Pete Peterson Meets St. Peter

Robert Kuttner

Robert Kuttner Co-Founder and Co-Editor, The American Prospect

Name, Please?

Peter G. Peterson.

And what makes you think you deserve admission to the Pearly Gates?

I’ve led a virtuous life, made billions, and gave most of it to charity.

What sort of charity?

Well, I gave over $1 billion to create the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, to warn Americans about the dangers of deficits and debts, and the excesses of Social Security and Medicare.

Yes? And where’s the charity part?

Too much spending will bankrupt America, especially the dreams of the young.

I’m just a saint, not an economist. But are you saying that it’s Social Security and Medicare that are destroying the life chances of the young, rather than—oh, I don’t know—college debt, insecure jobs, unaffordable housing, the very rich taking more than their share?

My one regret on Earth was that the young people just wouldn’t listen to what I was telling them.

And where did you say you made your money?

That would be private equity.

We have a saying around here: It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than—

I know … than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

You’ve heard that one.

Yes, and I thought that if I just warned people against the perils of Social Security and Medicare, the Almighty would appreciate my virtue.

It’s kind of a stretch, Pete.

Well, do you mind if I ask you a few questions?

Sure, fire away.

It looks pretty fine up here. Who pays for all of this?

The Almighty forgives us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

Don’t you think that’s kind of profligate?

Well, we do have other, more austere quarters that might suit you a lot better.

***

Reposted from The American Prospect.

Robert Kuttner's new book is Debtors' Prison: The Politics of Austerity Versus Possibility. He is co-editor of The American Prospect and a senior Fellow at Demos, and teaches at Brandeis University's Heller School.

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Federal Minimum Wage Reaches Disappointing Milestone

By Kathleen Mackey
USW Intern

A disgraceful milestone occurred last Sunday, June 16.

That date officially marked the longest period that the United States has gone without increasing federal the minimum wage.

That means Congress has denied raises for a decade to 1.8 million American workers, that is, those workers who earn $7.25 an hour or less. These 1.8 million Americans have watched in frustration as Congress not only denied them wages increases, but used their tax dollars to raise Congressional pay. They continued to watch in disappointment as the Trump administration failed to keep its promise that the 2017 tax cut law would increase every worker’s pay by $4,000 per year.

More than 12 years ago, in May 2007, Congress passed legislation to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour. It took effect two years later. Congress has failed to act since then, so it has, in effect, now imposed a decade-long wage freeze on the nation’s lowest income workers.

To combat this unjust situation, minimum wage workers could rally and call their lawmakers to demand action, but they’re typically working more than one job just to get by, so few have the energy or patience.

The Economic Policy Institute points out in a recent report on the federal minimum wage that as the cost of living rose over the past 10 years, Congress’ inaction cut the take-home pay of working families.  

At the current dismal rate, full-time workers receiving minimum wage earn $15,080 a year. It was virtually impossible to scrape by on $15,080 a decade ago, let alone support a family. But with the cost of living having risen 18% over that time, the situation now is far worse for the working poor. The current federal minimum wage is not a living wage. And no full-time worker should live in poverty.

While ignoring the needs of low-income workers, members of Congress, who taxpayers pay at least $174,000 a year, are scheduled to receive an automatic $4,500 cost-of-living raise this year. Congress increased its own pay from $169,300 to $174,000 in 2009, in the middle of the Great Recession when low income people across the country were out of work and losing their homes. While Congress has frozen its own pay since then, that’s little consolation to minimum wage workers who take home less than a tenth of Congressional salaries.

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A Friendly Reminder

A Friendly Reminder