Tag Archives: Federal minimum wage

2015 Washington State Minimum Wage to Increase to $9.47/hr.

Washington State’s minimum wage will increase 15 cents on January 1, 2015 to $9.47 per hour.  Every year Washington State’s minimum wage increases based on inflation increasing the  Federal Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) over the last 12 months ending Aug. 31 of each year.  Initiative 688 passed by voters in 1998 was the first state in the nation to add the requirement that the minimum wage each year must be increased based on inflation.

The National Conference of State Legislatures  website has a list of all states and what their minimum wages will be next year. They note that nine states will have an increase based on their state laws requiring they be indexed to inflation. These state are Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, and Washington. Oregon will have the second highest state minimum wage after Washington State next year at $9.25 per hour.

The current Federal minimum wage is $7.25. Twenty nine states and the District of Columbia next year will have a higher  minimum wage than the Federal minimum wage. Attempts have been made in Congress to raise the Federal minimum  wage which is not indexed to inflation but have been rebuffed by Republicans who have taken the approach to oppose any legislation being pushed by President Obama.

The Federal minimum wage was last increased on July 24, 2009 – over five and a half years ago. The wage increase was part of passage of the Fair Labor Practices Act.  As the US Department of Labor notes “The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labor standards affecting full-time and part-time workers in the private sector and in Federal, State, and local governments.”

President Obama has proposed raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. Republicans who are more concerned about supporting corporate America than working families  have repeatedly opposed such legislation. President Obama in a direct attempt to circumvent Republican’s negative approach to addressing America’s problems  like income equality hurting those on the bottom of the economic ladder, signed an executive order raising the minimum wage for those working for Federal contractors to $10.10 per hour.

Republicans in Congress Wage War on Poor by Opposing Raising the Minimum Wage

The Republican War on the Poor is evident in their continued opposition to raising the national minimum wage.  Like on many other issues they are out of tune with the American people.  Fully three quarters of the American people support raising the national minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $9.00 according to a Gallup poll released this week.  Almost as many support indexing it to inflation so the issue does not have to be raised every few years in Congress and held hostage to Republican obstructionism.

As Gallup notes:

Despite President Barack Obama’s State of the Union call to raise the wage to $9 — and widespread rallies populated mainly by hourly fast-food workers — legislation that would accomplish this goal has thus far languished. More recently, the Obama administration has voiced support for the Harkin-Miller bill, which would raise the minimum wage even higher — to $10.10.

Republicans in Congress have continued to support tax breaks for the wealthy and oppose raising taxes in general which has benefited the wealthy the most. At the same they are resolutely opposed to helping people on the bottom of the economic ladder. Republicans in the US House in March voted unanimously against raising the minimum wage to $10.10.

As the Huffington Post reported in March:

A proposal by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour over the next two years and increase the wage for tipped employees to 70 percent of the minimum wage was defeated, with every House Republican voting against the motion. On the Democratic side, six lawmakers voted against the measure, and 184 Democrats voted for it.

Washington State’s minimum wage is currently the highest in the country at $9.19.  It is indexed to inflation and will increase to $9.32 next year.  It covers both retail workers and agricultural workers.  It has an exception for 14 and 15 year olds who can be paid at 85% of the minimum or $7.81 per hour.

Washington voters twice passed initiatives to raise the minimum wage in recent years.  The last time in 1998 they added a provision to index the minimum wage to inflation. That Initiative, Initiative 688, passed with a 66% yes vote.

Voters in SeaTac, Washington on the Nov 2013 ballot are passing a proposal to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15/hour. As of Nov 14 the measure is ahead by 52 votes. And it looks like if it wins, next up will be a court battle.

Washington State Minimum Wage to Increase to $9.04 on January 1, 2012

On January 1, 2012 Washington State’s minimum wage will increase to $9.04.  Once again Washington State will lead the nation in having the highest minimum wage.  Oregon’s minimum wage will increase to $8.80. 

The minimum wage level of Washington State, Oregon and 8 other state’s is indexed to inflation and the consumer price index. In 1998 Washington voters passed Initiative 688. It was the first state to index it’s minimum wage to inflation and set the standard for other states to follow rather than every few years waging battles to try to increase the minimum wage when inflation went up. The other eight states are Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, and Vermont.

