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Letter: Raise the minimum wage – as a first step

An increase in the minimum wage is long overdue in this country.

Wages have not kept pace with productivity for 30 years. It is a necessary first step to undoing the ill effects of 30 years of trickle-down Reaganomics – the largest peacetime transfer of wealth in history.

In contrast to other advanced democracies, America is now a low-wage nation. Once, we paid the highest wages in the world. Now income is redistributed upward, while the tax burden is shifted down, and economic opportunity for the 99 percent has greatly diminished. Growth in total employee compensation in the United States since 1985 has been by less than half a percent.

By contrast, other advanced democracies continue to have shared prosperity. Total compensation since 1985 in Germany has increased by 194 percent – giving the lie to those who claim globalization is the reason for our decline. Significant reform is required on many levels if we are to restore the American dream: stronger labor laws, a reversal of three decades of off-shoring of manufacturing, and a genuine commitment to investment in good jobs at good wages. All Americans, including those who labor picking our crops, working in our slaughterhouses, or working two jobs and long hours to try and make ends meet, deserve nothing less than a living wage. A higher minimum wage is an essential first step.



Legacy Comments95

There should be NO - nada - zip Federal minimum wage. Each state may impose their own to their liking but it simply is absurd to think a 1 size first all wage it appropriate. For instance.... Almost every resident of Alaska will get a $900 cut from their portion of the state's oil profits this year. Only a LIDV will not why that is pertinent.

Outrageous sellout of media integrity. This almost plagiaristic letter from Bruce Currie can been seen in hundreds of media outlets across the nation. Senator Shummer (D-NY) stated that this is the first phase in the democrats roll out of their populist message to stage their reelection. This coordinated roll out of Bruce Currie's letter on 1/2/14 requires the suspension of disbelief that the CM was not in cahoots, in not only it the national timing of the roll out, but in their massive over bearing management and censorship of this forums discussion. This liberal progressive populist ploy is the absolute lowest form of political discussion. It is 100% pure WEDGE politics. This paper has long ago lost its journalistic integrity but now they are stooping so low they are clearly appear to be in cahoots with the liberal populist progressive left wing of the democrat party fostering the worst form of politics. The founding Fathers are rolling in their graves. Post 2 of 12 1/9/14

i can not believe how seriously you guys take yourselves. This is an OPINION page as you told me yourself.. What is written here will not long be remembered or cared about. It is a forum to vent which you are very good at. You all use Republican talking points every day, is that plagiarism? Get a grip, guys.

It is not about "talking points" for conservative posters. Most of the time we are correcting what others post or newspapers edit (aka propaganda) to set the record straight. We also believe wholehearedly what we write. Bottom line tillie is that I want for my children the quality of life I had as a child. I want them to do better and to have more freedom. Those aren't talking points, those are traditional beliefs. On Sails points above, I might say that there is a connection there sail, do some research.

Actually I was referring to Sail and you having these tiffs with the moderator. If you and Sail feel you have so much to say that is not getting printed, how about writing a book together. All these conservative books, like "War on Christmas" seem to become best sellers. Nothing like preaching to the choir.

I would say that those "tiffs" as you call them reveal what we have been sayig all along, no sense of neutrality.

The War On Poverty is being brought back by the Dems. The thinking is that if Obama could promise the moon and win twice, then the voters will buy it again.

50 years - $20 TRILLION spent and Obama has it higher than ever - that is the perfect example of how the democrats operate

When LBJ declared a war on poverty, the poor were 19% of the population. 50 years have passed and we have spent $20T. 15% of our population is now considered "poor" and Democrats expect to spend more. Poor accounting for where the money is spent and how it is spent, poor enforcement of the rules and to be honest 50 years ago, several prominent Democrats stated that although Republicans were opposed to this spending because we would be flooded with illegal immigrants that it was a straw man argument. Guess what? It happened. Now, Ted Kennedy, a young Senator then stated that this would not even be felt from the wallets of taxpayers. Now Democrats are positioning themselves to repeat history.

I doubt that LBJ's "War on Poverty" has much to do with our immigration problem. Illegal immigrants have long come here to do the hard low-wage work that most of us won't do, often with a nod and a wink from employers like meat-packing companies. And those numbers being tossed around are open to question. The Washington Post gave the claims 2 Pinocchios: "Lay aside possible limitations in citing the official poverty rate as a metric for progress. As we have shown, the $15-trillion estimate for 50 years of spending on poverty programs has its own set of limitations. The number lacks too much context to be of much value for this important debate, especially when juxtaposed with the current poverty rate".

Here we go with the hyperbole and rhetoric of "to do the work Americans won't do". I do agree with you that some companies hire them to reduce their labor and they should be punished severely for that. I can also tell you that every company I have ever worked for has been inspected for proper I-9 compliance and I have never seen an infraction. The Chamber of Crony Capitalism (Chamber of Commerce) and Democrats want amnesty and their unholy alliance will kill this country and economy. The former wants it so that businesses can hire cheap labor and the Democrats want it so that they can stack their voter rolls and win elections. The real issue is that government throws money at every issue but fails to effectively manage those programs and thus, nothing changes. The saying that if you always do what you have always done, you will always get the same result applies here.

My post was prompted by your claim that illegal immigration was the result of the 'war on poverty'-- "we [were] flooded by illegal immigration". I fail to see where you provide any factual evidence to support that claim--just another rant. Once again, everybody is entitled to their opinion, but not their own facts.

LBJ opened the flood gates by signing the Hart-Celler law and then declaring a war on poverty. Republicans at the time correctly stated that immigration (illegal) would ensue, they were correct and make the war on poverty even deeper. It has done just that over the past 50 years.

I would think that the stance of more labor laws, and more costs to business besides what the ACA will cost, is not going to encourage growth. When the price of employment goes up, you get less of it. The left do not want to talk about who works for minimum wage, because it goes against their theory of working families with 4 kids working for minimum wage. They also do not want to discuss what happens to youth employment when the minimum wage is increased. And we have a youth issue in this country, especially in regards to young men. More demands on business does not hurt big corps, it hurts small business. Add the cost and taxes of the ACA and raise the minimum wage and you will see more unemployment.

If you do not like the policies of a company, do not work there. It is called choice. Why do you think folks want union jobs, because of the benefits they offer. I know how unions are run in Germany. I also know that Germany is the size of Wyoming and the work ethic there is quite a bit different than in the US. I also know what happens when Germany opens plants here in the US in regards to unions. The idea that gov needs to mandate business is why we are in the mess we are in now with business not expanding or hiring. President Obama and his followers put business on the enemies list, except for his cronies in business who he rewarded. Why factories left is a whole other debate.

There is no "distribution" when it comes to "income", "income" and "wealth" is earned or it is provided for the neediest by all of us. The problem is that some underachievers who made different choices in life are waking up looking for a piece of the pie that they did not contribute to.

That explanation files in the face of the facts.But avoiding the facts and turning to "moral weakness" as the explanation is what posters do when they no longer want to deal with unpleasant and inconvenient truths. "Life choices" doesn't explains sharply reduced tax cuts for income, capital gains, and inheritance taxes in this country. "Life choices" doesn't explains the huge disparities in total compensation between U.S. CEOs and those of other advanced nations. "Life choices" doesn't explain the stagnant wages of the middle class, nor the growing numbers of the poor, nor the fact that the 1% share of income has doubled in 30 years from 9 1/2 % to over 19%. What excellent life choices the 1% have made in life--proving they're the worthy and elect. And the millions of Americans who've seen their incomes stagnate or decline, or lost their jobs in the recession: such bad choices! Ah, the "freedom to choose"!

It should be an insult to every thinking persons common sense to believe that Bruce's perceived problem and his solution of raising minimum wages would be even one of the top 10 preferred solutions. One easy simple and non economy wrecking solution to his perceived problem would be to increase the Earned Income Tax Credit . However, If a reader does not see that the root cause and solution to Bruce's perceived problem is fixing the Zip code based liberal progressive Big Govt institutions of indoctrination then the USA has a bigger problem. Without fixing the cause wrought by liberals then no increase in the minimum wage will ever fix the problem. Post 11 of 12 on 1/8/14

NATIONAL HEADLINE: "New IRS rule to cut into restaurant workers’ tips". Even as President Obama and progressive activists are trying to sell the nation on hiking the national minimum wage to help restaurant workers and other low-wage employees, the Internal Revenue Service is seemingly determined to make life harder for those same workers. A change in tax policy implemented Jan. 1 will prevent restaurant workers from collecting automatic gratuities — the added 18 percent fee many restaurants charge to groups of eight or more — as part of their tips. Instead, that added fee will be included in their payroll, meaning workers have to wait up to two weeks to get that extra cash and must pay additional taxes on it. It means less money in servers’ pockets and more for the federal government. "

I tried to find data on exactly how many people in the US are making minimum wage. It was no easy task. Here is what I found. As a percentage of the population, just over 1% of people make minimum wage. That includes people that work for tips, who actually make more than minimum wage. So in reality, the number is less than that.

Economic facts to be presented for discussion. Businesses in 2014 will be hit will MASSIVE NObamaKare taxes and fees on top the democrats mandate that they provide health Insurance for all employees. The coordinated national roll out of this populist progressive political ploy to make the 40% minimum wage hike an election issue does not contain a smidgeon of economic analysis....Are you a educated enough of a reader to know why?

Something that is not mentioned here is cost of living and minimum wages in European countries. For instance, Ireland has a minimum wage of $12.50 in 2012 but consumer prices in the United States are 29.13% lower than Ireland. Restaurant prices are 32.16% lower and purchasing power in the United States is 40.88% higher. France has a minimum wage of $12.95 but consumer prices are 29.1% higher, rent is 3.12% higher and groceries are 17.98% higher than in the United States. Next, in Germany there is no minimum wage except in the case of postal workers, cleaning services (janitors), etc. A judge recently ruled that supermarket workers need to be paid at least a rate of 5.15 Euro or $7.00 USD. Plumbing apprentices earn the equivalent of $13.50 USD in Germany. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 75% of the American workforce has access to paid sick leave, 90% has access to 2 or more weeks of vacation pay and 45% are offered paid personal leave. In Germany, a country which in square miles about the same size of Nebraska and Oklahoma, you would earn 26.51% less in wages and pay 48.34% less for healthcare, the latter, ONLY due to the fact that net wages would be much less leaving you less discretionary spending power. My point is that statistics need to be analyzed. It is easy to cherry pick statistics to make your point but there are always two sides to every story.

Isn't what you really mean by 'cherry-picked' simply 'inconvenient'? They don't fit in your worldview that some nations have the temerity to make certain that prosperity is widely shared in a capitalist model. Here are some more details on the 'shared prosperity' in Germany: "In the United States, much of the benefit of economic growth went to a small slice of the population at the top of the income distribution. In Germany, the gains were more broadly shared..." "In 2010, Germany produced more than 5.5 million automobiles; the U.S produced 2.7 million. At the same time, the average auto worker in Germany made $67.14 per hour in salary in benefits; the average one in the U.S. made $33.77 per hour. Yet Germany’s big three car companies—BMW, Daimler (Mercedes-Benz ), and Volkswagen—are very profitable. How can that be? The question is explored in a new article from Remapping Debate, a public policy e-journal. Its author, Kevin C. Brown, writes that 'the salient difference is that, in Germany, the automakers operate within an environment that precludes a race to the bottom; in the U.S., they operate within an environment that encourages such a race.'” If we look at BLS data, we can get a broader picture. Between 1997 and 2011, hourly compensation costs in manufacturing as a % of U.S. costs increased or remained the same in all 32 other economies compared except Taiwan. Social insurance--including paid leave--makes up about 1/3 of total compensation in countries with a strong social safety net. In the U.S., it's about 24%. Total benefits as a % of compensation costs exceeds 40% in 15 of the 33 countries. In the U.S, the proportion of benefits to total compensation is about 33%.

Wages are a direct result of market forces. No one ever expected flipping burgers at McDonald's to be a job that could be used to support a family. If a person has no skills, (s)he shouldn't expect to be paid $15/hr.

Yes, that is correct. Beyond that, no one ever looks at an important piece of the puzzle. Choices. People make choices which affect them for their whole lives and if you choose not to appy yourself, you won't ever get out of that rut. Good post.

Exactly, maybe in the past it was a job for students and mothers' hours but now days because of market forces (recession) people are working flipping burgers at McD's and trying to support a family on it. If service jobs are the new manufacturing jobs of the past they need to paid accordingly.

2% of folks work for minimum wage and 65% of them work part time. There are stats from govt agencies that have documented this, and those stats have been checked out to prove if they are accurate. Those stats also document the ages of folks who work for that wage, and the income level of the homes they live in. If you want to discuss minimum wage, I suggest you put out the stats and go from there. If you want to read about choices, I also suggest you read the article in today's paper about the woman who is homeless. She is not homeless by the way, she lives with her boyfriend who she has never had a formal agreement with for child support. Translation, either welfare never required her to report who the father is or she avoided telling them so he was exempt from child support payments. A story that was meant to garner sympathy for this woman did the opposite.

welcome to the NObama / democrats ECONOMY.

Since the advent of capitalism, market forces have meant a race to the bottom. We were once better than that. In this country, Henry Ford pioneered the concept of stakeholder capitalism, in which wages kept pace with productivity. Most of the other advanced democracies do a better job of sharing productivity--without sacrificing economic growth or productivity. We haven't for 3 decades. Once we were better than this--before some of us became enamored of Milton Friedman, Ayn Rand, and the magical thinking that cutting taxes on the wealthy would somehow benefit us all. Instead, it's encouraged a further sense of entitlement on the part of the 1%. In 1979, their share of income was about 9%. In 2007, it was over 19%. Why? What has happened to the nation as a whole in that interval, in terms of social mobility, poverty rate, and incomes for most Americans? All three measures of a decent, prosperous society have declined. But not as a result of 'market forces', because the capitalist economies of Germany, Australia, France, and others have been subject to the same forces, and have managed to share the productivity gains broadly, while we now share the same income distribution as Mexico. We should be ashamed. This is no longer the land of opportunity.

But not as a result of 'market forces', because the capitalist economies of Germany, Australia, France, and others have been subject to the same forces, and have managed to share the productivity gains broadly, while we now share the same income distribution as if those countries bordered Mexico...hmmmm...

Thanks for trolling by.

The "Trolling Card" - good play - bravo

All these "capitalist" countries are also socialist. They all have socialized health care, many more vacation days each year, maternal leave, high min. wage. We also border Canada another socialized medicine country but I find your picking of Mexico as racist.

Everything is relative. European countries have many negative employee related expenses as well and the cost of consumer goods and other things are way higher than here.

Most of these countries that you speak of make far less overall income per capita. They make far less net pay so their spending dollar goes less far because they spend through the nose for health care....can you say "pay me now or pay me later". Moreover average work hours are not that different between countries. This is from 2008 but please follow this link..... I don't think that 5 hours per week variance means much in the scheme of things. It is true that in Germany they get 4 weeks vacation and here they are earned and given by tenure at a company. Most companies here have maternity leave but also realize that the birth rate in most of the countries you mention is lower than in the United States which means less expense so a benefit which is not widely used is irrelevant. Let's dispel this high minimum wage argument as that is simply not true when you factor in other economic variables which compensate and eat into that total dollar paid on minimum wage.

Gee, I thought Germany was one of your favorites, with it's great austerity program and all.

Not quite. "The United States ranks 14th in the world in wages and compensation for manufacturing workers, according to new data released by the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's on par with Ireland and Italy and far behind Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and Germany, among others. American manufacturing workers earn an average of $34.74 in total hourly compensation, just 60 percent of the $57.53 that workers in top-ranking Norway receive.U.S. manufacturing wages have come under further pressure as large established companies like General Electric, Ford and others have instituted two-tier pay practices, paying newly hired workers significantly less than established ones even as they bring manufacturing jobs back to America, as The New York Times reported last week.These companies argue that such wage reductions are required to make U.S. manufacturers globally competitive with those offshore. But as the Times notes: "The shrunken pay scale for newcomers — $12 to $19 an hour versus $21 to $32 an hour for longtime workers — threatens to undo the middle-class status of even the best-paid blue-collar jobs still left in manufacturing. Generally speaking, American workers receive a relatively lower level of benefit compensation than workers in European nations, even though cost of the American health-care system is relatively high. Benefits make up about a third of total compensation in the U.S. compared to 40 percent in many European and Scandinavian countries."

And in a previous post I identified how much more expensive it is to live in those countries. Consumer prices much higher and gas prices double. Their "net" take home pay is impacted and it is less per capita than in the United States. Moreover that health care is the reason along with value added taxes.

Ahhh - the race card - good play !

Also these countries you mention have an equitable tax rate on the wealthy, while the countries of Spain, Greece, Italy and Ireland had barely been collecting taxes at all and were havens for corporations trying to avoid US taxes and now they are teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.

my point was that there is certainly economic similarities between countries that share a border..if Germany or France bordered might change their one gets racism out of that I dont know...

Did you hear that Bruce? Tillie think you picking of Mexico is racist...

I think she was referring--correctly--to your comment.

So there is no mistake, I was referring to GWTW's last sentence and it is definitely a racist comment. These are insular comments, the same as saying if climate change doesn't happen in the US, they don't happen.

Not sure how you find that statement racist Tillie. GWTW was comparing countries and their borders. We have an illegal immigration issue here in the US. How is that racial?

It's racist.

Thanks for clearing that up for me Tillie, NOT! I asked how you made the jump from GWTW's comment about Mexico as being racist. I was not being snarky, I had no clue why it was deemed racist by you.

I am not surprised that all you lock step rightists refuse to see the racism in the remark followed by "hmmmm" meaning figure it out for yourselves. So I am finished with this subject, but you can all continue to discuss it among yourselves if you wish.

I am not surprised Tillie you are avoiding the question. Neither GWTW nor I could figure out the connection and we asked what we were missing. That had nothing with refusing to see. But instead of explaining to us what you meant, you refuse to answer. Why? I guess we are required to explain our words and you are not.

Your faulty premises on productivity is that it is NOT NOT NOT labor that has become more productive - the age of computers and mechanization has produced wonderful productivity increases. Needless to say that increase in productivity requires the allocation of massive capital which progressive populist socialist democrats absolutely hate.

"for a family of four to live on the current minimum wage would produce a family income of about $15,000 a year. A family of four with an annual income of $15,000 would be eligible for food stamps amounting to $7,584 and an earned income tax credit of $5,372. That raises the family income to $27,911. The family would also be eligible for Medicaid, school lunch and breakfast programs, perhaps housing assistance and other forms of help. He also leaves out the fact that very, very few people earning the minimum wage are the sole breadwinners of a family of four. To be polite Bruce is being tendentious. To be less polite he is being grossly intellectually dishonest. ""

You certainly make it seem like living on a minimum wage is hunky-dory, but I think the reality for most is very different than your idealized portrait. I will note that I think this the first time you've written approvingly of "entitlements " that you and the other Carpers are always so quick to denigrate in other threads. For instance, the EITC. Second, we're busy chipping away at these programs, (food stamps, to name one) or they've not kept pace with inflation, or the cost of housing. One effect of these programs in practice is to subsidize a low minimum wage, and low wage jobs/employers in general. In other words, it's helping Walmart pay "low,low wages, every day." A higher minimum wage would likely boost the wages of many in the bottom third, thanks to a ripple effect. Also, a higher minimum wage would likely lure more people into the job market--a good thing, and any job losses due to the higher minimum would be more than offset by the increased earnings of the employed.

If we raise minimum wage from $7.50 to $10.00 those making $10.00 now will be dissatisfied and they will need to be raised to $12,50 to keep pace. That will close in on the folks making $15.00 per hour and they will need to be raised to $17.50 and so on. What ensues is inflation. Your premise is based on requring companies to accept less profit in lieu of paying higher wages, which means that less people with money will not invest further and private sector growth with slow even more than what it is now. That is a recipe for recession. NOW, is not the time to raise minimum wage, during periods of prosperity it makes more sense. Your suggestion seems to be just another way to redistribute money and from an Economics 101 view it makes absolutely no sense.

What ensues is inflation? Not if wages are tied to productivity, as they used to be, but haven't been for 30 years. "Just another way to redistribute money?" You're assuming that wealth is derived strictly from market outcomes, and that money is only "redistributed" downward, but that isn't true. Businesses rely on the government to structure the marketplace all the time. From infrastructure, to patent laws and property rights, to favorable tax laws, to trade policies like NAFTA that put U.S. workers in direct competition with low-wage foreign labor, and made it easier for corporations to out-source their manufacturing. Then there's "too big to fail" insurance for the Wall St. banks. All of which you seem to ignore, take for granted, or regard as right and natural, rather than deliberately designed to benefit the wealthy.

Ya just got to love it when a debate is based upon these kind of statements " would likely boost the wages" & "would likely lure more people into the job market" Now that is a solid Economic argument on which to base a national roll out of the populist progressive policy.

And your reply contains not a whit of substantive response.

“That some should be rich shows that others may become rich, and hence is just encouragement to industry and enterprise. Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another; but let him labor diligently and build one for himself, thus by example assuring that his own shall be safe from violence when built.” -- Abraham Lincoln

No one should be against people becoming rich, provided they're not gaming the system. But gaming the system for the benefit of the wealthy is exactly what has happened over the past 3 decades. Lincoln became rich by virtue of being a good lawyer, and having the railroad industry as clients. But he was no friend of inherited privilege--he strongly supported inheritance taxes, and hefty ones at that, as have most sensible and far-sighted politicians since our founding. know.

So now, inheritance is bad? If I leave my home to my children and leave $100,000, that needs to be "taxed" for the good of everyone? I don't think so. Say that I was able to save money and leave my children a $100,000 or more. I would have already paid 30% tax on those "earned" monies. Now you want the government to come back in and somehow "level the playing field" and take 50% more after I am dead? Somehow you imply that resets "fairness". Yes I realize the thresholds now are far higher than that but my point is that inheritance is something that you give to your children to make their lives a little better. Moreover, government ought not be telling people what they can and can't do with money earned through the fruits of their labor.

Duly noted: You've constructed a straw man from my mention of inheritance taxes, in an effort to reframe the argument in a way that has no connection to reality over the last 3 decades. You're trying to turn the 1% into victims here. But the "playing field" has been deliberately titled in favor of the 1% for 3 decades. Case in point: no federal inheritance tax on the first $5 million.

Death taxes are taxing folks twice. That income was already taxed.Somebody earned that income and paid taxes on it. I remember when Romney's Tax Records came out. Not one of you were pleased with how much he paid and how much he gave to charity. Now if ya want to talk taxes, we need to talk about all those taxes in the ACA that you folks have no clue about.

You need to realize RabbitNH that the same folks who preach about greed, selfishness, etc. are the ones who are so centered on getting other peoples money. They also completely ignore John Kerry's attempt to not pay sales tax on his boat, how little he gives to charity and how Obama took every single deduction he could on his income taxes. They complain about inherited privilege but few of them would have thought about that with the Kennedy money.

You are against folks becoming rich if you mandate what wages they are required to pay, tell them what healthcare they are mandated to buy and burden them with mandates. Your view is based on sharing the wealth. That is what happens in a productive society that actually creates jobs, and has most of their citizens working. The progressive view is that folks who make bad choices should be subsidized for life by the ones who make good choices. More entitlements will mean more taxes, less folks working and a society in decline dependent on the govt to take care of them. Once you give that message that folks are entitled, that pretty much removes the incentive to better themselves. Happens all the time with teens that are given everything as opposed to earning things. That message creates a society with a bad work effort, class discrimination, and the total opposite result for a society to thrive. It is not rocket science.

Stating the minimum wage should be increased, without identifying that proposed increase, is pointless commentary. If the writer's goal is to double or triple the minimum wage, he should say so, but my guess is that he doesn't understand any argument not outlined in talking points. Also, your attacks on Reagan are without merit. Federal spending is the result of congressional authorization and appropriations. During Reagan's eight years, gw bush's four years, and Clinton's first two years, the Dems had congressional majorities resulting in years of huge deficit spending. Clinton's last six years and gw bush's first six years the republicans had majorities and brought spending under control, but they too lost their fiscal restraint in 2006 and got booted. Things really blew up again in bush's last two years and Obama's first two years, when the dems regained control of congress, again out of control spending. Presidents can only spend what congress authorizes. the deficit under Obama has increased $9 trillion in five short years,all the while Wall Street is partying like its 1929, now that's what I call redistribution of wealth.

