Want more proof that the boundaries of debate in American politics are absurdly narrow and unequal to our challenges? Then ask yourself why an overdue, common-sense increase in the minimum wage is not on the agenda of either the president or the “new and improved” Republican party.
While Eric Cantor feebly tries to rebrand the GOP this week, and President Obama maneuvers to sidestep the sequester he signed into law in 2011, millions of America’s working poor continue to languish. The federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 since 2009. In 1968, the minimum wage was worth $10.47 in today’s dollars. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the United States is near the bottom of advanced nations when it comes to the ratio of the minimum wage to the median wage. In Australia, the minimum wage now tops $15, and unemployment is 5.4 percent.
With facts like these – and a payroll tax hike that just took $100 billion a year mostly out of the pockets of ordinary workers – you’d think Obama would be leading the charge to give low-income workers a raise. Yet after pledging in his 2008 campaign to lift the minimum to $9.50 by 2011, he’s barely uttered a peep. As Ralph Nader told me Tuesday, “There’s a big difference between being on the record and on the ramparts.”