A BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
Every reasonable person familiar with the minimum wage/estate tax bill passed in the House is fed up with the Republicans' twisted behavior and clear partisan politics. A congressional staffer told BuzzFlash that Senate Democrats believe they have the votes to squeeze off a narrow defeat of the legislation, but that things are still very much up in the air. In the meantime, we have compiled a list of nine reasons why you should hate this bill and it's proponents.
- The fact that two totally unrelated issues are joined on the same bill is the most well known problem with the bill. If anything, cutting the estate tax to benefit the most rich and raising the minimum wage to benefit the most poor are polar opposites. And it's not like the Republicans are trying to compromise; true bipartisanship would mean finding common ground on each separately instead of forcing Democrats to vote against one of their key issues to avoid further bankrupting the country with more tax cuts.
- Bill Frist is refusing to consider allowing another vote on minimum wage this year in the Senate. "It's now or never," he said. He is well aware how bad it would look for his party to vote against the issue alone, and he is perfectly willing to abuse his power as Majority Leader to avoid public accountability for an exceedingly unpopular position. If he can find the time to schedule votes against gay marriage he knows will fail, he can find the time to allow a vote on minimum wage.
- It's no accident that cutting the estate tax will only help many of the GOP's biggest financial supporters: greedy fat cats and special interest groups. One of the leading opponents of minimum wage, the National Restaurant Association, is one of the GOP's top PACs. They have given nearly $1 million to Republicans in every election cycle in the last ten years, about ten times as much as they have given Democrats. The Republicans also know they stand to get more money for their campaigns if these people have more to give.
- The House bill would actually lower wages earned by thousands of workers across seven states that get tips. The minimum wage proposal would preempt the states' laws to allow a base of only $2.13 an hour, a loss of up to $5.50 an hour from current standards. We can think of a certain organization that stands to profit from this ploy (see #3).
- Many members of Congress have a personal stake in the estate tax. The Senate is also known as the Millionaires' Club for good reason. Several elected officials have or hope to gain from vast estates, and in turn hope to pass them down to their heirs. Notably, the DNC has recently called into question millions Bill Frist inherited a decade ago, claiming he avoided paying taxes by using his own charity as a tax shelter. The charity's lone significant contribution was to his old elite prep school which, like many places in Nashville, now has a building bearing the Frist name. Congress gives itself a raise every year, but cutting the estate tax is a serious conflict for many in office.
- The timing is terrible. With $8 billion spent in Iraq every month and an ever increasing deficit, the nation can ill afford the whopping $268 billion cost over the next decade right now. The government will be forced to raise taxes on the working class, cut spending on valuable social programs, and borrow even more from foreign countries to make up for the losses.
- The Republicans knew they only needed a few votes in the Senate to get the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster, and they hid incentives within the bill to get a few swing voters on board. To buy the vote of Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI), who is in a tight primary race, Republicans included generous business travel deductions for spouses, a popular measure in the tourism dependant state of Hawaii. Incentives are also included to woo Democratic Senators from West Virginia and Arkansas. This pork spending is just another distraction Republicans hope will allow them to trick Americans siding with them on a bad bill.
- The House bill ignores an important but little known issue, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. "The Marianas are a U.S. territory in the Pacific Ocean where our federal labor laws don't apply," said Rep. George Miller (D-CA). "The result is widespread abuse and exploitation of workers, mostly poor women." Miller has offered legislation to extend our minimum wage laws to the territory, but it was not included in the Republican's bill.
- Republicans have been utterly shameless and partisan. Rep. Zach Wamp (R-TN) taunted Democrats after the vote, saying, "I know why you're mad. You've seen us really outfox you." The minimum wage/estate tax bill is an obvious political ploy designed to confuse the public and blackmail Democrats with a "poison pill." It is a complete abuse of the power afforded to the majority party, and it's bad for America.
Even Sen. Ted Kennedy, whose family stands to gain millions under a curtailed estate tax, is opposing the inane legislation. "Under this bill, Paris Hilton and her family will get $250 million, while the tipped workers in Hilton hotels will lose up to $5.60 an hour," he said. "That's un-American."
A BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS