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The Other Side of the Tracks blog by Word Press

Minimalizing Insanity

A view from the other side of the tracks...since 2002

A Socially Speaking view from the other side of the tracks…since 2002

The need for mental health facilities is growing to levels of the greatest necessity in the past 50 years but not because of mass shootings of late. No. The baseless defense of “mental health” increases conservative Libertarians’ propaganda as the answer to making a healthier America, but the premise doesn’t apply exclusively to guns…add the insanity of opposing a Living Wage.

One of the best known cures for an illness is direct action. Sickness rarely gets better by doing nothing. That’s what free market capitalists are arguing at this monumental time in history. The Seattle City Council unanimously approved a $15 minimum wage, giving its lowest-paid workers a path over the next seven years to the nation’s highest hourly pay. Not raising the minimum wage—in the richest country on earth—is insanity.

This raise of the minimum wage (to a Living Wage) was a bold step forward in the name of humanity, fairness, justice and equality. There are some—calling themselves Americans—vehemently opposed to these tenets. In the past, it was honorable to practice humanity. Allowing a systemic means of keeping people poor should be shameful, but when one is insane, there shall be no shame.

Though I am pleased at the raise agreed to by the Seattle council, I am not pleased about the time it will take to implement it. Seven years to bring this greater degree of income equality is a travesty. Free Market conservatives know this. Their aim is always to water down progressive legislation to the point of sheer ineffectiveness. The proponents of sanity are collecting signatures for a charter amendment that would speed up the phase-in to three years. It took our country—not city council but nation—three days to pass the USA PATRIOT ACT! On the fourth day, they began implementation.

What’s more insane is that the oligarchic restaurant lobby unashamedly cheers for poverty. Americans hear them, but like walking past homeless people sleeping on the sidewalk, they consciously look straight ahead as they walk by and do nothing. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray praised the council vote as a bold step to address what he called more than three decades of economic policy that has resulted in a dismantling of the middle class. Keeping wages low was successful as an end only because destroying unions was successful as a means.

Rich people commit insane acts to protect their wealth. Instead of paying their workers better, they pay lawyers and lobbyists to protect their profits. Within minutes of the vote, an organization representing national franchises vowed to sue of their inclusion under the new law as large businesses.

We had a similar battle here in DC where the restaurant lobby worked tooth-and-nail to dismantle a raise to the minimum wage (where Walmart was the centerpiece but not the only piece). They claimed that they—large retailers—were defenseless “victims” of an assault by labor activists. Well, excuuuuuse meeeee! Large retailers and restaurateurs have gotten away for decades with exploiting laborers by keeping minimum wages minimal and reaping obscenely huge profits. That’s why so many more restaurants have opened during this period.

The fact is that workers have gotten poorer, thus smashing the middle class. A raise in the minimum wage benefits any sub-set of American society. Circular economics dictates that if workers have more money to spend, they will. The retailers that pay those higher wages will see an increase in their sales. Governments benefit because less people—workers—will need government subsidies for healthcare, childcare and food. The number of taxpayers increases, so governments gain more revenue from taxable income. Workers benefit because their standard of living increases.

What’s more bold is that alternative leadership is necessary to make something like this happen. Municipalities all over the country have seen only marginal electoral victories by politicians out of the status quo. Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant, whose election in November on a $15-an-hour minimum platform helped galvanize the Seattle effort. Those opponents of raising wage standards contribute hugely to candidates that will vote for working class poverty. Sawant’s win was a “shock the world” proposition that has rocked the nation—for good!

Here in DC, we’ve got a council election with a candidate who also proudly champions the “Fight for $15” banner. Eugene Puryear has made this same battle a centerpiece of his campaign. I find it funny how the protectors of poverty tried to slander Sawant as a Socialist—which she is—and she still won! Now, it has washed out that regardless of the slander, the people—and thus, Seattle—have benefitted. A win for the people should always be the overarching objective.

It’s a shame that more working class Americans aren’t supporting this effort to bring back the middle class. Though Seattle has made history, the history is far from over. In the law are three provisions: a training wage for teenagers and disabled workers, the counting the cost of tips and health-care benefits toward the $15 for up to 11 years and move the start date from January to April. Sawant tried to cut those out, but the restaurant lobby got to most on the Council first. They did the same thing here in DC. Political contributions talk while the humanity of workers walk.

As we see this ray of sunshine, there’re clouds still looming. The International Franchise Association announced plans to sue Seattle to overturn the ordinance. They’re like the national “Repeal and Replace” Republicans that obsess about Obamacare and keep our country sick. We cannot allow free market conservatism to keep this country from getting the mental health care it needs by letting poverty wage insanity keep us from the cure of a Living Wage.

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