J Walking

Now this is fantastic: Gregg Easterbrook, writing for’s Page 2, not only does a fantastic job talking about the past weekend in football — as a Steelers fan I particularly appreciate his observation that that “direct snap” to Deuce McAllistar was illegal — but also of writing about justice and life. Easterbrook, who is also a Beliefnet contributor (gotta love this guy), points out an important and totally overlooked point on the minimum wage ballot referenda — they won overwhelmingly. I’ll paste a is a snippet below. His whole column deserves reading, however, so click here for it.

“Social Justice Goes Six-for-Six: In the hoopla over last week’s historic elections, it is important this detail not be missed: Six states held referenda on raising their minimum wage, and in all six the measures passed by big margins. Success margins ranged up to 76 percent yes in Missouri.

The six-for-six success of higher minimum wage proposals tells us four things. First, Americans are a fundamentally generous people. The majority of voters who said yes to raising the minimum wage are above that wage themselves, and know higher minimums will result in higher prices for their goods and services. Second, concern with social justice is a rising trend among Christian voters. The 76 percent yes in Missouri is especially revealing because evangelical turnout was high in that state, owing to a referendum about embryonic stem cell research on the same ballot. Jesus taught that the first concern of social policy should be the needy, and in recent years, evangelical Christianity has been waking up to that teaching. (On that topic I recommend to readers the new book “Tempting Faith” by former George W. Bush aide David Kuo, an evangelical [DK: See, you gotta love this guy!]; also it’s important that Rick Warren, America’s most prominent Christian pastor, has recently been talking more about obligations to the needy than any other topic.) Third, the referenda results are another indicator of how far out of touch the House and Senate were, since in 2006 the Republican leadership in both chambers worked to sabotage a higher federal minimum wage. Finally and most importantly, the vote tells us the federal minimum wage must go up.

Today the federal minimum is just $5.15 an hour. Some states have higher minimums — that’s what the votes were about — but others do not, and in all states local actual wages tend to shadow the federal minimum, rising when the federal number rises. It is shocking, and an indictment of Washington, that today’s federal minimum wage is barely worth half the minimum of the 1960s. Expressed in today’s dollars, the minimum wage would need to be $10.20 an hour to have the same value as the federal minimum of 1968. Through the 1960s, full-time work at the federal minimum wage kept a family of three above the poverty trend; today a family of three headed by a full-time minimum wage worker is 24 percent below the poverty line. Yes, teenagers from affluent families working summer jobs don’t need $10 an hour — a teen-wage exception to the minimum seems fine. But our social contract should ensure that any adult who works full time receives basic financial security, and a $10-an-hour federal minimum wage would achieve that end. A $10 federal minimum wage would increase the cost of pizza delivery. It would also increase social justice: and all Americans ought to vote for that.”

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus