The fight for a $15 per hour minimum wage is the hottest issue among progressive Democrats today. There has been a lot of progress as cities including Seattle and Los Angeles have passed this as their minimum wage, as has the entire state of New York (but only for “fast food” workers, strangely). It would be a big hike from today’s $7.25 per hour, a 106% increase that swamps any previous jump. President Obama, and many Democrats, favor a smaller $12 per hour rate as something of a compromise.
But where did these numbers come from? Why are they important? What effects would a minimum wage rise have on the economy? It’s worth spending some time looking at the postwar history of the minimum wage, from 1947 to 2015, to see where we are today and what it means.
“It was this administration which saved the system of private profit and free enterprise after it had been dragged to the brink of ruin.”
– President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, bragging a little.
It’s a common belief that the right wing in the US is the political alignment of business. They stand for lower taxes, lower regulation, and a generally lighter hand on the economy. That may work out well in good times, but hard times call for more. It’s when things get dark that the true Liberals, capital “L”, stand up and make things happen.
Hillary Clinton, with a good shot at being the FDR we really need, may just have stepped up to do that.
If you’re having trouble figuring out what’s going on in the world you’re in good company. The global economy has been undergoing rapid change for a number of years but global politics has been a bit slow to catch up to it.
A few items that Barataria has covered recently have entered new phases recently – unpredictable, rapidly changing phases that show that things are indeed coming to a head. We’ve consistently called 2017 as “The Year Everything Changes” for a number of reasons, but the lead-up to that year is proving to be especially chaotic. Here are updates to three stories we’ve been all over that should take surprising turns in the next year and a half. You read it here first!
Are you properly compensated for your work? As we discussed previously, between 1947 and 1973 worker’s salaries accounted for half of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). There was a solid if unspoken agreement that labor and capital split the spoils of the free market equally between them.
But what of output per worker? Is it possible that workers are slacking off and don’t deserve the same arrangement they had in the immediate Post WWII era? An analysis of productivity, or output per worker, shows some interesting trends that may point to more unspoken agreements that the various markets for capital and labor expect. These trends follow business cycles, and as such point to some important changes that are necessary as we move ahead into the next cycle in the next few years.
The Supreme Court has released a number of opinions, and it’s been a tough week for conservatives. Most of the focus has been on the big political fights – federal subsidy for state “Obamacare” exchanges was upheld and marriage equity is the law of the land in all fifty states. It was the latter that gave us the most blistering dissent from Justice Scalia:
“A system of government that makes the people subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy,” he wrote in one of the more coherent statements in his dissent.
But another ruling, striking down part of the Federal “Three Strikes” law, illustrates judicial activism even more clearly. All of this begs the question as to where Scalia’s logic was in the “Citizens United” ruling in 2012 that declared corporations to be people, too. There is judicial activism, yes, but it’s more about filling in the gaps left by years of a completely dysfunctional Congress. Someone has to be the adults – even one branch of government has to endure Scalia’s sometimes childish ranting.
Robert Reich is a great leader in the Democratic Party. After serving as Secretary of Labor from 1993 to 1997 he became a fixture in thoughtful magazines, speeches, and talk shows. He is currently a Chancellor’s Professor at the Goldman School of Public Policy at UCal, Berkeley.
Reich has recently collaborated with moveon.org to create a series of short videos describing “The Big Picture” – things which need to be done to transform our economy into a more dynamic, fair, and productive new economy for a post-depression world. Taken together, I believe these make up a new platform for the Democratic Party which must be a central organizing piece for the elections in 2016.
Whether or not you agree with Reich, he and this platform are a force to be reckoned with.
Since I have yet to see them presented together in one place as a coherent work, I have taken the liberty of doing so myself. Each item is presented here with the title as a link to the original post on Reich’s blog, with the short video above it. Please follow the links for more information in Reich’s own words.
Initially, this project was billed as “Ten Ideas to Save the Economy”. There are now 12 videos in the series, branching out a bit into political reform. If there are more they will be added later.
Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP. It sounds like a great idea on the surface of it – lower trade barriers and require trade partners to improve working conditions in developing nations. There’s only one problem with it – no one knows what it is. That’s partly due to it being negotiated in secret and partly due to the fact that the negotiations are not done.
But many are against it for a wide array of reasons that span left and right. On the right, there is a good chance the sovereignty of the US will be diminished based on treaty obligations that, based on discussion, reach very far. On the left there seems to be yet another assault on good US jobs. And that secrecy? There are rumors that it will remain secret long after the treaty is passed.
It’s time to take a step back and sort out what TPP is and what is actually true about it.