[This note is meant for all those who subscribe to the belief that a simple raise in the “minimum wage” will somehow ease the pain of those in poverty.  Disabuse yourself of that notion.]

Announced today is John Edwards’ tour to promote an agenda, one part of which is to relieve, and possibly end poverty in our country.  A laudable goal.  That stated, why is it necessary to reinvent the wheel in the attempt?

If you feel the need for research, articles, ongoing statistical analysis, and law, you might try the Policy Almanac listings.  Online, no charge, no think-tank.

If you feel the need for historical and social perspective, I recommend a cursory review of the outstanding work of  Frances Perkins:

In 1933, President Roosevelt appointed Perkins as his Secretary of Labor, making her the first woman in the United States to hold a Cabinet position. She served longer than any other Secretary of Labor, from March 1933 to July 1945.

As secretary, she played a key role in writing New Deal legislation. She immediately proposed federal aid to the states for direct unemployment relief, an extensive program of public works, an approach to the establishment by federal law of minimum wages and maximum hours; unemployment and old-age insurance, abolition of child labor, and the creation of a federal employment service.

When the Fair Labor Standards Act passed in 1938, Perkins had managed to persuade Congress to eliminate “labor conditions detrimental to the maintenance of the minimum standards of living necessary for health, efficiency and well-being of workers.” The law also established a minimum wage.

||  Ms. Perkins is sorely missed.  ||
Please look at the chart [EPI]:

Witness the fact that the minimum wage has not provided sufficient income for the basic necessities of life since 1968 [108% of the poverty line].  Clearly, the intent of the enabling statute has been buried in partisan rhetoric since.

As I’m sure you all are aware, under the “cunning linguist”, Mr. Reagan, we were told of the joys of an open market, and the deadly creep of “government in our lives”.  Amazing then that at the time (the 80’s), public benefits equalled 87% of the poverty line for a family of three, while the minimum wage stood rock-still at 78%.  

Fascinating.  The people of the United States believed, and still do that it is better to pay people to stay home, as single-parent families (no husbands allowed), rather than seek gainful employment.  

What does it say about our country when people who work full time qualify for public benefits?  That workers without employer-paid healthcare must beg the State for help?  Do you for one minute believe that a simple rise in the minimum wage is a remedy worth discussion?

If you truly believe that ‘working’ and ‘poor’ don’t belong together in the same sentence, you must make every effort to remedy the defects in the current statutes by seeking a comprehensive solution.    

Frances Perkins work in the 1930’s resulted in laws to make sure that if you worked in this country, you’d not ever want for food, clothing or shelter. Then as now, two hard working parents couldn’t rub two dimes together to feed their children.  Then as now, people are working and starving.  Then as now, a growing percentage of our population has no access to healthcare.  Missing then, but absolutely necessary to understand now:  the issues are not separable.

Time to change the rules to serve all the people.  Anything less is just political rhetoric wafting through rarified air.

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