As anyone who's ever worked a minimum wage, menial gig will tell you, being at the bottom of the economic rung sucks. I'm quite a few years removed from my last such job, but the memory of working in a sweltering factory for a mere $4.25 and hour was enough to convince me the stay in school. While jobs at this end of the economic spectrum generally require fewer specialized skills, they're often the most physically draining. You might argue that on the basis of sheer effort exerted, minimum wage jobs like cleaning toilets, picking up trash and mowing lawns should pay more than your typical white-collar job. Such jobs, and such workers, are truly the backbone of the American economy.
That said, in our current economic times, with more and more people having to take minimum wage jobs just to keep the lights on, the last thing a politician would advocate is paying people even less than the Federally mandated $7.25/hour. But of course, when you're talking about Republicans, logic seldom enters the equation:
Alaska Republican Joe Miller, in an interview with ABC News and Politico, said that minimum wage rates should be left up the states. "There should not be" a federal rule regulating low pay, he said. "That is not within the scope of the powers that are given to the federal government."
And last week, Connecticut GOPer Linda McMahon confessed to being unsure what the minimum wage rate is – after saying that she thinks that it should be reviewed and possibly lowered.
Democrats leapt on both stories, painting the Republicans (particularly the affluent McMahon, who has vowed to spend $50 million of her own money on her race) as out of touch with the plight of the American worker. (MSN.com)
As if there weren't enough other reasons to be concerned about November's mid-term elections, this should be cause enough to get folks out to the polls. Miller, who has a pretty good chance of winning his Alaska Senate race, is one of many Republican/Tea Party candidates in races nationwide who thinks minimum wages are a state's issue, and finds the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 unconstitutional.
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Never mind the fact that the Fair Labor Act has been repeatedly confirmed by the courts as constitutional. Never mind the fact that Miller likely has little point of reference since Alaska has among the smallest percentage of minimum wage earners among all states. Never mind the fact that a full-time worker bringing home minimum wage makes barely $15,000/annually, which still puts a family of two below the DHHS poverty line. Never mind the fact that the Fair Labor Standards Act also prevents abuses of child labor. Nope, all that matters is that the Founding Fathers didn't explicitly say you're entitled to a measly $7.25 an hour for making burgers and fries. Miller and the like think McDonald's should be able to pay you with McNuggets if they deem that reasonable compensation. Since we're being so doggedly Constitutional, I wonder how Miller feels about the Voting and Civil Rights Acts.
It's funny that some of the very same Republicans who fought tooth and nail to ensure the right of those on Wall Street to reap huge bonuses now want to deny the right of a guy on Main Street the ability to make a fair, barely-living wage to clean toilets. Then again, perhaps "funny" isn't the right word. "Sad," maybe. "Pathetic," surely.
I wonder if Joe Miller would agree to work for less than minimum wage if he somehow makes it to DC.
Would lowering the federally-mandated minimum wage stimulate the economy by making it cheaper to hire workers?
Jay Anderson is a freelance writer from Washington, DC, whose work has been featured in the Washington Post and on NPR. When he's not busy talking smack here, he runs the award-winning blog AverageBro.com. Follow him via Twitter @AverageBro.