When it comes to protecting the well-being of labor, the Obama Administration is badly disjointed, and two recent topics underscore the haphazard approach—the minimum wage and Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiations.
The Administration wants to raise the minimum wage to over ten dollars an hour, up from its current $7.25. Republicans in Congress voted the proposal down on the usual free market grounds, although I’m not sure legislation saying that anyone who works full-time should make $20,000 a year is really creeping socialism. In fact, $20K is still pretty bare bones.
A post run here on Blue Dog Reaganite detailed how large corporations have paid their people the minimum wage and then actually provided training for them on how to get welfare benefits. It’s time to stop this sort of corporate freeloading. And if a business can’t pay someone $20,000 a year—or pay a part-timer $10,000 a year, then maybe they should step aside and let someone else take their place in the market.
To keep a long story short, I think Obama is correct on the minimum wage.
But having wage laws presumes there are jobs for these laws to apply, and the TPP approach is a walking disaster. The negotiations are about creating an 11-nation free trade zone with countries on the other side of the Pacific, including China. Obama has not pushed for a ban on currency manipulation, a practice countries—most notoriously China—use to make their goods cheaper aboard, while not hurting the standard of living at home.
China’s currency manipulation has already resulted in an undercutting of America’s domestic workforce. What good does it to do to give someone a guarantee of ten bucks an hour, then turn around and negotiate a massive trade deal that allows shady practices to force that same person out of work?
I’m sorry, but you don’t get to pursue this kind of disjointed approach to labor, and then turn around and consider yourself a wonderfully compassionate person for pushing for an extension of unemployment benefits. Not when your global trade policies are a big part of the problem.
Fortunately there are voices---Democratic voices who might actually have influence in how the TPP looks at the end—that are speaking out against this. Charles Schumer, Debbie Stabenow and Sherrod Brown, liberal senators for New York, Michigan and Ohio respectively, have all taken the Administration to task publicly and said bluntly that they don’t see TPP passing without protection from currency manipulation.
I would like to believe they’re right, but I’ve been let down too many times before. A Democratic Congress passed a similar sellout with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) back in 1993. A portion of the Democratic Party held firm, but others didn’t want to embarrass a president of their own party (Bill Clinton) and Republicans predictably fell in lockstep with a deal that benefitted corporate America.
It’s time to put policy above partisanship and either shut down the TPP negotiations or at least make sure they ban currency manipulation. Otherwise, ideas about the minimum wage might be fine and good, but they’ll amount to tossing a bread crumb to American labor while shipping the feast abroad.