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The Manchin-Biden Wing Of The Democratic Party Will Never Allow A Reasonable Minimum Wage Increase

Regardless of Biden's bullshit about a stand-alone minimum wage bill, it is impossible to find a pathway to overcome the GOP filibuster of this approach to the minimum wage increase, especially with conservative Democrats-- Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema-- making common cause with the Republicans against it. You need 60 votes to bust the filibuster in order to get to the underlying issue and vote on that. 48 Democrats might be joined by 4 or 5 Republicans-- 6 tops-- and that doesn't do it. The enemies of the working class-- and that includes Biden-- are getting their way on this. Abolishing the legislative filibuster would be much easier-- 50 votes would do it. But, again... Manchin and Sinema. And Biden. Jacobin writer Branko Marcetic doesn't beat around the bush when it comes to the way Biden wants to be seen as an ally of working families-- "we included the $15 minimum wage"-- while stabbing them in the back behind the scenes. At best, you could say that Biden sure isn't fighting as hard for the minimum wage as he is to confirm reactionary OMB nominee Neera Tanden.

"A longtime priority of the labor movement and the broad Left," wrote Marcetic of the $15 minimum wage, "the measure was one of the few big-ticket items Joe Biden had agreed to adopt from Bernie Sanders’s platform after vanquishing him in the Democratic primary. Though its impact would be seriously eroded by inflation compared to when it was first proposed, getting it passed would have still been transformational and life-changing for many, given that it would raise wages for 32 million workers, narrow the racial pay gap, and boost incomes for single-income parents, disproportionately mothers. Always a tall order given the corporatist, conservative nature of US politicians, the idea took a big leap closer to reality after Democrats won the runoffs in Georgia, giving them fifty votes in the Senate and therefore total, albeit flimsy, control over the federal government. Pushing it through was clearly going to be a tough slog. But as a core promise of Biden’s winning campaign, and one that has already been shown to be popular in Trump-loving Florida, where it won more votes than either presidential candidate, the measure has both public backing and some pretty big political benefits. So how did they fight for it?"

We'll get back to that in a second but first I want you to be clear-- the American people may approve of the job Biden is doing far more than the job Trump did but the American people approve of raising the minimum wage far more than they approve of Joe Biden. 61% of registered voters support the $15 minimum wage and just 37% oppose it. In the same poll, Biden's approval rating clocked in at 50% among registered voters. Better than Trump... not as good as the $15 minimum wage. That in great part is because independent voters give Biden a 44% approval rating and give the minimum wage increase a 63% approval. The Democrats are committing midterm suicide if they fail to pass the $15/hour minimum wage they promised the voters. And that takes us back to Marcetic:

After promising to be “the most pro-union president you’ve ever seen,” it took just over two weeks into the job for Biden to start giving up on the union-backed measure, telling CBS that he “put it in, but I don’t think it’s going to survive.” The problem was not just opposition from right-wing senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, but a more arcane, technical issue. In order to qualify for budget reconciliation, the filibuster-bypassing method Democrats are using to pass the stimulus bill to which the wage hike was attached, a measure must have an impact on the federal budget that’s not “merely incidental.” And it was looking increasingly likely that the Senate parliamentarian-- the official who rules on these kinds of technical points-- would strike it down.
Of course, this was far from a fatal setback. Plenty of Congresses and presidents have ignored the Senate parliamentarian, and in early February, the party discussed having Vice President Kamala Harris, who serves as the presiding officer of the Senate, simply overrule her-- only for the White House to nix the idea. Even after the Congressional Budget Office released a highly debatable analysis holding that a wage hike would raise the budget deficit-- accidentally making a strong case that it would, in fact, impact the federal budget and so could be passed through reconciliation-- Biden publicly told a group of mayors and governors that “it just doesn’t look like we can do it because of reconciliation.”

As soon as the parliamentarian gave her opinion, Biden's propaganda operation treated the end of the minimum wage hike like an instant fait accompli and "quickly released a statement affirming that the president 'respects the parliamentarian’s decision and the Senate process.' In other words, he was accepting defeat... Just as with Barack Obama and his Senate supermajority, the Democratic Party and its institutional backers will do everything they can in the coming weeks to convince people that the president and his party were powerless to make a $15 minimum wage happen-- that it was simply impossible. Don’t let them. As the fight over Neera Tanden shows, failure was a choice." Economist Stephanie Kelton reminded us of another style of leadership this morning:

Yesterday the Wall Street Journal was already ringing the alarm bells: Senate Democrats Look for Backup Plan to Raise Minimum Wage Through Taxes. They blame Bernie, Schumer and Senate Finance Committee chair Ron Wyden. "The plan would impose tax penalties on large companies that aren’t paying the higher wage Democrats seek and create tax incentives for small companies to do so. Democrats hope the chamber’s parliamentarian would allow them to include the modified plan... Wyden said Friday the proposal would impose a 5% penalty on the total payroll of a large corporation if it pays any workers below a certain amount, which he didn’t specify, with the penalty increasing over time. The plan would also provide small businesses that pay their employees higher wages with an income tax credit equal to 25% of wages, capped at $10,000 per employer a year. But Mr. Wyden didn’t specify how large a company would have to be before it would face the tax, or how small it would have to be to get the credit. 'I’ve been working on a plan B that would make big companies pay for mistreating their workers,' Mr. Wyden said in a statement Friday of the effort to increase the minimum wage. [Bernie] has said he is working on pushing companies to pay $15 an hour through a tax plan... Republicans criticized the proposal as a tax increase that would harm businesses and reduce employment. 'It seems ludicrous to tax people for a job-killing measure,' said Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee. 'Makes no sense at all.'"

It also might have relatively little impact in some sectors such as fast-food, which are dominated by a franchise model. In those areas, the larger companies such as McDonald’s Corp. aren’t always the employers. Instead, the franchisees tend to be smaller and regionally based, meaning that they may be able to keep wages near current levels without facing a tax increase.
Jonathan Meer, an economist at Texas A&M University, said the proposal would incentivize large companies to outsource low-wage work.
The plan appears to be a “really complicated, Rube-Goldberg-like attempted solution to a pretty simple problem,” he said.
The tax proposal might also be unclear for workers and could be easily reversed by future congresses, said Ben Zipperer, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal-leaning think tank.
“If small businesses are exempted, then it means many low-wage workers won’t see a pay increase,” he said. “Larger firms, in general, already pay more than small businesses.”
...It was unclear Friday how [right-wing reactionaries from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party] Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who opposed including a broad $15 increase in the package, would view the tax proposal. Mr. Manchin’s office declined to comment and Ms. Sinema’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Even if Senate Democrats were to unite around the proposal, progressive House Democrats said Friday that the tax proposal would be insufficient and that they would still press for a federal minimum wage increase.
“I’m very supportive of doing whatever we can, but at the end of the day we promised a $15 minimum wage, so if that $15 minimum wage isn’t in this package, we are going to have to figure out a way to get it through,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told reporters Friday.
She declined to say how she would vote on the coronavirus relief package if it included the tax proposal but not the broader increase in the federal minimum wage.

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