I think your post misstates the facts on Reagan and the responsibility he and Republicans bear--not the Democrats-- for starting and perpetuating the cycle of supply-side deficits. Republicans controlled the first Reagan budget — passed by all the Republicans and a few Boll Weevil Southern Democrats. The next 5 all had to pass a Republican Senate. Only the last 2 had to pass a Democratic Congress, and those budgets ended up with less spending than Reagan called for. Over the course of the Reagan, Bush 1 and Bush 2 years, Republicans controlled Congress for 12 of those 20 years, and we know what happened to the deficit in those years (though in fairness to Bush 1, he was saddled with Reagan's deficit). By the time Obama came into office, the debt was approaching $12 trillion. The supply-side tax cuts have done double duty--but not as their advocates claimed. The cuts are responsible for a significant portion of the trillions in debt, and for a significant portion of the huge increase in income inequality over the same 30 years time span. As I stated in my letter, it is the largest transfer of wealth in peace-time history.

If the debt "was approaching $12 Trillion" it has little to do with taxes and wealth distribution and more to do with spending and government programs. Now if it is the fault of Reagan and Bush 41 then I would ask, how could Clinton have been such a budgetary saint. You also ignore that welfare reform during the Clinton era was done on the part of Republicans and Clinton passed it kicking and screaming to later get credit for it. Welfare to work was a good thing but our current President, Barry Soetoro has dismantled repsonsible welfare and benefits and put in its place a candy store. "Boll Weevil Southern Democrats" again is demonizing and name calling another group of people who have a different political philosophy. You have the right to use statistics and facts but you don't have the right to manipulate those facts to make a skewed case for playing Robin Hood.

Wrong. The single biggest contributor to the deficit is the lost revenue from the tax cuts that were supposed to "pay for themselves." They didn't. Much of that lost revenue constituted a "redistribution"--ostensibly to the "makers".

It is apparent tillie has been sharing her Obama magic medicine with you. Not for one day during Reagan's presidency did the republicans control the house or come close- the dems always by a least a 51 seat advantage and most of the time the dems had super majorities.

Not quite. While you're right that Dems had nominal control of the House, a critical faction of the House Democrats was made up of the last of the southern Democrats--the "Boll Weevils", most famously including Phil Gramm. In the end, Reagan got everything he wanted in that first budget. And as I mentioned in my previous post--when the Dems controlled both houses, during Reagan's last 2 years, the budgets amounted to less than Reagan had asked for. About the the only thing Reagan didn't get from his wish list was to put an end to Social Security. God knows he tried, though. "At the time the U.S. Senate was controlled by Republicans and the House by Democrats. However, the Democrats included a number of conservative southerners who agreed with many of Reagan's proposals. In response to Stockman's budget, Representative James Jones (D-Ok), chairman of the House Budget Committee, tried to draft his own budget to keep the Democratic coalition together. However, Representative Phil Gramm (D-Texas) leaked information to the Reagan administration about Jones' plan, which led the administration to propose a counter-budget, cosponsored by Gramm (he later lost his position on the Budget Committee, resigned his seat, and ran as a Republican for his vacant seat) and Representative Delbert Latta (R-OH), that passed Congress via reconciliation in the summer of 1981. Perhaps the centerpiece of Reagan's budget was the tax cut, officially known as the Economic Recovery Tax Act but better known as the Kemp-Roth Tax Cuts, named after the bill's sponsors: Representative Jack Kemp (R-NY) and Senator William Roth (R-DE). The tax cuts slashed marginal rates for individuals and made deep cuts to corporate taxes. The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981 included steep increases in military spending, steep cuts in non-defense expenditures, and a large tax cut (legislated through ERTA 1981). Although the Reagan administration predicted that the combination of spending and tax cuts would reduce the federal deficit, the deficit exploded under Reagan.

Thank you, oh thank you, Bruce for once again imparting your vast knowledge to the hoi polloi. Without your wise words we are all adrift in a sea of idiocy. You are a true sage and an asset to our community. Really, we should call this thing the "Concord Currie!"

I see from the numbers that my letter has generated lots of comment. Before the brickbats fly, and the (presumably moderated) comments go up: it will be interesting to see how many of the commenters will deal on a factual basis with the issues of minimum wage and income inequality, and how many will deny that: 1) very large income inequality presents a serious problem, or 2) deny that the increase in income inequality was the intentional result of redistributionist policies to the top, but instead is 'natural' and therefore o.k.; or 3) deny that the inequality even exists.

I forgot a 4th category: 'Change the topic.'

Don't raise the minimum wage, compensate employees for their performance. Some people do only the minimum and should be paid accordingly.

Agreed. lets start with Congress.

The employed here are working harder, and for longer hours, than in any of the other advanced democracies. The minimum wage has not kept pace with productivity, and more Americans than ever are working low wage jobs with long hours and little job security. So paying employees for their performance means many deserve big increases. At the same time, the performance of many U.S. CEO's has been abysmal--thanks to a focus on short term gains via mergers, cutting costs by cutting jobs and R&D to boost short-term stock prices and hence the value of their stock options, while padding corporate boards with their pals who'll remain silent when exorbitant compensation packages are designed. Forty years ago, CEOs made 40 times the average employee salary; that figure is now 300 times. Compensation packages in Germany and the other advanced democracies do not match these figures. In 2006, U.S. CEOs were earning 8 times as much per dollar of corporate profit as in the 1980s.

What CEO's earn is none of your business Bruce. Anybody that owns a business pays the CEO on his or her performance, and what that performance generates. That is the difference between a business that is a success and one that fails. Folks have choices, a fact that you leave out in your posts. Many folks have gotten out of poverty, including immigrants and folks who were brought up in it and decided they would not continue the cycle. Many like yourself believe that poverty is incurable and needs to be accepted and financed. I would think that now that we are in generational poverty you would see that our approach to poverty is not working. I pay plenty of taxes thank you. Asking me to pay more will in effect create an environment where it makes no sense to work. At some point you run out of other people's money..

Exactly, RabbitNH. Progressives say: "if you don't like abortion, don't have one". In a free society this applies as well then: "if you don't like a company because of the wages that they pay or the CEO salary then don't trade with them". It is OK with these same people who whine about 'income inequality" for Beyonce to earn $50M per year, yet be angry over a CEO, who actually produces something to earn $45M. They praise Warren Buffet and George Soros, but I don't see them voluntarily paying more in income taxes.

None of my business? If I'm a shareholder or employee of a corporation, it is my business. If I'm a citizen and that CEO outsources jobs and factories, then it's by business. The record is clear on corporate governance in the U.S. Boards are filled with a CEO's friends who rubber-stamp his decisions and his requests for compensation. That CEO pay has gone up from 30X the average wage to 300 to as much as 1000x the average employee should be a scandal. Stock options encourage CEO's to ramp up stock prices by short term measures--cutting costs via cutting jobs, doing mergers that boost 'growth' while cutting R&D because it doesn't pay in the short run. In Germany, half of a board's representation is made up of employees. Oversight is far more vigorous. And companies are often more productive as well. Try becoming informed on all sides of an issue for a change.

Perhaps if you are a shareholder, it is your business but shareholders appreciate a CEO who can deliver a more profitable return for them. It is not your business if they outsource jobs and I have to ask you why you are not as outraged that Obama outsourced the Obamacare website work to a Canadian company or that his stimulus money was outsourced to a foreign car maker??? Germany is not he United States, we live here and this is how business is conducted. Are you aware that among industrialized nations that we have the highest corporate tax rate. What a board decides to award as salary for top management is none of your business as you are on the outside looking in. Why is it OK for Steven Spielberg a flaming liberal to earn $100M per year or Lady Gaga to earn $80M per year and progressives say nothing. A CEO of a corporation has a much better chance of better society as a whole (depending on his or her company product) than Oprah or Bon Jovi or any host of extremely overpaid celebrities who pontificate about unfairness. Note that Warren Buffet tells how much he is not taxed, yet he takes every opportunity to reduce his taxes. It is not your business in a private company how much anyone is paid so long as they follow minimum wage guidelines. Such petty jealousy.

Even the Pope agreed this "trickle down" stuff ain't working. What you guys don't like the Pope anymore? Starting to sound too much like Jesus for ya? Helping the poor and all that stuff.

What does the Pope know? I am not Catholic and I realize that the Pope is just a man, a man elected by others and the inside back stabbing politics of the Vatican is much publicized. But I will say that churches do more and a better job at helping the poor than government could ever thing of doing.

The Pope does not mention trickle was erroneously translated. And, I believe it is you who does not like the Pope, with his unyielding stance on marriage and abortion. I suggest you read his clarification.

I think the Pope is on my side on this one, however you try to parse it. "Erroneously translated?" "Growth in justice ... requires decisions, programmes, mechanisms and processes specifically geared to a better distribution of income, the creation of sources of employment and an integral promotion of the poor which goes beyond a simple welfare mentality. I am far from proposing an irresponsible populism, but the economy can no longer turn to remedies that are a new poison ... no government can act without regard for shared responsibility. Indeed, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find local solutions for enormous global problems which overwhelm local politics with difficulties to resolve. If we really want to achieve a healthy world economy, what is needed at this juncture of history is a more efficient way of interacting which, with due regard for the sovereignty of each nation, ensures the economic well-being of all countries, not just of a few.--Pope Francis

I'd say our distribution of income system is working fine, about $4trillion since Obama took office. Millions and millions of jobs go unfilled each year, good jobs, and that is not a minimum wage or income inequality problem.

You may be fine with our current distribution of income, but I'm not. And most Americans shouldn't either. Income distribution was deliberately skewed beginning in the Reagan years to benefit the already well-to-do. The largest portion of the current deficit is due to the tax cuts that didn't pay for themselves. The gap between the 1% and everyone else has widened substantially since the late 70's--more than in any other advanced democracy. The redistribution was not 'natural'--and it certainly hasn't been 'deserved' given the performance of our CEO's in comparison with those of nations like Germany, France, Australia, etc. You're right that millions of jobs go unfilled each year, but as usual, you leave out the rest of the story. Many companies can't afford to train people for complex industrial operations, and expect the public sector to do it. Fair enough. But the community colleges and technical schools who can provide the training are facing budget cuts at the very time the demand for their services is greatest. It would mean investment in the future, and conservatives seem to have trouble seeing past the next quarter's stock report these days. They also prefer $49,000 tax cuts to millionaires to investing in the future. Companies are also reluctant to pay more--rightly or wrongly; several factors have been depressing wages for years.

Are you Catholic? You have no right to say whether I personally like the Pope or not. It is your Fox crowd and Rush Limberger that has been criticizing him after years of fawning over Catholics. The Pope has also said the Church has been spending too much time worrying about gay marriage and abortion.

"Reaganomics" didn't end with Reagan. Its essence, supply-side/trickle-down/voodoo economics economics, was sold to the nation by Reagan as the panacea for continued growth, but persists to this day as a central tenet of the GOP. The Republican solution to every problem is a tax cut. G.H.W. Bush and Bush 2 both practiced this flawed policy, enlarging further the then-record Reagan deficit. It all came back to bite us when the Great Recession hit, and we had no cushion to rely on for some real counter-cyclical spending. Obama had no choice but to drive the deficit higher still with deficit spending to stave off the worst effects of the recession and try to reinvigorate the economy. Economists are nearly unanimous in stating the stimulus wasn't big enough (40% tax cuts BTW), but the size of the deficit he inherited, combined with Republican obstruction, left him with little choice.

See what I mean about the politics of this? You forgot to mention Clinton and Obama have both practiced it, too. Leave politics out of it.

I didn't mention Clinton because--lest we forget--he raised taxes, and closed the deficit he inherited from Bush1 and Reagan. Had there been no Bush2 tax cuts, we would have ended with a surplus by 2008. I did mention Obama, who was handed the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and followed standard economic practice of increasing spending during a recession. One can argue that supply-side economics was invented as a way to give $49,000 tax cuts to millionaires--that's the way it worked out in practice. As a result, it has helped create a huge disparity in wealth between the 1% and the rest of us--in effect the largest redistribution of wealth in peacetime history. Like it or not, it started with St. Ronnie--the facts are clear in the mountain of economic data since 1980. In contrast to the post-war period, the 3 decades since Reagan have been marked by stagnant wages, widespread corporate malfeasance, economic bubbles that burst, regulatory capture, lax regulation, weakened labor unions, and misplacing the blame on 'big gubmint' and globalization. I think the blame lies more accurately with the philosophies and practices espoused by these three: Ayn Rand and her "greed is good" philosophy that Wall St. has embraced, Milton Friedman's false claim that corporations have no responsibility except to make money for their shareholders, and Ronald Reagan's ability as a salesman to snooker the American people into believing that tax cuts skewed to benefit the rich will somehow make us all more prosperous. If you have substantive disagreements with any of this, feel free to state them, and we can try to hash them out. There's plenty of blame to spread in a bi-partisan fashion for our present economic plight, but the bottom line is that despite increased productivity, prosperity has not been widely shared; it has instead 'trickled up", often with the force of a torrent. And it started with the Reagan presidency.

Now that explanation is "voodoo". Bottom line is that your premise suggests that we did not spend enough on social programs and government and that caused this 5 year Obama recession. Economists are NOT unanimous and you know that, only the left leaning ones are. Beyond that much of that stimulus was wasted and went to Obama bundlers (poltical and pork spending). Republicans are not "obstructing", they are acting as good legislators should, they are challenging approaches which they believe are not sound. Obama is an abject failure as a leader and as President, No, Bruce, I am not a "racist", if he was lily white, I would feel the same. I felt that way about Carter but Obama makes Carter look like a real success.

I think my 'premise' is stated clearly, it doesn't 'suggest' anything. You're attempting to reframe the debate to 'social programs and government'--exactly the kind of reframing that enabled the wealthy to snooker Americans with supply-side/voodoo economics.

To include politics - blaming "Reaganomics" of 30 years ago - really subtracts from the credibility of this letter.

Big time subtraction and honestly more of the Goebbel's/Alinsky/Stalin philosophy of "if you keep saying something, people will start to believe it" approach.

Thanks for the name-calling in place of substantive disagreement.

Ahhh - the "Name Calling Card - good play - BRAVO

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