As CNNMoney notes, “Minimum wage rates in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and Washington will rise between 28 and 37 cents per hour on Jan. 1 …Rates in these states will range from $7.64 per hour (in Colorado), to $9.04 (in Washington) in 2012.” Nevada does not raise its minimum wage until July 1st and Missouri, even with an adjustment, does not exceed the Federal minimum wage.

Increasing the minimum wage has positive effects on the economy.  As CNNMoney noted:

 “The small boosts for 2012 are estimated to tack an extra $582 to $770 a year onto the paychecks of full-time workers, according to the National Employment Law Project, a non-profit advocacy group.

What’s more, the increases could be a mini-boost for the economy. The expected rise in consumer spending as a result of the wage increases would add $366 million to the nation’s gross domestic product and lead to the creation of more than 3,000 full-time jobs.”

The Economic Policy Institute calculates the actual impact in even broader terms.

Across these eight states, an estimated 1,045,000 workers will be “directly affected.”  These are workers whose current wages are between the existing state minimum wage and the new Jan. 1 minimum wage. In addition, another 394,000 workers will be “indirectly affected” by the increase. These indirectly-affected workers are those whose current wages are just above the new Jan. 1 minimum, and are likely to also see a wage increase as employers adjust their overall pay structures to reflect the new minimum (the “spillover” effect).

Despite the benefits of indexing the minimum wage to inflation, the national minimum wage is not indexed to inflation. Thus as the cost of goods like food and gas go up, the buying ability of minimum wage workers decreases. The current Federal wage is currently only $7.25.  That’s just a little over $15,000 a year.

The federal minimum wage needs to be indexed to inflation. Congress has a dismal record of increasing the minimum wage.  From 1997 to 2007, the minimum wage was stuck at $5.15 despite increases in inflation. In legislation passed in 2007 it went up to $5.85 in June 2007, then to $6.55 in June 2008 and then to $7.25 in June 2009. No further increase have been made in the last 2 1/2 years.

Barack Obama, as part of his transition team agenda, said he would work to raise the minimum wage and index it to inflation.  We need to hold him to his promise and to put Democrats and Republicans on the spot as to standing up for helping low income workers make it in this economy.  Republicans will voice all their usual objections but there is no better way to convince voters of whose interests they really represent than to challenge them to support working Americans by raising the minimum wage for the lowest paid workers.

And progressives in the states that have initiatives would be wise to run minimum wage initiatives with an inflation index in 2012.  With all the attention on the vast disparity of wealth distribution in this country that has gotten worse, its time to put on the ballot measures that work to redress this imbalance and that point out the differences between the goals of Republicans and Democrats.  Democrats have joined with Labor in working to help raise the pay of lower wage earners. Republicans have not.

Washington State Minimum Wage Increases January 1, 2011

Washington State’s minimum wage continues to lead the nation. On January 1, 2011 it will increase 12 cents per hour to $8.67 per hour. As reported by Rachael La Corte in today’s Seattle Times, an attempt by business interests in Washington State to challenge the 12 cent increase was rejected by a Kittitas County Judge after a motion for summary judgement to prevent it going into effect on Saturday. The lawsuit still remains active according to the article.

Groups challenging the minimum wage increase included the Washington Restaurant Association, the Washington Farm Bureau and the Washington Retail Association.

According to the article:

A Seattle-based lawyer for Justice for Immigrant Workers said the increase is “a big deal for a lot of people.”
“That 12-cent raise goes further than you think,” Rebecca Smith said. “It’s going to make a difference of a few dollars a week — but a few dollars a week buys an extra loaf of bread, another gallon of milk or a gallon of gas.”
The agency’s decision in October to raise the rate came after conflicting legal opinions from the state attorney general and the authors of the 1998 voter initiative that tied the minimum wage to the Consumer Price Index.

The current Federal minimum wage is only $7.25 and has no consumer inflation index adjustment which means that each time inflation goes up nationally, jobs tied to the federal minimum wage see decreased purchasing power for the hours worked.  Republicans have consistently opposed Federal minimum wage increases while Democrats have supported them.

