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.

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