CONGRESS CONSIDERS RAISING MINIMUM WAGE IF TAX CUTS FOR WEALTHY ARE ENACTED

08/03/06

"The federal minimum wage was last increased, to $5.15, in 1997. Since then its purchasing power has dropped 20 percent and is now at its lowest level since 1955.

This year, Senate Democrats vowed not to allow a vote on raising their own pay until they are allowed to vote on raising the minimum wage. Fifty-eight House Republicans asked their leadership for a vote before the August congressional recess. In late July, 30 House Republicans said they would join Democrats in preventing the House from recessing until there was a vote.

Last Friday, the House passed legislation to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour over three years. But there's a catch. The bill (Estate Tax and Extension of Tax Relief Act - aka "trifecta" bill) would also permanently reduce the estate tax - an important source of federal revenue impacting only the wealthiest half of one percent of our nation's taxpayers, which also encourages billions in charitable donations (according to the Congressional Budget Office, between $13-25 billion in 2000). The bill would also extend other expiring tax cuts.

In essence, House leadership decided it was fine to help an estimated 14.9 million workers making less than $7.25 per hour increase their average annual income by $1,200 to $4,400, as long as 8,200 wealthy people receive an average estate tax reduction of $1.4 million (in 2011). Minimum wage workers earning as low as $10,700 per year are given a raise, but only if a few individuals with estates worth more than $3.5 million benefit as well." (Written by Yonce Shelton, senior policy director of Sojourners/Call to Renewal.)

Our guest was Dr. Christian Weller a Senior Economist at the Center for American Progress, where he specializes in Social Security and retirement income, macroeconomics, the Federal Reserve, and international finance.

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