. It is all historical context with what has worked and is currently being tried. That's why I'm hoping I do catch the attention of liberals. It's funny how Democrats were so easy to attack Trump around the phrase "alternative facts," and then turn around and use the same types of confusion tactics towards their base. Doing things like invoking FDR with reverence, but not following through (like the GOP invokes Lincoln). Simply put, if you actively oppose that which will benefit your constituents (voting against minimum wage increase) and it perpetuates the problem (income inequality), to look at those same people and tell them your plans can fix the problems that they have (which were caused by your actions), is using the same alternative facts mentality. With how much misdirection is being given by both parties, I think they should both learn from George Washington's writing in 1791, "It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one."
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