Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Geaghan: Department of No Comment

Sometimes the data just lend support to the obvious. Here's a recent example (with thanks to Scott Lemieux of Lawyers, Guns and Money for the tip on this article by Brad Plummer at The New Republic Online):
"The statistics on inequality are well known and... present a clear picture. Between 1979 and 2004, the richest 1 percent of Americans saw their after-tax incomes triple, while those of the middle fifth grew by only 21 percent and those of the poorest fifth barely budged, according to Congressional Budget Office data. By the late '90s, the richest 1 percent of American households held one-third of all wealth in the U.S. economy, and took in 14 percent of the national income--a greater share than at just about any point since the Great Depression.

"In politics, this all matters a great deal. Larry Bartels of Princeton has recently studied the voting record of the Senate between 1989 and 1994--a time, note, when Democrats controlled Congress. He found that senators were very responsive to the preferences of the upper third of the income spectrum, somewhat less attentive to the middle third, and completely dismissive of the policy preferences of the poorest third. In one striking example, Bartels discovered that senators were likely to vote for a minimum wage increase only when their wealthier constituents favored it--the views of those directly affected by the hike had 'no discernible impact.'"
With "wealthier constituents" refusing to support the minimum wage bill recently passed by the House, the Senate wouldn't approve an increase without an "$8 billion package of tax breaks and regulatory concessions for small business..." The Senate bill passed today by a vote of 87-10. An earlier bill, lacking these business-friendly "concessions," failed on January 24th.

GRAPHIC: "Minimum Wage History," Oregon State University (January 17, 2007)

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