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Minimum Wage Held Hostage

Late last week, the House voted to couple a minimum wage increase for working families with a massive giveaway for wealthy heirs. The bill violates core American values of fairness and meritocracy and instead relies on a cynical political ploy designed to block an important minimum wage increase. Working families deserve better than the treatment they've received from House conservatives.

By attaching a permanent repeal of the estate tax, the so-called "trifecta" bill weakens the nation's fiscal health by adding hundreds of billions to the national debt and makes it more difficult to address other important programs, such as solving the Social Security solvency gap. Full and permanent repeal of the estate tax would cost nearly $1 trillion over the first ten years of implementation, including the interest payments on additional debt. This is a massive burden for future generations to carry.

America's workers shouldn't be forced to choose between helping their families today and damaging their children's future tomorrow. In fact, they don't have to, since the House bill presents a false choice perpetuated by conservatives who are opposed to a real wage increase.

In the past two months, Representative Hoyer (D-MD) and Senator Kennedy (D-MA) have offered Congress prime opportunities for a serious consideration of the minimum wage. Congress has not increased the minimum wage since 1997. During this time, the economy has grown and profits have risen to record highs, making it very feasible for businesses to raise wages.

Nearly 15 million Americans, 70 percent of whom are workers 20 years and older, would benefit from a minimum wage increase. Almost 60 percent of these workers are women, 40 percent are people of color, and more than a third are the sole breadwinners for their families.

Americans overwhelmingly support an increase to the minimum wage. According to a recent poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, 86 percent of Americans favor raising the minimum wage, and 43 percent of Americans consider raising the minimum wage a top priority.

Amidst this solid evidence for an increase, it is inexcusable for conservatives to link this vital issue with an estate tax repeal that will harm the very working Americans it purports to help. The House bill doesn't do justice to America's collective sense of fairness; it sacrifices future fiscal health to give a break to the heirs of multimillionaires. Common sense dictates that a two dollar increase in the minimum wage for working folks shouldn't be tied to a multimillion dollar tax cut for Paris Hilton. But apparently conservatives think otherwise.

Now's the time for a real increase in the minimum wage, not more cynical gimmicks from Congressional leaders.

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