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June 26, 2006

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Politically, this is a "gimme." Raising the minimum wage doesn't directly affect many workers, but every time it's discussed the GOP cries "class warfare!" in an attempt to prevent discussion about economic fairness, because they know that raising the minimum wage is extremely popular with voters. I'm glad to see Dems working with labor and public interest groups to push minimum wage ballot initiatives in several states, because it's a great way to advance public policy and in the process reap some political benefits.

The NYT business section yesterday had an article showing that income inequality has now reverted to the 1930 level, just after the Crash, but befpore the steady lsoses of the early 1930's. The rich (top 1% and top .1%) are getting a rising share of national income, while the top 10% has only gotten back to the level of the early 1920's. The years from 1945-1985 were indeed, as I remember them, years of much greater equality. This situation is clearly unsustainable, and derives directly from tax and other policies of the Reagan and especially GW Bush years that benefot the very rich at the expense of everyone else. Raising the minimum wage is a small start in righting that imbalance.

Having worked on a couple of local and state wide initiatives to raise the minimum wage, I have to say that Democrats should grab this and run. I never did anything so easy. Most people who make the minimum wage or close to it, don't vote. But among people who do vote, if you can get across to them how low the minimum actually is, you instantly get across the board, even across Party, approval -- in the 70 percent range. I think the way this works is that no one n the voting class can imagine trying to live on the minimum.

In an initiative situation, the only people opposed to raising the minimum are the very few employers who would have to pay it -- the thing is a slam dunk.

I'm not sure putting a minimum wage initiative on the ballot increases a progressive turnout, but it is close to a sure thing for an electoral win and we need all the little wins we can get.

How would you respond to the position that an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit is a much more effective and equitable way of helping the working poor than raising the minium wage?

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