Sunday, October 30, 2005

Let us now praise famous men

I just read that the Senate turned down a proposal to raise the minimum wage from $5.15 to $6.25 per hour. The last time the minimum wage was increased was in 1997. In the meantime, the Senate has increased the yearly pay of senators by $28,000 to the present $162,000.

If we assume the senators work 50 weeks a year (as a lucky minimum wage worker would do--and bypassing the difficult nomenclatorial issue of defining "work" with regard to senatorial salaries), the basic hourly wage of a senator is $81.00 per hour, at present, excluding proceeds from graft and corruption, the value of the socialized insurance and pensions they get, or the value of the travel allowances and free office space the taxpayers provide for them.

So, senatorial salaries, bare bones, are $81.00 per hour.

Or, to look at it from another angle, they have given themselves a $14.00 per hour raise in the same period during which minimum wage workers have gotten a $0.00 hourly increase in wages. I did not try to figure an hourly value for any increase in the value of taxpayer-provided perks, much less add-ons from crooked dealing, which anyway varies from senator to senator, or so we should hope.

Meanwhile, economists have good news for the poor: core inflation is not rising. Your $5.15 per hour will buy you about as much now as it bought last year--as long as you don't buy food, gasoline, or heat your house. "Core" inflation is a little different from the "inflation" the rest of us encounter. Core inflation excludes gasoline and food and heating, all of which have risen steeply. Average heating bills are expected to increase by over 50% this coming winter.

The vote was a straight party-line vote, except 3 Republican senators with reelection difficulties who belatedly discovered the plight of the poor and voted for the $1.10 per hour raise, and one additional Republican with a conscience. Or at least a dollar and ten cents worth of a conscience. I don't know which Republican it was, but we should be thankful for his vote.

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