Ten states have minimum wages that adjust to index them to inflation.  Washington State was the first state to enact legislation to automatically raise the minimum wage based on increases in the consumer price index.  The voters enacted the current law by passing Initiative 688 in 1998.

As noted on the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries website:

Initiative 688, approved by Washington voters in 1998, requires L&I to make a cost-of-living adjustment to its minimum wage each year based on the federal Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). This measures the average change in prices on a fixed group of goods and services such as food, shelter, medical care, transportation and other goods and services people purchase for day-to-day living. L&I recalculates the state’s minimum wage in September, and it takes effect the following year on January 1.

The minimum wage in Washington State was $8.55 in 2009 and stayed the same in 2010 because of a decrease in inflation.  The minimum wage will increase to $8.67 on Jan 1, 2011.  It will be the highest in the nation.

In this year’s Senate election in Washington State, Republican Dino Rossi, supported lowering the minimum wage. Other Republicans this year publicly supported lowering the minimum wage. Amanda Getchel notes that:

Republican candidates Joe Miller of Alaska, John Raese of West Virginia, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Linda McMahon of Connecticut have all called for reducing the minimum wage with Raese flat out saying it should be eliminated.

Only Rand Paul was elected by the voters.

The current Federal minimum wage law was passed in 2007. Washington State Republicans Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Doc Hastings joined with  other Republicans nationally to oppose the bill. All 233 Democrats in the House at the time joined with 82 Republicans to support the legislation. 116 Republicans in the House voted no. They include 9 of the incoming 12 members of the House leadership.

Of the members of the incoming House leadership,

Speaker of the House: Rep. John Boehner (R-OH)- VOTED NO

Majority Leader: Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) – VOTED NO

Majority Whip: Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) – VOTED NO

Conference Chairman: Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) – VOTED NO

NRCC Chairman: Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) – VOTED NO

Policy Committee Chairman: Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) – VOTED NO

Conference Vice-Chair: Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) – VOTED NO

Conference Secretary: Rep. John Carter (R-TX) – VOTED NO

Freshman Representative: Rep.-elect Kristi Noem (R-SD) – NOT IN CONGRESS AT TIME

Freshman Representative: Rep.-elect Tim Scott (R-SC) – NOT IN CONGRESS AT TIME

Rules Committee Representative: Rep. David Dreier (R-CA) – VOTED NO

Chairman of the Leadership: Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) – VOTED YES

Nine of the 12 House Leadership members voted no to raise the minimum wage. Two other members of the incoming House leadership were not in Congress at the time. Only Greg Walden voted NO – Oregon voters previously passed an initiative to index their minimum wage to inflation. Oregon’s minimum wage is near the top in the country.

Prospects for any Federal increase in the minimum wage in the near future looks difficult as long as Republicans control the House.

As noted in a separate article in the Seattle Times seven states will see an increase in their minimum wage in 2011.

Poverty advocates say the rising minimum wages shouldn’t be seen as raises, just adjustments to keep the working poor at the same level as prices of goods rise.
The National Employment Law Project, a New York-based advocate for workers, estimates that about 647,000 people will see their paychecks go up in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.

Three other states with their minimum wage indexed to inflation did not see enough of an increase to see a rise in their minimum wage – Florida, Nevada and Missouri.

In the near term any increase in the minimum wage will probably have to take place at the state level. In previous initiative efforts to raise the minimum wage in Washington State voters have strongly supported raising the minimum wage. Initiative 688 in 1998 was approved by Washington voters by a 66% yes vote. A previous vote to raise the minimum wage in 1988, Initiative 518, passed with a 77% yes vote. It was not indexed to inflation.

Minimum Wage Initiatives win Big Across Country

This year there were six states that had initiatives on the ballot to increase their state minimum wage. And in all six states, voters passed them by wide margins. What is also significant is that the state minimum wages were also indexed to increase as inflation increases.

This is significant because in the past voters or legislatures raised the minimum wage, only to have workers see its value diminish each year as inflation increased living costs. Then the battle would have to be fought all over again.

This happened in Washington State. In 1988 after continued inaction by the Washington State Legislature, a coalition of groups, including the Washington State Labor Council, in 1988 got Initiative 518 passed. It raised the minimum wage to $4.90. Despite repeated attempts in the state legislature this remained the minimum wage for the next 10 years.

