GOP Plays Games with Minimum Wage Bill

| Fri Jul. 28, 2006 4:31 PM EDT

Ezra Klein notes that Senate Republicans are now trying to put Democrats in a corner by putting forward a bill that would both raise the minimum wage and repeal the estate tax on multimillion dollar estates. That way, the thinking goes, Republicans can inoculate themselves against charges that they're opposed to raising the wage floor for low-income workers.

At any rate, it's a cheap gambit, and hopefully the Democrats will oppose it (repealing the estate tax would be, as we've pointed out before, disastrous for the poor, by putting programs such as Medicaid and Social Security under risk). But I also want to point out the paucity of the minimum-wage increase under discussion here. The current proposal would hike the minimum from $5.15 an hour, the level set in 1997, to $7.25 an hour by 2007.

That sounds like a big hike, but it's really not. As Dean Baker notes, due to inflation, $7.25 an hour in 2007 is equivalent to about $5.30 back in 1997. So this "hike" will really just ensure that the minimum wage goes back up to its inflation-adjusted 1997 level. It's not much of an increase, in real dollar terms, at all.