Right-wing dead serious about killing minimum wage

Progressives are correct when they note that minimum wage opponents have almost no chance of a direct win on the issue in Congress or in most state legislatures.

Events of the last few weeks, however, show that the political right is implementing a multi-faceted strategy it hopes will push the country back to the days when there was absolutely no social safety net at all.

Tea party candidates pushing right-wing constitutional theories are one part of this effort by the right to undo a century of social progress in the United States.

Writing about the tea party candidates in Time Magazine, Adam Cohen said this week, “Since minimum-wage opponents have no reasonable chance of prevailing in Congress or state legislatures, they are turning to their last best hope: the judiciary.

“Politicians like West Virginia’s John Raese and Alaska’s Joe Miller are starting to lay the groundwork. Conservatives like them are looking back to an earlier, pre-New Deal era, from the late 1890s through the 1930s, when conservative courts routinely struck down laws designed to help working people.”

One of their aims is to appoint judges willing, just for starters, to do away with the minimum wage law. The idea is that right-wing judges would find unconstitutional whole categories of federal laws including laws guaranteeing the right to join a union, the law that created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and even the law that created Social Security.

Another part of the right-wing strategy to turn back the clock is to use its hoped-for majority in the House to cripple agencies that the Obama administration has turned into instruments for progressive change. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Labor are two in particular that could be set back by a GOP Congress.

Politico notes, “The GOP Congressional Republicans planning an assault on the Obama administration’s record aim to turn [EPA administrator] Lisa Jackson into public enemy No. 1. ‘I think she’ll be very much in demand on the Hill, at times not of her choosing,’ said a former staffer on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. ‘It will diminish her free time, shall we say.'”

Still another part of the strategy involves elimination of campaign finance laws. Here the Supreme Court has already obliged by allowing a free flow of corporate cash into GOP campaign coffers.

Katrina vanden Heuvel warned in the Washington Post that this election will determine “whether we let corporations own our democracy. This tidal wave of corporate cash – which could run up a $5 billion price tag on the most expensive midterm election in history – is ‘the dagger directed at the heart of democracy,’ as Bill Moyers said in  a speech at Common Cause’s 40th anniversary gala. It is increasingly possible, he added, for ‘oligarchs and plutocrats to secretly buy our elections and consolidate their hold on the corporate state.’ This in the end, is the current front of a historic struggle. Who governs America – the powerful few or the many, money or citizens?”

As if to confirm the warning from Moyers, the New York Times reported Oct. 20 that a secretive network of Republican donors will spend a long weekend in Palm Springs next January, “not to relax after a hard-fought election but to plan for the next one.”

The Times said Koch Industries, cited by the EPA for 300 oil spills, is planning a confidential meeting at the Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa to, as an invitation says, “develop strategies to counter the most severe threats facing our free society and outline a vision of how we can foster a renewal of American free enterprise and prosperity.”

The invitation goes on to say that the gathering will develop strategies for “countering climate change alarmism and the move to socialized health care,” as well as “the regulatory assault on energy.”

Image: Republicans want to, among other things, eliminate minimum wage. stuartpillbrow // CC BY-SA 2.0


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik started as labor editor of the People's World in May, 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union's campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and '80s he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York. Along with being labor editor, Wojcik is a co-editor of peoplesworld.org.