So in 1998 Washington citizens again had to file and pass an initiative to raise the minimum wage. But this time the coalition was wiser, not wanting to have to repeat this cycle over and over of going to the legislature and being ignored as inflation increased living costs but the minimum wage stayed the same and then having to run another initiative. This time the initiative was written to index the minimum wage to inflation.

Initiative 668 supporters collected some 288,357 signatures and put the measure on the Nov. 1998 ballot. I-688 overwhelmingly passed with a 66.14% approval to 33.86% disapproval.

Washington State was the first state to pass a minimum wage increase indexed to inflation. Initiative 688 to the people raised the minimum wage from $4.90 to $5.70 in 1999 and then to $6.50 in 2000.

Increases after that were calculated each Sept 30th using the consumer price index for urban wage earners and clerical workers and went into effect Jan 1st of the following year.

This year the minimum wage is $7.63. On Jan 1, 2007 it will increase 30 cents to $7.93.

State Minimum Wage initiatives passing this year:

Arizona ….. $6.75 …….passed… 66% to 34%
Colorado …. $6.85 …….passed… 53% to 47%
Missouri …. $6.50 …….passed… 76% to 24%
Montana ….. $6.15 …….passed… 73% to 27%
Nevada …… $6.15 …….passed… 69% to 31%
Ohio …….. $6.85 …….passed… 56% to 44%

Meanwhile the Federal minimum wage is stuck at $5.15. It has not increased since 1997. Legislation to increase the Federal minimum wage was killed by Republicans in campaign politics earlier this year. The newly elected Democratic majority in Congress has vowed to raise the minimum wage in January.

Current language does not include indexing the minimum wage increase to inflation. Congress needs to do this to be fair to working class families. Their own pay is indexed to inflation.
see http://usgovinfo.about.com/library/weekly/aa031200a.htmA cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) increase takes effect annually unless Congress votes to not accept it.”

Write or email or call Congress and urge that they index the minimum wage to inflation. Don’t hold workers hostage to future Congresses. Minimum wage workers deserve better.

previous posts by MajorityRulesBlog:
Senator Cantwell Opposes Republican’s Attempt to cut Washington’s Minimum Wage
US Representatives Reichert, McMorris and Hastings Vote to Cut Washington’s Minimum Wage
for further history and analysis of Washington State’s Minimum Wage also check out the Economic Opportunity Institute’s excellent collection of policy briefs, issue papers, and other links on this issue.

And Now for the Rest of the Story by Mike McGavick.

“It’s part of the crap you can expect from the party of Karl Rove.It’s totally taken out of context.” That was my wife’s reaction to hearing Republican Mike McGavick’s new radio ad on KIRO this morning. I couldn’t have said it better.

In the radio ad McGavick accuses Senator Maria Cantwell of voting against this state’s soon to expire sales tax deduction on our Federal income tax. He basically accuses her of stealing a $550 sales tax deduction from Washington families. It’s desperation politics time I guess.

As the Seattle PI notes this morning in an editorial, the real vote was also on reducing the minimum wage for tip workers in this state and reducing the Federal estate tax on multimillionaires. But McGavick fails to mention this saying only that “she disagreed with parts of the bill”. In Washington State thousands of restaurant workers and others that rely on tips to get by, would have seen a real reduction in their actual take home pay as they saw their minimum wage go down under one of the “parts” of this bill.

My analogy of McGavick’s ad is, its like someone calling to say your son is coming home from the war, but neglects to say he is also dead. If this is the type of Senator that McGavick will be, then we can expect he will never tell us the full story. We can’t expect him to tell us the truth as a Senator because he can’t do it now. By the way, he did say that he approved the ad.

McGavick claims Cantwell’s vote (against decreasing the minimum wage for thousands of Washington State workers) was part of the partisan nonsense that causes people to vote against families of your own state.

Well you have that right Mike. The partisan Republican run Congress, that does not consult with the Democrats, is not interested in helping working families or they would have run the sales tax deduction as a separate bill. One also might wonder why they didn’t make the sales tax deduction permanent in the first place. Likewise they could have run increasing the minimum wage as a separate bill and allowed for amendments. They were previously unable to pass the inheritance tax bill on its own. And Republicans have repeatedly stopped any vote on the minimum wage year after year.

