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Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2007 09:02 pm

Pushing for shared prosperity

Why “working poor” is one of the most obnoxious phrases

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Untitled Document One of the most obnoxious phrases in America today is “the working poor.”
We live in the richest nation in the history of the world, and it’s morally abominable that anyone who works in this country is poor. Our economy is deliberately skewed by public policy. As a result, the vast portion of America’s wealth, which is generated by all of us, flows to the few at the top, shortchanging the middle class, and leaving millions of hardworking Americans — many working two or three jobs — in poverty. For the first time in a decade, Congress finally has upped the minimum wage, increasing it by 70 cents an hour this summer, with two more 70-cent increases coming in the next two summers. If you’re one of the working poor — trying to make the rent, put food on the table, and cover the basics of utilities, clothing, and gasoline — every penny matters, so a 70-cent raise helps. But Congresscritters should not injure their arms patting themselves on the back, for $5.85 an hour is a gross pay of only $12,000 a year — still a poverty wage for full-time work. Even with two more scheduled raises, the minimum wage will remain poverty pay. Oh, exclaim apologists for this injustice, raising workers’ pay hurts small business. In fact, a recent survey found that three of four small- and medium-sized business owners say that raising the minimum wage doesn’t hurt them. Indeed, two-thirds of small businesses support a boost, because their workers gain more purchasing power and the companies have less turnover, higher productivity, improved customer satisfaction, and an enhanced reputation. Don’t let the wealthy elite pit small business against workers. We’re all in this together. For more information, check out Business for Shared Prosperity: www.businessforsharedprosperity.org.

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, columnist, and author.
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