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Friday, January 26, 2007

"When does the greed stop?"
Posted by Jill | 5:41 AM
Ted Kennedy, yesterday, in response to Republicans filibustering legislation to raise the nimimum wage:

We have now had amendments that have been worth over 200 billion dollars… Amendments that have been offered. We've had amendments on education of 35 billion dollars. We've had health-savings amendments that will benefit people with average incomes of $112,000… We've had those kinds of amendments and we're looking at the Kyl amendment at 3 billion dollars. But we still cannot get two dollars and fifteen cents -- over two years. Over two years!

What is the price, we ask the other side? What is the price that you want from these working men and women? What cost? How much more do we have to give to the private sector and to business? How many billion dollars more, are you asking, are you requiring?

When does the greed stop, we ask the other side? That's the question and that's the issue.


Do you have such disdain for hard-working Americans that you want to pile all your amendments on this? Why don’t you just hold your amendments until other pieces of legislation? Why this volume of amendments on just the issue to try and raise the minimum wage? What is it about it that drives you Republicans crazy? What is it? Something. Something! What is the price that the workers have to pay to get an increase? What is it about working men and women that you find so offensive?

See it for yourself:

However you feel about Ted Kennedy -- he's a drunk, he got away with murder, he's laughable, he gets Barack Obama's name wrong, he's a dinosaur -- you have to admit that he's onto something here. When it comes to legislation to shovel more cash into the pockets of those who already have more money than they can spend in a lifetime, Republicans are there at the ready. When it comes to more tax breaks for corporations that have already shown that instead of sharing the wealth with workers, they give more compensation to their most senior executives, Republicans are there at the ready. When it comes to enriching the haves and the have-mores, Republicans work with lightning speed. But when it comes to raising the minimum wage, which has remained the same for over ten years, they won't budge.

"But raising the minimum wage benefits mostly teenagers," the opponents say. "These aren't 'hard working men and women raising families."

It's true that half of minimum wage workers are under 25 and that a quarter of them are aged 15-19. It's also true that the largest proportion of minimum wage workers is in the very southern states that not only constitute the majority of the Republican base. It's also true that in 2000, 42% of military recruits came from the south. Are southern youth more "patriotic" than their northern peers? Or is it simply a function of economics? Is it that there are so few opportunities outside the retail and service trades in the south that for low-income kids unable to afford college, the military is the only opportunity these young people have to perhaps do something with their lives -- if they still have them after their inevitable tours of duty in Iraq -- other than make beds in a hotel or run a cash register at Wal-Mart?

Talking about the mythical archetypal teenager who doesn't need a minimum wage hike because all he does is buy athletic shoes and video games and iPODs is like Ronald Reagan's invocation of the welfare queen in the Cadillac -- elevating the exception to the rule into the rule itself, all in the service of thwarting legislation that might actually benefit someone other than the wealthiest people in our society.

I don't know about where you live, but where I live, if you go to a supermarket or a fast food restaurant, most of the workers you see are clearly Latino, most of them are female, and most of them are young. Their husbands are the guys who work for the landscapers and the roofers and the building contractors. Now THESE are the people who offend the Republicans so much, then let the Republicans be honest enough to admit it -- and go after them in the form of immigration legislation, NOT by filibustering the minimum wage. But don't tack on a bunch of amendments to this relatively modest attempt at raising living standards as if the corporations and wealthiest individuals hadn't received enough government largesse over the past six years.
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