Why are they having to vote on it again except for partisan Republican advantage to do things like helping the National Restaurant Association lower what their workers make or helping their wealthy patron donors avoid paying tax on appreciated property or stocks by allowing them to transfer it tax free when someone dies.

If you really want to avoid further partisan Republican steamrolling over American families and voters, then do as McGavick suggests. Lets end this one party rule and boot the Republicans out of Congress. It time to get back to the business of America and really help families with education, health care and jobs that pay a living wage, rather than worrying about things like whether “under God” is in our Pledge of Allegiance.

McGavick is right on ending strident partisanship in Congress. However electing another Republican to the Senate is not the way to do it.

It Should be an Easy Vote for Cantwell and Murray!

Would a true blue Democrat vote to cut wages below the current minimum wage for workers in Washington State? The Republicans in the US House of Representatives have prepared a Faustian bargain for Democratic Senators in Washington State and 6 other states with their just passed H.B. 5970. While the bill purports to raise the minimum wage, for many workers in Washington State it does the opposite.

We posted on this bill yesterday noting that Washington State’s 3 Republican Congressman (Reichert, McMorris and Hastings) voted for H.B. 5970. On the surface it seems to raise the minimum wage over 3 years but the details say otherwise for many workers in Washington State.

As Rose Eisenbrey of Counterpunch notes:

“The Estate Tax and Extension of Tax Relief Act of 2006, H.R. 5970, which passed the House on July 29, raises the minimum wage for most employees. But for many employees in seven states, H.R. 5970 means a wage cut. Section 402 of the bill strikes down state laws that require employers to pay a full minimum wage without relying on tips from customers to reach the minimum level.1 States that have those laws will see the minimum wage for tipped employees fall as much as $5.50 per hour.

Seven states-Alaska, California, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington-exclude, in the words of H.R. 5970, ” all of a tipped employee’s tips from being considered as wages in determining if such tipped employee has been paid the applicable minimum wage rate.” According to Section 402, therefore, the “minimum wage rate provisions” of those state laws may not be enforced “with respect to tipped employees.” Tipped employees (defined as any employee who earns more than $30 per month in tips) would be left without any minimum wage protection under state law in those seven states.

In most cases, the tipped employees would be subject to the federal minimum wage law, which allows employers to pay as little as $2.13 an hour and to rely on customers’ tips to make up the rest of the $5.15 minimum wage. This is known as a “tip credit.” Thus, in Washington, tipped employees would see their minimum wage cut from its current $7.63 an hour (plus tips) to $5.15 an hour (including tips). Employers would see their minimum wage obligation to tipped employees fall by $5.50 an hour-from $7.63 an hour to $2.13 an hour (assuming $3.02 in customer tips). For example, an employee who is currently paid the state minimum age of $7.63 an hour and receives $3.02 in tips earns a total of $10.65 per hour. Under the House-passed bill, the employer would be permitted to pay only $2.13 an hour and count the customers’ tips to make up the rest of the $5.15 federal minimum wage. The employee would lose $5.50 per hour in pay.”

The bill also raises the tax exemption on estate taxes to $5 million per person. Stashed away in the bill is a provision to keep the sales tax exemption on Federal income taxes and provisions to aid timber companies.

While some of the provisions in this bill might tempt some to support it, it is a lose/lose for Washington State voters and workers. We already have the highest minimum wage in the country at $7.63 an hour, so we gain nothing here. As noted above, Washington workers actually lose.ose.

And loss of the estate tax dollars means a huge cut in Federal tax dollars for services that benefit lower income people. The estate tax affects a few thousand people who are millionaires.

The vote should be an easy one for Cantwell and Murray. Whatever benefits are in the bill are more than offset by lowering the minimum hourly wage for many Washington workers.

U.S. Representatives Reichert, McMorris, and Hastings vote to cut Washington’s Minimum Wage

Our three Washington State Republican Representatives in Congress just voted to cut the minimum wage in 7 states, including Washington.

