How to raise wages without the fascists
There’s a lot of talk about how to raise the federal minimum wage to a still-inadequate $15 an hour. It’s popular with elected Democratic officials, it’s very popular with the public (around 70% support, including 40% of the voters in the fascist party) and it’s even popular amongst big businesses, who often realize that paying a decent wage would pay for itself in terms of employee loyalty, and decreased theft and absenteeism, not to mention increased business from a wealthier consumer base, but need a level playing field where nastier and greedier competition won’t undercut them by screwing their own employees.
Nobody’s sure how to get this badly-needed raise past the fascists. None of the 50 in the Senate will support it because they believe doing anything to benefit working people is a sign of moral weakness. There’s talk of abolishing the filibuster, or at least making it painful and difficult to use. Old fashioned talking filibusters, for instance. Imagine the look on the face of any fascist Senator who has to stand for hours, even days, in front of cameras and the world, shouting about how $7.25 an hour is plenty for those scummy little workers. Personally, I approve of reinstating the talking filibuster. There are times when a Senator needs to make a principled stand against bad legislation, and so it acts as a safety brake. But fascists will be loath to abuse the filibuster because they will be exposed as always being opposed to the needs and wants of the people.
There’s talk of getting a ruling from the Senate parliamentarian on being able to include the minimum wage raise in the upcoming infrastructure bill, and this comes much closer to a viable answer.
The infrastructure bill is going to happen, because like the Covid-19 relief bill (now the American Recovery Act) it is going through the process of reconciliation, a tactical dodge that allows legislation to pass in the Senate with a simple majority. The fascists can vote against it unanimously and almost certainly will, but it doesn’t matter, because the Democrats have 51 votes.
Now, the infrastructure bill is going to be huge: Anywhere between two and four TRILLION dollars. It will include new highways, new airports, new schools, new water and sewage systems, new bridges, and massive investment in clean and sustainable energy. It will create millions of jobs. Not thousands, not hundreds of thousands—millions of jobs.
Further, large infrastructure projects usually pay for themselves dozens of times over. The Interstate Highway system essentially CREATED the modern American economy. The Tennessee Valley Authority pulled millions out of poverty. The Clean Air/Clean Water Acts resulted in savings to Americans amounting to over $25 trillion dollars by the year 2000, and continue to do so despite the best efforts of the fascists. If we spend $4 trillion now, we can expect a return of $20 trillion by the year 2030—and that’s a conservative estimate!
Back in the day of sane Conservatives in the GOP, it was usually a bipartisan issue. Two of the three examples I noted (Interstate System and CA/CW) happened under Republican administrations. But Republicans are dead, replaced by fascists, and even if they see the economic benefits to be had, they can’t allow Democrats and the government credit for doing things that they could do but won’t.
Yes, there will be pork. Every single rep and senator is gonna want a little bit of sugar for their districts, and that’s ok—after all, that’s what they’re there for. Some will be driven by an earnest desire to better the lives of their constituents, and some will just be looking for an opportunity to steal with both hands. Not just fascists, either. Human nature is human nature. We’re going to have to be vigilant, and keep the grifters in check.
But that brings us back to the matter of wages. It would be nice if the $15 minimum wage were somehow tacked onto this bill, but I’m not holding my breath.
However, all those tens of thousands of projects—road work, construction, upgrading and modernizing—will be hiring. Some may be direct government actions, like we saw with FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps. Most of the rest will be contract work. In either case, the government has the power to set conditions of work, including such things as time off, vacation time, union membership, health and safety regulations—and wages.
There’s no reason the bill cannot include mandated minimum wages for employees, either directly or demanded of private companies seeking government contracts. Twenty an hour for custodial staff or drivers, 150% of prevailing wages for more skilled positions. Millions of jobs, many unskilled or semi-skilled.
And remember, this will pay for itself, many times over. Most immediately through what’s called “the velocity of money” – people who were making $10 and hour and now are making $25 will be hitting the local stores for clothing and household items that they have been denied before. On average, each dollar received in wages above the existing amount results in between 2 and 3 dollars in increased economic activity. And if the town also has an new or improved highway, and clean and efficient power, and safe clean water…well, that’s fat city, folks!
In the meantime, all the cheap-ass minimum wage employers are going to have to raise their game if they want to compete and keep their workers. Why flip burgers for $10 an hour when you can do it for $20/hour plus benefits?
All the Dems need to do is include a provision for direct and contract labour: 150% of the norm, plus health benefits and vacation and the like. It would immediately start paying for itself, and create an economic juggernaut.
Instead of $15/hour, make it 150% prevailing rates. It’s a winner, and even the fascists won’t be able to stop it.