Minimum Wage-- Whose Side Is Biden On?

The Milwaukee town hall hosted by CNN on Tuesday night was probably not a great idea and, like I said yesterday in a discussion on student debt, the White House should consider letting Biden sit in a rocking chair petting a dog for photographers from now on. But student debt wasn't the only issue where his innate conservatism came right to the surface. Erica Werner noted for the Washington Post that he's "open" to stabbing his allies in the back on the minimum wage issue as well. Biden, she wrote "could be open to a longer phase-in than the current plan of five years in Democrats’ legislation. He also argued that phasing gradually up to $15 could be beneficial while having less potential impact on business owners."

Biden said "No one should work 40 hours a week and live in poverty." He should have stopped there instead of then blurting out the word "but." Republicans and fake Democrats from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party say "but" after that. He continued using conservative arguments for not increasing the minimum wage to $15/hour. What's ever left of a "honeymoon" from progressives is going to be ending really fast if he keeps on like this.

Erica Smith is a leading candidate for the open North Carolina Senate seat. Biden would do well to sit down with her and allow her to explain why this country needs an increase and needs it now. "After a decade of hard work," she told me, "we are so close to passing a $15 minimum wage. The senators who are holding up a vote ought to try living on a starvation wage. North Carolina’s senators, who’ve been bought and paid for by corporations, have done everything in their power to ensure that Wall Street execs get their bonuses yet they think that working Americans shouldn’t receive a living wage. It’s just wrong. This is not a political issue, it’s a moral issue and we need our elected officials to rise up and do what’s right. Essential workers have been putting their lives on the line this past year, the least we can do is pay them enough to support their families and keep a roof over their heads. Raising the minimum wage will lift millions out of poverty and give a raise to tens of millions. I believe that working Americans deserve that raise. Why do so many Senators disagree?”

But Biden wants it both way, even while saying he's not going to be part of a real solution he claimed he supports a $15 minimum wage and that the weight of evidence showed a $15 minimum wage would help workers without much adverse impact on businesses. The another but-- "But that’s a debatable issue." I guess the earth being flat is too. Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, had to try to clean up his mess afterwards, claiming "that Biden was not suggesting that $12 or $13 would be the ultimate target for the minimum wage, but instead was describing how it would progress gradually before ending up at $15 an hour in 2025... Biden’s comments may add to the debate over the minimum wage at a moment when congressional Democrats are renewing their focus on passing the overall relief bill. They face a mid-March deadline, when enhanced unemployment benefits will expire if Congress doesn’t act in time."

House passage of the legislation looks likely, even though some more moderate [NOTE: Erica Werner always refers to rotgut conservatives as "moderates," making them attractive to voters; I don't know why she always does it but there must be a reason] members of the caucus had hoped to move first on a stand-alone bill with funding for vaccines. However, bigger fights await in the Senate, where-- absent GOP support-- Democrats can’t afford to lose a single vote, given the chamber’s 50-50 divide between Republicans and Democrats. Democrats have the majority because Vice President Harris can break ties.
Two moderate [NOTE: see note above] Democrats in the Senate-- Joe Manchin III (WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ)-- have indicated that they oppose increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. If the Senate strips out the minimum wage increase and sends the legislation back to the House without it, liberals in the House would face a decision about whether to support the package anyway. [NOTE: moderates don't oppose increasing the minimum wage; only conservatives do; it's kind of definitional.]
“I hope that we’re going to get a bill back with $15 in it. And I think if we don’t, then, you know, we’re just going to have to make our decisions at that point,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said in an interview. “But I can tell you, it is a top priority for the CPC, and you know, bowing to one or two conservative Democrats seems like a terrible policy idea and a political idea.”

Thankfully Bernie has no intention of letting this go just because Biden doesn't really give a shit. In an e-mail to his supporters yesterday, Bernie noted that "Trump, and his narcissism and authoritarianism, are out of the White House. The impeachment trial, which garnered 57 votes to convict, is over. Now, if we're going to address the desperation facing working families and strengthen our democracy, we must focus like a laser on the needs of the American people. And, at the top of my agenda, is the need to raise the minimum wage to a living wage of $15 an hour. The task at hand is not to please newspaper editorial boards, talk show pundits or to create bipartisanship-- it is to address the needs of the American people, millions of whom are working two or three jobs just to put food on the table and a roof over their head."

It has been 12 years since workers have seen an increase in the federal minimum wage, and Democrats now have the opportunity to deliver long-overdue relief.
Raising the minimum wage isn’t about me, and it’s not about any other senator. It’s about people who are struggling. It is about half of our people who are living paycheck to paycheck, many of whom are working 40 hours a week and, at the end of the week, are worse off than when they began.
...People are facing more desperation now than at any point since the Great Depression, and they need their elected officials to help. Our legislation would give more than 32 million low-wage workers a raise, and the typical worker who would benefit is a 35-year-old woman who has gone to college and works full-time.
As Chair of the Budget Committee, I am committed to raising the minimum wage during the coming debate over budget reconciliation. We are going to mobilize our supporters like we did during our presidential campaign-- but this time it won’t be to win an election, it will be to win a raise for our neighbors, and even for people we don’t know, who need it desperately.
...A $15 minimum wage is not only a popular idea and the right and moral thing to do-- it is good policy. It is also a promise that Biden and Democrats have made for a number of years. Now is not the time to renege on promises. It is time to keep them. It is time to stand up for working families.
Now is the time to deliver.

Almost immediately after being elected Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock issued a joint statement to Georgia voters explaining why they signed on as co-sponsors of the bill to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour. Warnock: "For too long, the federal minimum wage has not had the same purchasing power it once had and many of Georgia’s hardworking families bear the brunt of that gap. The Raise The Wage Act will give workers the resources they need to retain housing, put food on the table, and help families manage the rising costs of vital services like child care." Ossoff: "My colleagues and I have introduced this legislation raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour because Georgia’s working families are struggling to pay the bills, and they deserve a livable wage for an honest day’s work."

37 Democrats (and no Republicans) have co-sponsored this bill so far. Among the ones who have refused are anti-working class conservatives Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), Mark Kelly (AZ), Joe Manchin (WV), Angus King (I-ME), Tom Carper (DE), Jon Tester (MT), Maggie Hassan (NH), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Chris Coons (DE), Catherine Masto Cortez (NV) and Frackenlooper (CO).

On Tuesday there was a bit of a media flurry over Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) saying they are coming up with their own minimum wage increase-- to an unspecified amount-- that is tied to forcing businesses to not hire undocumented workers. That will go nowhere fast. This morning Morris Pearl of the Patriotic Millionaires blasted the plan by noting that "Anything less than $15 is unacceptable and inadequate, and any attempt to introduce a bill with a lower amount should be seen for what it is: fighting for lower wages for American workers. Romney and Cotton see where the political winds are blowing and recognize that an increase to the minimum wage is inevitable, so they want to be on the right side of things while also trying to keep wages down. I'd love to be proven wrong when they release further details, but based on what we know now, this comes off as a transparently cynical ploy to keep the minimum wage depressed while also targeting undocumented workers. If they are truly concerned about America's small businesses, they should be working on what our businesses really need: consumers who make enough money to live on. They can create those consumers by lifting the minimum wage to $15, giving 27 million Americans a raise." He could have as easily been addressing that to Joe Biden-- and maybe he was.

Do you have a partner who makes your minimum wage feel like a million bucks? No, I never did either.