DMI Blog

Ezekiel Edwards

If You Get $2 More An Hour, We Get $5 Million Tax-Free

For nine years in a row, Congress has voted against raising the measly minimum wage, leaving many full time workers and their families living in poverty or barely treading middle class water. Now, adding insult to injury, Bill Frist and his Republican colleagues have said they will agree to a raise of the minimum wage, but only if the estate tax is simultaneously drastically reduced.

Here's Frist's plan: if the government is going to allow an increase in the hourly federal minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour, phased in over a three-year period, then it must also exempt $5 million of an individual's estate and $10 million of a couple's estate from taxation by 2015, while also cutting the top estate tax rate from 46 to 30 percent.

In other words, if Wal-Mart has to pay its employees an actual living wage, the Walton family gets to put millions of its billions of dollars into a tax shelter while receiving a 33% tax reduction.

It is shameful that members of Congress are conflating the issue of raising the minimum wage (thereby helping people rise out of poverty, adequately feed and clothe their children, or save enough money to buy a home, send a child to college, or take a vacation) with the issue of repealing the estate tax (so super-wealthy people can remain super-wealthy, as opposed to very, very wealthy --- as if the current estate tax leaves America's millionaires destitute!).

If Bill Frist truly believed in "pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps", he would support raising the dismally low minimum wage so that millions of hard-working Americans could be better compensated for their toils and more likely to enter and remain in the middle class. Moreover, he would be uncomfortable with a repeal of the estate tax, which would permit limitlessly rewarding the children of wealthy parents for merely being the children of wealthy parents (but not because of their tireless work ethic and frugality). Does not Frist believe that rich kids have to do a bit of bootstrap pulling themselves, even if the straps are made of real gold and the boots Versace?

It is unacceptable that our representatives will consider passing legislation to help the poor and middle class (in other words, the bulk of our population) only if such legislation also helps the extremely rich. Our government should be trying to ensure equal economic opportunity for all instead of seeking to perpetuate our economically stratified society.

Ezekiel Edwards: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 7:00 AM, Aug 02, 2006 in Economic Opportunity | Economy | Financial Justice | Fiscal Responsibility | Middle-class squeeze | Politics | Tax Policy
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