By Contributor on February 26, 2013

President Obama's call to raise the minimum wage is a welcome relief.

American workers, not big businesses, have been the biggest losers in a sagging economy and sluggish recovery. Stagnant job growth, coupled with record high employment, has forced many individuals and families to do more with less -- including on the wage front.

The president's proposal would pump more than $18 billion into local economies annually, create much needed tax revenue for cities and states and stabilize families still recovering from the most recent recession.

Across the country, there are 30 million people employed in low-wage jobs that pay less than $9 per hour or $18,000 per year. Among those workers, close to 5 million earn the federal minimum wage of $7.25 or just below it.

Women, blacks, Latinos and low-skilled workers would benefit from an increase in the federal minimum wage because they are more likely to be employed in lower-wage jobs in the retail or service industries.

The Republican response that raising the federal minimum wage would maim small businesses is wrong and amounts to "chicken little" scare tactics. Of the 20 or so states where the minimum wage is more than the federal rate, none have reported issues with job loss or hiring that can be directly linked to increased wages paid to workers.

We live in a new economic reality. Over the last few decades, there has been a significant decline in the median weekly earnings for individuals with a high school diploma or less, the bulk of the low-wage work force. In 2007, for example, men with a less than a high school diploma earned 28 percent less than they did in 1979. With the loss of manufacturing jobs, lower-wage jobs are a bigger part of our economy than ever before.

We ought to ensure that the wages paid to workers are in keeping with our morality, as well as the economic reality of our times.

C. Nicole Mason is executive director of the Center for Research and Policy in the Public Interest. She can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.

On November 20 every year for the last fifteen years, transgender people gather for vigil ceremonies to acknowledge...

Yesterday the U.S. Senate narrowly defeated a bill that would approve construction on the Keystone XL pipeline.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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