In an editorial today, the Seattle PI called the Republican House of Representatives a “Reverse Robin Hood” in passing a new law that “would rob wages from the poor to benefit the rich

Just before Congress left for its August recess the House approved a bill to raise the the national minimum wage to $7.25 an hour – coupling it with increased cuts in the estate tax.
But as the PI notes:

For workers in seven states — including Washington — the bill actually is a pay cut for many employees because it requires that tips now be calculated into the minimum wage. Current state law excludes tips.

The bill “is the first time in history that the federal government has acted to put a ceiling on minimum wage levels, rather than establishing a national floor from which the states can make improvements,” says Ross Eisenbrey, vice president of the Economic Policy Institute.

The new federal law would mandate that the minimum wage be as little as $2.13 for workers who get tips, calling it a “tip credit.” Folks who earn minimum wage are now paid $7.63 an hour in Washington state — plus tips. Thus the new law could reduce the hourly wage as much as $5.50 an hour. Washington Republican Reps. Dave Reichert, Cathy McMorris and Doc Hastings voted yea — and against current state law.”

The New York Times yesterday editorialized on the trading of a minimum wage increase for the estate tax cuts as “Fooling the Voters” and called it “an attempt at extortion.”

“…a $2.10 an hour increase in the minimum wage, to be phased in over three years; and a multibillion-dollar estate-tax cut. That’s the deal House Republicans are really offering a few more dollars for 6.6 million working Americans; billions more for some 8,000 of the wealthiest families.”

“There is no way to justify providing yet another enormous tax shelter to the nation’’s wealthiest heirs in the face of huge budget deficits, growing income inequality and looming government obligations for Social Security and Medicare

The Washington Post likewise noted what was at stake here:

“Appended to the minimum wage hike that the vast majority of them opposed was a provision genuinely dear to their hearts: a cut in the estate tax that chiefly benefits the super-rich and that will reduce government revenue over the next decade, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, by $753 billion. The shortfall could well lead to offsetting cuts in programs that benefit the same working poor that the minimum-wage increase would help. But who cares about the poor? The whole point of the exercise was to come up with a bill that might force some Democrats to vote for an estate tax cut they would otherwise oppose, and enable Republicans to claim they weren’t really the Dickensian grotesques that many of them in fact are.

Which may be why the Republicans’ midnight orations in favor of raising the wage bore minimal resemblance to, say, the Sermon on the Mount. Their tone was best captured by Tennessee Rep. Zach Wamp, a Mayberry Machiavelli if ever there was one, who could not restrain himself from telling House Democrats, “You have seen us really outfox you on this issue tonight.

Wamp’s taunt can serve as the credo for this entire Republican Congress, which legislates only when, and because, it can outfox the Democrats. It is the credo of the Bush administration as well, which views even its signature policy — its war on terrorism — as its foremost wedge issue against the Democrats. Combine this hyper-partisan ethos with a far-right ideology that sees no role for the government even as our corporate welfare state crumbles and our planet turns to toast, and you get a more do-nothing government than Harry Truman could have even imagined.”

I particularly liked the part about being outfoxed. Haven’t I heard something like that recently from Eyman’s cronie when he called the press to a press conference on turning in the anti-discrimination referendum but was really promoting his anti-transportation Initiative 917. The press didn’t like that.

No one likes to be toyed with and made fun of. The American public doesn’t either. Congress has serious business to do to attend to the needs of America. Republicans are enjoying playing games and avoiding big issues. They would rather vote on the words “under God” in the pledge of allegiance than try to figure out how to end the war in Iraq. They would rather play games than increase fuel efficiency standards for cars or consider other ways to reduce energy demand.

Come November, voters will remember the Republican machine helping the super rich and corporate America while ignoring health care and education. Republicans continue to show their true colors. Voters only need to open their eyes.

A Bad Idea – Bush Health Savings Accounts for the Poor

President Bush, once again with nice sounding thoughts about helping the poor with expanding Health Care Accounts, winds up doing nothing. What the poor really need is a higher minimum wage. Maybe if they had less stress trying to make ends meet with no money they would be healthier. Try living on $10,920 a year and see how much stress you would have.

In a just released study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington DC, they say that Bush’s Individual Health Savings Account idea would actually result in a net increase in the number of workers without heath care insurance. The reason is that there would be a decline in the number of employers providing health care. This would offset any gain in individual coverage.

