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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

May 2, 2014 at 10:08 AM

Vote: Should the federal minimum wage rise?

Set aside, for now, the $15 an hour minimum wage in Seattle. Earlier this week, Senate Republicans shut down an effort to raise the federal minimum from $7.25 to $10.10. News reports called it a “filibuster,” but it wasn’t.

A real filibuster would require senators to take and hold the floor, defending their refusal to move the legislation or reading from the Brooklyn phone directory. The people’s business would be halted. Voters could see what’s going on. A real filibuster was performed by Strom Thurmond, speaking for 24 hours and 18 minutes to derail the 1957 Civil Rights Act. He failed.

Now, Republicans only need to threaten a filibuster — most Senate bills require 60 votes, not a simple majority — and Democrats slink away defeated. That’s what happen on the minimum wage.

The proposal was hardly revolutionary. The $2 an hour minimum wage I made in 1974 would be worth $9.59 today, well above the federal minimum. But, no. Even the modest step of $10.10 died, even with corporate profits at records, even with no compelling economic evidence that modest raises to the minimum wage have a serious effect on employment. In 2012, 3.6 million Americans worked at or below the federal minimum wage. And we wonder why earnings are disappointing at Wal-Mart and dollar stores are suffering.

And it’s not as if our race to the bottom has helped. According to the Hamilton Project, if we added April’s 288,000 jobs per month every month, it would still take until 2017 to make up the jobs killed by the Great Recession. Also, some of the worst unemployment rates in the country are in low-wage, “right-to-work” states.

What do you think?

This Week’s Links:

April unemployment rate drop entirely because of people leaving labor market | Dean Baker

The U.S. is rich and China is just big | BusinessWeek

Mixed earnings suggest Big Oil may have peaked | Oil Price

It’s great to be the CEO running a huge criminal bank | The Big Picture

Is smart money buying or selling stocks? | Naked Capitalism

Meet the only Wall Street executive prosecuted as a result of the financial crisis. Has justice been served? | ProPublica

Was Toyota driven out of California? Not so fast | LA Times

Airline mergers bring deep service cuts to medium and small airports | BusinessWeek

Why won’t U.S. firms invest more? | The New Yorker

Today’s Econ Haiku:

Dick’s double deluxe

Opium of the people

 Where May Day ended

Comments | More in Income/living standards | Topics: minimum wage

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