consultants are sandburs

Monday, December 09, 2013

What we need, apparently, is a more progressive attitude in the White House, regarding wage earner plight.

Earlier, DaC linked here. A follow-up MinnPost item, here. National Journal notes:

Progressives are starting to worry that President Obama may be more talk than walk when it comes to raising the minimum wage. Again, on Wednesday, the president said, "It's well past the time to raise a minimum wage that, in real terms right now, is below where it was when Harry Truman was in office."

Well, progressives say, there's a whole group of low-wage workers that he can fix this for, just with the stroke of a pen. The chairmen of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Reps. Raul Grijalva and Keith Ellison, wrote a letter that urges the president to circumvent Congress and sign an executive order to raise the minimum wage for workers employed through federal government contracts with private companies. This letter comes months after 49 members of the CPC requested the same thing from the president, only to hear radio silence about it from the White House.

"It's frustrating," says Ellison, who hand-delivered the letter to the president after his speech Wednesday. "We know his heart is in the right place and he wants to do something, and this is something he can do."

It's especially frustrating for Ellison and his caucus considering there is no chance such a measure could pass the Republican-held House and that Obama said months ago that he would use "whatever executive authority I have to help the middle class."

In this case, when you take all of the people this could affect—from folks who sew military uniforms to the men and women cleaning up after tourists at the Smithsonian or Union Station, to workers at the National Zoo—it adds up.

According to a report from the progressive think tank Demos, there were nearly 2 million private sector workers funded by public dollars (from direct federal contracts as well as federal health care spending, loans through the Small Business Administration, infrastructure grants, and janitors cleaning federal buildings leased from private companies) making less than $12 an hour in 2012.

That's more than the number of people working at Walmart and McDonalds combined.

Mention of Harry Truman is interesting, in that Truman in the post-War 1940's by executive order integrated the military, despite Dixicrat power than at play in his party, and with the post-Kennedy-assassination civil rights reform lagging well beyond that and the freedom riders and lunch counter protests, as well as beyond Warren Court decisions such as Brown v. Board of Education, or Jackie Robinson's big league debut (also a late 1940's step, with Shelly v. Kraemer also from that period). With the legislative branch lagging, the other two branches acted then, and having a legal education and one black parent Obama should pay heed. Truman had the courage, perspective and judgment. Obama needs some of each.

Speeches are fine. Action has substance. Issue the order, get that done, instead of playing political football with the issue. The man's undue "restraint" sometimes is vexing.

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