Entry for February 21, 2007

Promotional postcard from the film “Waging a Living,” by Public Policy Productions’s Roger Weisberg (email),which first aired on the PBS program P.O. V. in September of 2006.

In an interview iwth POV, Weisberg said,

the words “working poor” ought to be an oxymoron. The idea that you can work full time and still be poor in this society is a real crime. And the numbers of working poor have risen so dramatically. Since 1977, there has been a 50 percent increase in the number of people working full time who are still poor.

The Virginia Interfaith let me know last Thursday, February 15, that thanks Delegate Ken Plum (D-Reston–email) bringing the matter up for reconsiderationafter its tabling that date and the votes of 12 other members, the Commerce and Labor Committee reported out SB 1327 (already passed 31-8 in the Senate), which would have raised the Virginia minimum wage to $6.50 an hour.

I was saddened to read yesterday that the motion to refer the bill to Appropriations passed, thus effectively killing the bill. I was especially disappointed to learn that those voting for the motion included Delegates Hargrove, Purkey Jones and Tata, all of whom had voted for the bill in Committee and that Delegate Johnson did not vote, after supporting the measure in Committee. I am puzzled as to why folks would vote “yea” for such a legislative maneuver, rather than vote on the bill.

At the 2004 Republican ConventionFormer U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said,

Our opponents have a way of confusing compassion with dependency. We believe true compassion encourages and empowers Americans to be responsible and take control of their own lives.

It is a disgrace, if thanks to the efforts of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others to keep the minimum wage low, a person works full-time or more and still is consigned to poverty. I fail to understand how some can talk of “compassionate conservatism” and continue to promote policies to force more and more working people into the category of the “have nots.” It makes me think of the critique of linguist George Lakoff:

Pull yourself up by your bootstraps — if you can afford the boots.

I hope Congress will act to raise the minimum wage, although both houses have made concessions to bussiness in the form of tax cuts, rather than pass a “clean” bill. I would have preferred that Virginia had joined the ranks of those states ahead of the federal government on this issue. And I sure wish there had been a final alert on Thursday from the Center asking us to write our Delegates to support the measure on the floor, especially since the motion to refer to Appropriations was likely. Maybe this is a good step for other items that make it out of committee?

Okay, we lost for this year. Now is the time, not later, to write our Delegates, as well as Morgan Griffith and the members of Commerce and Labor and Appropriations, expressing dismay or support depending on their position and asking for an explaination of their thinking, if they voted “yea” or the motion or “nay” on the bill. If the bill does not pass Congresss, it is time to start a dialogue to change hearts and minds, and if not that, then representation, by taking part in candidate forums, etc. It’s time for a more progressive General Assembly, Attorney Genral and Lt. Governor. It’s time to start working on a network of support to elect a progressive for the next Governor.

And while we’re at it why not a living wage, rather than a minimum wage.

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