clear now that the bailout of the large financial institutions of
Wall Street and the people who led them into trouble is not going
to do very much to help the average worker survive in an economy
that’s growing more hostile to them with each passing year.
the bailout of Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson Jr. and his boss,
George W. Bush is doing is saving the hides of the former Wall Street
colleagues of Paulson and their companies—and hoping that some of
it will trickle down to the people.
tells us that, from Ronald Reagan until today, this kind of economic
theory doesn’t work, but that never stops politicians from telling
us that it will. And, they expect us to believe it.
Americans believe it and are willing to tighten their belts another
notch, in the hope that prosperity is just around the corner and
they’ll soon have to let those belts out a notch or two.
are ways to get the money into the economy and to put the equivalent
of the bailout, $1 trillion dollars (so far), into the economy in
the most effective way would be to put it into the hands of the
people. Most of them would put the money into their communities
are other ways to generate that kind of money, and more.
years ago, a group of workers and their supporters went to the labor
commissioner of New York State and asked that he recognize that
the minimum wage was not high enough for people to live decently.
In New York, the commissioner can raise the minimum wage administratively
when it is not sufficient.
this is a hot rail issue for conservatives, especially if the increase
didn’t go through the legislative process, the commissioner said
that a study would be done, and the wait began.
to say, the minimum wage never was raised administratively and it
took years for it to reach the current $7.15 an hour, a little higher
than the federal minimum. As in most of the country, the minimum
wage stayed at $5.15 an hour for 10 years. It rose to $7.15 last
August and will rise to $7.25 an hour in August, 2009.
was learned from that experience—stretched out over two administrations—was
that the people who run the economy will go to any length to keep
the minimum wage as low as possible, regardless of the political
affiliation of the executive or the majority of the legislative
branch. Many on the right would eliminate the minimum wage altogether.
at the time, a modest raise in the minimum wage would have put some
$3 billion into the state’s economy every year. That was about
equal to the amount of economic activity generated by New York’s
agriculture and not far behind another important segment of the
economy, tourism. A $2 raise in the current minimum would pump
more than $7 billion into the state’s economy—just from the increase.
on the right usually claim that a large number of minimum wage workers
are teenagers and not parents supporting their families, with all
of the attendant costs. In fact, well more than half of minimum
wage workers are those who are old enough to support themselves.
About half of the 1.7 million New Yorkers working at the minimum
wage are 25 or younger, and a substantial number of workers between
18 and 25 are old enough to be on their own.
think tanks continue to maintain, as they have for decades, that
a raise in the minimum wage hurts workers. They must be the only
ones in the world who believe that a pay raise is not good for workers.
But they keep saying it, pointing out that, with all of the programs
available to low-wage workers, in some states they can double their
pundits in their ivory towers never have had to jump through those
hoops and don’t know the complexity of applying for the benefits.
It would be like having a second job and most don’t have the time
or the wherewithal to go through the ordeal.
point is that, if a $2 raise in the minimum wage in New York State
alone would put some $7 billion into the state’s economy every year,
how much would be pumped into the national economy if there were
a similar increase in the federal minimum wage? $300 billion?
the Bush Administration sent out $300 or $600 to households earlier
this year as an “economic stimulus,” it amounted to about 28 cents
an hour for one year of 40-hour weeks, not really enough to stimulate
the economy, when people were paying off their debts with it. It
wasn’t much and likely didn’t stimulate the economy much.
an increase in the minimum wage, to $10 or $12 an hour would put
hundreds of billions of dollars into the economy and it would be
spread out across the land. Just about every penny would be spent
in the local communities and it would be spent right away. That’s
immediate economic stimulus and the $1 trillion bailout of Wall
Street would pale by comparison, because there would be no waiting
for non-existent trickle-down.
BlackCommentator.com Columnist John Funiciello is a labor organizer and former
union organizer. His union work started when he became a local president
of The Newspaper Guild in the early 1970s. He was a reporter for
14 years for newspapers in New
York State. In addition to labor work,
he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on
the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and
land developers. Click here
to contact Mr. Funiciello.