Once again Bush is looking out for corporate interests, decreasing their obligation to provide health care insurance. Places like Wendy’s which only start their store crew at minimum wage and add only dollar or two over time, really are shirking their social responsibility to provide people working for them with a decent livable wage. By paying low wages they shift the burden of health care costs onto the taxpayers who pick up the increased medical costs through public assistance programs. They want people to work for them but they certainly don’t provide fair wages by paying minimum wage.

Some 33 states nationwide have a state minimum wage the same as the Federal minimum wage of $5.25 per hour. That’s the same as it was 9 years ago. Funny thing is you can’t buy a gallon of gas or a loaf of bread for what it cost nine years ago.

Compassionate conservatism? Hey I’ve got some tax breaks for the wealthy I’d like to sell you.
Don’t blame me if they trickle down on you, like a little warm and with a yellow tinge.

You don’t understand do you Mr. President?

Talk about out of his mind – How stupid do you think the American people are Mr President?

The NY Times yesterday carried an article entitled, “Bush Promotes Health Accounts at Wendy’s” Bush spoke at Wendy’s corporate Headquarters not a local Wendy’s restaurant. Bush campaigned for expanding what are called Health Savings Plans. Currently these plans only cover catastrophic health care costs, with the first $1050 picked up by the policy holder. Up to $5000 a year can be put in this account. This may be of some interest to people like John T Schuessler, the Chairman of the Board of Wendy’s although I doubt it. Last years annual report said that he received a salary of $1,047,730 plus “restricted stock awards” and other compensation totaling another $6,325,914.

Let’s look at the other end of Wendy’s employees – the crew that serves the food. I called several local Wendy’s in Seattle to see what I would get per hour if I went to work for them. I was told that wages stared at minimum wage. Fortunately I’m in Washington State which has the highest state minimum wage in the country – $7.63. Now if I worked 40 hours a week for 52 weeks I would receive a gross pay of $15, 870. Eventually I was told I could get as much as $9.25 an hour. I’m truly lucky I live in Washington state with its high minimum wage..

When I checked with the Restaurant Association on line they had a map of state minimum wages across the country. Turns out 33 states minimum wage is only $5.15 an hour or only $10,712 a year and while I didn’t check what people make at Wendy’s in these states I would bet you that its not going to be much above the minimum wage.

Next I was curious as to what are the Federal Guidelines for poverty in the US. For 1 person it’s considered $9800, for a family of 2 it’s $13,200, for a family of 3 it’s $16,000 and a family of 4 it’s $20,000. I have a family of 4 so if I went to work for Wendy’s I would be working and earning below the poverty level.

When I asked Wendy’s if there were any benefits, they said no. Now I could see why Wendy’s would be supportive of Health Savings Plans. Their crew employees make poverty level wages
and are paid no benefits. So instead of the President asking Wendy’s how they can expect their bottom level employees to live a decent life working 40 hours a week and being paid poverty level wages and no benefits, he says that they could put some of their poverty level wages in a health savings account. Then they would have health care. Right? I guess that’s instead of paying rent or buying groceries or buying a toy or two if they have kids.

According to the NY times article it seems Bush is willing to put the blame on poverty level workers for having no health care, not the company or the US Government and the fact that the Federal minimum wage has not increased in 9 years. It’s all individual responsibility he says.

In answering critics of his plan Bush responded. “It’s kind of basically saying, ‘If you’re not making a lot of money, you can’t make decisions for yourself,’ ” Mr. Bush told Wendy’s employees assembled in the company’s lobby. “That’s kind of a Washington attitude, isn’t it. ‘We’ll decide for you, you can’t figure it out yourself.’ I think a lot of folks here at Wendy’s would argue that point of view is just simply backwards and not true.”

Yeh I see your point Mr. President. What’s the matter with minimum wage worker’s at places like Wendys in America? Really, how hard of a decision is it to make? You’re living at poverty level and you expect to have health care when you are having problems subtracting your rent and food and water and heat and electricity and still having more than a few dollars to live on? Heaven forbid you should get sick and need medicine. You should just count your blessings that people like Chairman Schuessler have a job for you at all.