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COLUMN: A Malat Musing: Bread Crumb Compassion

Updated: 05/06/2014 1:31 PM
Created: 04/21/2014 12:48 PM KSTP.com
By: Phil Malat

"The era of big government is over;" so stated then President William Jefferson Clinton in his State of the Union Address on January 23, 1996.  

While we have come to expect certain political rhetoric as a means to achieve acceptance, our acceptance of such rhetoric should be quite a different matter if it approaches reality.

As Theodore Roosevelt noted in 1912;
"Political parties exist to secure responsible government and to execute the will of the people.  From these great tasks both of the old parties have turned aside.  Instead of instruments to promote the general welfare they have become the tools of corrupt interests, which use them impartially to serve their selfish purposes.  Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people.  To destroy this invisible government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics, is the first task of the statesmanship of the day."

And so it should be today.

Murray Weidenbaum, chairman of President Reagan's first Council of Economic Advisers, has acknowledged they wanted to eliminate the minimum wage; but as the Wall Street Journal reported, "Because that would have been such a 'painful political process,' Mr. Weidenbaum says that he and other officials were content to let inflation turn the minimum wage into 'an effective dead letter.'"   Accordingly, President Reagan was the only modern day president who failed to raise the minimum wage.  We have come to accept this as both Republican doctrine and agenda.

In an effort to avoid sharing in this unsavory Reagan legacy, President Obama is asking congress and the states to immediately adopt a $10.10 minimum wage.  The President has taken the lead in this initiative.  He has instituted the $10.10 wage for those working under new government contracts.  This was done by an executive order to bypass congressional Republican opposition.  Thus far, only Connecticut has followed the president's lead.  However, the $10.10 wage in Connecticut will not take effect until 2017, which will render its impact far less fruitful.   The other positive result from the president's initiative has seen many states now moving toward adopting a higher minimum wage.  Minnesota is one those states.

Minnesota also followed the national Democratic lead in one other very crucial and noteworthy aspect.  

With a clear Democratic majority in Congress in 2010 the Democrats choose to enact "The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act" (PPACA or Obama Care) rather than providing single payer universal health care.  The PPACA bill was passed solely on the strength of a Democratic Party vote.

Minnesota also has a Democratic majority in the state legislature.  Therefore, one might have reasonably surmised that the immediate $10.10 wage would have gained serious traction and even easy passage.  But like the PPACA legislation, the Democrats have instead provided Minnesotans with a watered-down minimum wage law.   The $10.10 figure is nowhere in sight and, like Connecticut, by the time the increases are realized they will have far less effect in stimulating the economy or alleviating the financial stress of those in real need.   Another golden opportunity squandered.  

In the case of Minnesota, it was a chance to make up for some serious lost ground.  It has been nine long years since the state increased its minimum wage.  During that time, Republicans and the Democrats who heralded President Clinton's battle cry ("The era of big government is over.") directed the state downward to one of the lowest minimum wages in the country.  
 
For decades the Democrats were the only political means through which poor, underprivileged and middle class causes were championed.   The lack of courage and resolve to champion these humane needs in any meaningful manner by today's Democrats is now demanding the same acceptability as Republican insensitivity.   

Bill Clinton presided over the ideological death of his compassionate predecessors and never shed a tear.  For us to now be embracing this demise as acceptable is a national travesty of eminent American humanity.

Phil Malat is a columnist for KSTP.com.


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