An Elegant Solution – A Living Wage

Are you tired of the “cut the poor” versus “tax the rich” argument that goes round and round in circles? What if the rich could keep their tax break – yet still pay their fair share, no programs would be cut, and the economy would rebound?

Congress has changed the meaning of the word “compromise”. It is no longer the civilized art of the deal. It’s now a war to see whose side takes less of a hit. Completely forgotten is the search for an elegant solution – an answer that accommodates everyone and improves the situation – but I think there is one.

Grover Norquist has already enthralled the Republicans. They won’t ever break their pledge and raise taxes, so let’s take taxes off the table. The Democrats don’t want to cut a dime out of social programs, so let’s take that option away too. So where does that leave us?

Both sides need to agree to make the minimum wage, a living wage.

Raising the minimum wage to the poverty level + 2%, is not a raise in taxes. The signers of the Norquist “no new tax” pledge would be free to vote for it. The 1%, Romney/Koch-type Republicans would be unhappy of course, but I think they might prefer to pay higher wages than give up their tax break, which goes away at year’s end if a compromise isn’t’t reached. Business is said to like certainty, and this solution offers that, since the number of people they hire is entirely within their own control.

I think the Republicans of the Tea Party variety would be for the idea. (As long as it doesn’t appear to come from President Obama.) The rich would be paying their fair share, but the money would be going directly into the pockets of working people, and not to the Federal Government, who would just waste it on hot lunch programs and college loans. And since the Teaers are driving the party these days, their vote counts more than the 1%.

In spite of the Tea Party’s wishes, the Federal Government would be helped though, because working people would now be earning more taxable income. We know from the arguments made in support of the “Buffet Rule”, the workers will pay a higher rate than the job creators would have paid on that same money. I don’t have the prognosticating skills of the Congressional Budget Office, but common sense says millions of minimum wage workers who are now getting money back from the Federal Government by the way of the Earned Income Tax Credit, would now be paying into the treasury instead.

State and local governments would also be helped because with every working citizen now earning above the poverty line, they are looking at a massive reduction in requests for support services. Working people would no longer need food stamps. Fewer kids need hot lunch programs, etc. This is money that can be used to hire back teachers and restore city services like police and fire departments that have been so severely cut. More people with more money in their pockets means good things for local economies.

Lastly, the working poor are the big winners. Anywhere in America, if you can find a job, you will know you can make it. Mitt Romney talks about the “dignity of work”. Well, the dignity of work doesn’t come from the labor. It comes from being able to go home with a paycheck that will allow a worker to look their son in the eye and say, “Don’t worry, Daddy/Mommy will take care of you.” Republicans believe in being self-sufficient and not relying on government. A living wage is a direct road to that goal.

If you are still unconvinced, think for a moment about Herman Cain. Is it fair that the system allows him to become uber-wealthy while taxpayers pick up the health care costs and food stamp support for the families of his pizza workers? If Cain has to pay those workers enough to take care of themselves, he may not be quite so “uber” but his employees become self-sufficient, and tax payers are off the hook. Would you really rather he pay more in taxes? Or more in wages?

One last point. When workers earn enough to take care of themselves, crime goes down. Domestic violence goes down. Child abuse goes down. Divorce goes down. Child hunger goes down. Abortion rates go down… Shall I go on?

A living wage tied to the poverty level is an elegant and workable solution. Too bad the 1% will never allow anyone in Washington to think of it.

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