Monday, July 31, 2006

Just an aside

There's a larger post coming. It's something I've been thinking about for a while but I want to make sure that it comes off correctly and life outside the IntarWeb has been busy. However, I couldn't let this pass without a comment or two:

A bill passed the House on Saturday that is one of those minor omnibus efforts; it's an election-year thing to give the reps something 'positive' that they can show to all of their constituents as they head home to campaign over the summer break.

Item #1 was an extension of the tax credit for corporate research. Just what America desperately needed. Another corporate tax cut. You know, because the Dow is crashing to the ground. It would also certainly help if much of the research at, say, Big Pharma wasn't already federally subsidized by farming out the research to places like the Center for Disease Control, but that's more detail than CNN wants to give you. After all, more research means faster 'Internets' if you listen to Senator Ted Stevens, communication genius that he is.

Item #2 was a $2.10 raise to the minimum wage. Of course, this will likely never make it past the Senate, since not enough of them are actually running for re-election to hang themselves on this issue. It's also not nearly enough to provide a living wage for most of the nation. It's also supposed to be phased in over three years. This, as usual, is a sop to major retailers, not the small businesses that are typically proffered as the excuse for the ever-expanding class of working poor. If you allow places like Wal-Mart to pay $5.15 an hour, they will. Meanwhile, Mom and Pop's grocery is typically already paying far more than that because they actually treat their employees as humans and not drones. It's awfully tough to keep watching your workers come in looking thinner and more exhausted every day as they work two jobs and stop eating more than once a day so they can pay the electric bill.

Item #3 was a further cut to the estate tax.

Remember our friend the estate tax? See, this is how this little bit of chicanery works: the paltry wage increase provides an increase of a couple thousand to the vast numbers minimum wage worker's income; the estate tax cut is on the order of BILLIONS for the tiny fringe that can truly benefit from it. This is the third time the House has tried to get this particular tax cut through, but even some Republican senators can't stand the smell of elite welfare that emanates so strongly from this concept. So, the easy trick is to attach it to the same bill carrying the first minimum wage increase in a decade. Anyone voting against the estate tax cut can be accused of voting against increasing the minimum wage in campaign ads. Pretty smooth, huh?

Of course, it doesn't matter that the House has let a minimum wage increase die in committee every year for the past 10, does it? That's effectively like not voting for it, but people wouldn't understand that. Too complicated. It's not like voting on American Idol.

The Newspaper of Record, of course, accuses the reps of 'going on vacation without doing their job.' But they did do their job. They got a corporate tax break extended (one half of campaign contributors happy? Check!) They got a tax break for the rich enhanced (other half happy? Check!) And they're raising the minimum wage to a level that's still effectively worthless if you're trying to live on one job (veiled insult tossed to the masses that don't matter? Check!)

Happy campaigning, assholes!


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