…Wall Street did not build this country, the middle class built this country and unions built the middle class.
That’s why I’m calling on Congress to pass the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, and send it to my desk so we can have the right to unionize. And by the way, while you are thinking about sending things to my desk, let’s raise the minimum wage to $15. No one— No one working 40 hours a week should live below the poverty line. We need to ensure greater equity and opportunity for women. And while we are doing this, let’s get the paychecks— paycheck gap solved as well, equal pay has been too long. And if you’re wondering — look behind me [President Joe Biden, address to Congress, as transcribed by Politico, 2021.04.28].
President Joe Biden made clear in his speech to Congress last night that he’s fighting for the working men and women of this country. (Women—hence the nod at the end of that quote to the historic framing of his first Presidential address to Congress by a female presiding officers of both chambers of Congress.) He and the members of his party are fighting for equal pay for women. He and his party are fighting for workers’ rights to work together for better working conditions. And he is joining that cranky independent from Vermont in fighting for a $15 minimum wage.
No one working full-time should live in poverty, says the President… not to mention every decent American who believes a day’s work deserves a day’s pay. At the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, one worker working 40 hours a week every week of the year earns $15,080. That clears the $12,880 poverty threshold for a single individual, but it falls short of the $17,420 the government says is the bare minimum necessary to sustain even a two-person household. Family values mean we value families, so if we apply the most traditional view of the families we value—Mom and Dad make a couple babies, and one parent goes out to win the bread while the other parent stays home to make the bread and tend the chill’ens—we need that one working parent to earn $26,500 a year to keep that valued family out of technical poverty (that, and not have the fridge go out, the baby get croup, some drunk idiot crash through the roof). Meeting that minimum poverty threshold for a family of four requires working full-time, no vacation, for $12.74 an hour. $15 an hour insulates the workers and families we value from catastrophe and inflation for at least a few years. Given that we’ve let the federal wage stagnate and lose value for twelve years, adding that insulation now on this perhaps fleeting occasion where we can find the political will to act is a reasonable idea.
And President Biden bolsters his position with a direct repudiation of the economic argument that we can make all the workers at the base of the economy richer by handing money to the rich poobahs at the top. Expecting wealth trickle down just means workers get peed on:
I believe what I propose is fair. Fiscally responsible, and it will create millions of jobs that will grow the economy and enhance our financial standing in the country. When you hear someone say they don’t want to raise tax on our wealthiest 1% for corporate America, ask them,— look, the big tax cut of 2017. Remember, it was supposed to pay for itself, that was how it was sold. And generate vast economic growth. Instead, it added $2 trillion to the deficit. It was a huge windfall for corporate America and those of the very top. Instead of raising wages and investing in research and development, it poured billions of dollars into the pockets of CEOs. The pay gap between CEOs and their workers is now among the largest in history. According to one study, CEOs make 320 times what the average worker in their corporation makes. It used to be below 100.
The pandemic only made things worse. When 20 million Americans lost their jobs in the pandemic working in middle-class Americans. — Working and middle-class Americans. At the same time, roughly 650 billionaires in America saw their net worth increased by more than $1 trillion, the same exact period. They are now worth more than $4 trillion. My fellow Americans, trickle-down economics has never worked and it is time to grow the economy from the bottom and the middle out [President Biden, 2021.04.28address to Congress].
If you want the working class to have more wealth, you have to give the wealth directly to them. You have to raise their minimum wage above the family poverty line. You have to make sure working moms get the same pay as working dads. And you have to give those workers the power to organize and fight for their own rights.
$15 an hour, equal pay, and unions—that’s the stuff our Grandpa Joe says. And that’s all good stuff for workers and families.