Political Blackmail

Political Blackmail


“Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people….”

Thus spoke Representative Dennis Kucinich on the House floor last week, quoting Isaiah, as he railed against a cynical attempt by Republicans to attach the first minimum wage increase in nine years (during which time Congress has received EIGHT pay raises, and is scheduled for its ninth), to an estate tax cut for the wealthiest Americans. Despite his efforts, on the eve of adjourning on July 29, House Republicans pushed through this controversial bill linking a minimum-wage increase to a package of tax cuts.

At a time when the gap between rich and poor is greater than even during the Gilded Age…at a time of unprecedented tax cuts for the wealthy during the so-called war on terror…at a time of vast cuts in our social service infrastructure…at a time when a federal surplus has been transformed into a soaring deficit….the Republican leadership refused to allow a straight up or down vote on the minimum wage.

“It’s political blackmail to say the only way that minimum wage workers can get a raise is to give tax giveaways to the wealthiest Americans,” said Senator Edward Kennedy.

“This Republican Bill reeks of cynicism,” said Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer. “It’s a political stunt designed to give vulnerable Republicans in tough elections the opportunity to say they voted to raise the minimum wage — even though they know this bill is going nowhere in the Senate.”

Indeed, the bill should reach the Senate floor this week, where Democrats are expected to filibuster the GOP’s minimum wage/maximum estate-wealth bill.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the estate tax cut would benefit 8,200 estates with an average tax cut of $1.4 million. For the 6.6 million Americans who would directly benefit from the minimum wage hike, the increase in annual earnings would average $1,200. Of course, even many of the workers’ modest gains would be off-set if Republicans pay for their Paris Hilton tax cut — which will cost $268 billion in lost revenues over the next decade — by slashing programs like Medicare and Medicaid, food stamps and veterans programs. (Not to mention their complete lack of attention to the rising costs of energy, education, housing, healthcare, childcare and more.)

So, according to the GOP, in order for those Americans who have been doing an honest day’s work for $10,700 a year – for 9 years–– to get a raise, the richest 8,200 families must receive yet another irresponsible, unjust cut that the country cannot afford. Can the Republicans openly reveal their contempt for working people any more clearly? The just response: Vote them out of office this November.

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