The Iowa senate passed a raise in minimum wage Monday on pretty much of a party line vote. One Republican joined twenty six Democrats to pass the bill. This would be good news if Democrats controlled the other legislative House and we still had a Democrat as governor. However with Republicans controlling both of those branches there is a good chance that this bill will never see the light of day again. As a friend told me you can probably plan on Tom Sands to let it die in the House Ways and Means Committee, never to see any more action. No mess, no fuss and no raises for Iowa’s poor.
No doubt any stories of a minimum wage will disappear from the pages of Iowa’s newspapers and the screens of Iowa’s TV stations. Maybe an occasional mention in blogs like this, but for the most part out of sight, out of mind.
But the real irony in this story is that at the national level the Republican Party is planning on making a campaign out of the inequitable income distribution in this country. Quit laughing, I am serious. Jeb (I am the third) Bush has already been pushing the issue, as have such union busters as Scott Walker and Chris Christie. Even the religious crazy wing of Huckabee and Santorum have suddenly discovered that some Americans are starving. All of course blame President Obama who, in their altered minds, has created the problems by causing Republican obstruction for six years an many jobs bills, spending programs and tax adjustments to pay for them. Makes sense to them.
What do you suppose their answer is? Why give more money to the wealthy of course! Continue that awesome trickle down economy that has brought so many benefits to – well their donors, the .1%. Don’t expect to hear that spoken out loud. Don’t expect to hear any solution spoken out loud. The strategy today is for Republicans to criticize only but answer no questions. Won’t work you say? Ask Sen. Ernst about that.
But there has been some truly grudging movement among the wealthy to finally take a trickle on their employees. Walmart created major headlines last week when it announced it would trickle on its employees a little bit this year, a little bit more next year. Walmart is owned by half a dozen of the wealthiest people in the world. These are people who fought tooth and nail so that no stinking employee would get a nickel of their hundreds of billions of dollars. Now they are suddenly seemingly showering their employees with trickle down. Did they finally get to the point that they realized that they had so much money it was time to trickle?
That would be a laugh. Much speculation has been put forth on the cause, but I think many folks looked way too deep for motives. Walmart was getting hit in the pocket book. Sales are decreasing because one of their major constituents can no longer afford to shop at Walmart. Even though Walmart advertises that they are the low price store they are not. The very poor are now going to dollar stores with the little money they have. The Republican wet dream of cutting food stamps has been partially realized and those who have lost government aid must make what little they have stretch further. Thus Walmart is too costly. With a significant portion of their low level employees getting government aid in the form of food stamps, Walmart’s employees are going elsewhere.
Add to the mix that Walmart employees are in near rebellion over wages and ridiculous expectations of availability to work anytime they are called and you can guess that Walmart had created a monster for themselves. Internal high level memos were leaked to the press that discussed such problems. Sales were sluggish and suddenly board members started to care. See, they got hit in the pocketbook so now they care. One of the memos discussed lack of product on shelves along with expired products on shelves. Since I do have to shop at Walmart about once a month for a couple of products I can get no where else – remember they ran much of their competition out of business – I can attest to those problems. Lots of empty shelves, lots of product out of place, expired or near expired product on the shelves and no one, literally no one working on it.
So Walmart’s raise in wages was not due to their generosity, but to self-preservation. That is a real trickle on by the Walton heirs.
Liberals have long pushed for wages beyond the minimum to what is known as a living wage. A living wage varies from place to place due to cost of living differences. Right now about $15/hour is a generally accepted minimum living wage. There are a couple of small pockets where a living wage is in effect such as Seatac, Washington which voted it in a year and a half ago. It is hard to isolate what effect such laws have had on local economies since those earning a living wage is narrowly defined and do not necessarily live in that community.
But there is one state that has raised wages considerably, taxed the rich a bit more and has done it for a long enough period that the effects can be evaluated. Many may have heard this week of the success stories coming out of Minnesota. Iowa and Minnesota elected new governors in 2010 both changing parties from their previous governors. In Minnesota, Democrat Mark Dayton faced a huge leftover deficit, and the specter go the I-35 bridge collapse under his predecessor, Tim Pawlenty. Branstad came back into power in Iowa to a budget that was actually in pretty decent shape, and an economy that weathered the Republican recession of 2008 fairly well. Branstad came in with promises of 200,000 jobs and higher wages.
The two governors took entirely different approaches. Branstad took the usual Republican approach of tax cuts for the rich and state cut backs in spending. In Minnesota minimum wages were raised and the highest earners were taxed at a slightly higher rate.
Iowa’s economy has plodded along as the national economy has gained steam. Jobs in Iowa have increased but at a pace far below that promised by Branstad. Meanwhile in Minnesota the economy has prospered. Jobs are up nearly 200,000 under Dayton, governmental finances are in tip-top shape and roads are being repaired. Iowa’s roads and especially its bridges are among the very worst in the country.
Once more tried and true liberal answers to economic problems are proven to work while Republican approaches prove not to work. While the contrast between Iowa an Minnesota are stark, the contrasts between Wisconsin and Minnesota are even more stark. Given that Wisconsin and Minnesota are remarkably similar in many respects, the contrast in approaches and results between now presidential wannabe Scott Walker and Mark Dayton are much more easily discerned.
Republican economic ideas are written by the rich for the rich. Democratic economic ideas are based on scientific research and experience. Once again, the Democratic model proves the best and most reliable model.
Just as this is posted, a new Elizabeth Warren video is making the rounds. Warren says in about 6 minutes what I was trying to say. Since I can’t put the video here you will have to go here to watch it.