Tuesday, January 30, 2007

An Only Tangentially Lieberman Related Post

I don't watch much C-Span (and probably should watch more). But I have happened to catch Ted Kennedy on two occasions in the last few days lambasting the republicans for their obstruction of the minimum wage bill. To those of you who have lived your entire lives during the Reagan/Bush era, this is what a liberal is, and this is what a liberal does: advocate a bill that would merely redress more than a decade of decay in the real minimum wage, a meager nominal increase in a most meager wage, benefitting primarily a constituency that is completely powerless (both economically and politically) and from whom not a dollar of political contributions will be forthcoming. And doing so simply because it is the right and decent thing to do.

There have been many depressing things we've witnessed over the last six years, and we all know what I'm talking about so I won't catalogue them here (hint: start with Iraq and Katrina and work your way down). But in some sense the most depressing thing has been the spectacle of the republican party devoting hour and hour and legislative day after legislative day to blocking this tiny bill, this minimum wage increase that is so small and affects so few relative to the size of the workforce that it really doesn't even register a blip on the economic radar. To what end? Isn't this just mean-spirited? Doesn't it really suggest, as Kennedy has implied, some outright hostility on the part of republicans to the working poor?

I could understand the reasoning behind opposing the very concept of a minimum wage law, perhaps based on some simplistic economic argument that completely disregards any other policy objective or social good, but that is not what is going on here. The republicans tried repealing the existing minimum wage law and they didn't have the votes. The Senate of the United States has been given over for the last number of days to blocking this pathetically small increase in the minimum wage, with republicans submitting amendment after amendment tying any increase to legislative favors for their favored constituencies, constituencies not only far more affluent than those who would benefit from an increased minimum wage but far more affluent than the average American.

Quite simply, the highest legislative body in the wealthiest and most powerful country in history has been largely devoted for the last week to denying this pitiful crumb to some of the poorest among us. They are not debating Iraq. They are not addressing crushing health care inflation and a health care delivery system that is broken. Day after day the time, effort and political capital of one of the two major political parties in this country has been dedicated to making sure working people at the very bottom of the labor ladder don't get a break.

My God, what a sorry spectacle. I can't help but feel that this is symptomatic of a society in decline, a society that is shrinking from what I believed to be a broad, historical imperative in this country: the advance of the society as a whole, an advance that takes special care to make sure that as many Americans as possible have adequate access to financial and educational opportunity, adequate health care, and some measure of security that financial or health setbacks will not result in privation and desperation.

Here's the tangential Joe angle. I know Lieberman hasn't joined this disgraceful republican assault on the minimum wage bill, but he is increasingly aligning himself with this party and these people. His willingness to help shield republicans from the ful political consequences of the Iraq catastrophe, his willingness to support a republican presidential nominee, his tendency to imply that the absence in Washington, D.C. of his treasured bipartisanship is more a failing of the democrats than the most secretive, uncompromising and ideological administration in our history, all aid the republicans in their reactionary legislative agenda and therefore impede the effort of democrats to achieve their most basic and core legislative objectives.

But the Joe angle is really tangential. The larger issue is whatever afflicts the republican party that would lead them on such a weird, quixotic and mean-spirited quest to block an effort to arrest a decade long decline in the wage our society guarantees to anyone willing to work. There is something seriously wrong in the soul of the republican party.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now you are just reaching for something to connect Lieberman to.
very pathetic

12:25 PM  

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