| A little while ago, I said that for a moment I was proud that Max Baucus was my Senator. I also said I assumed he wouldn't improve himself when it comes to economic issues - and boy, was I right. By now, you've probably heard that Montana's very own Sen. Max Baucus (D) is using his first few weeks as the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee to try to attach special interest tax giveaways to the minimum wage bill. Max is insisting on insulting the public's intelligence by claiming that "this package of tax incentives will help a minimum wage increase pass the Senate and be signed into law." He expects us to believe we need to enact more corporate tax giveaways in order to get something that is supported by 83 percent of the public through Congress.
But as CongressDaily now reports, Max's genuflecting to monied interests actually severely threatens the passage of the minimum wage. Here's the excerpt:
"The $8.3 billion Finance Committee [tax cut attached to the minimum wage by Baucus] is fully offset over 10 years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. However, with the Senate still operating under the budget put in place two years ago, the bill would result in a $281 million deficit over the five years covered by the FY06 budget, so any senator could raise a point of order. The tax bill would also be in technical violation if the Democrats' proposed pay/go rules requiring tax bills to be deficit neutral were in effect. Language introduced by Senate Budget Chairman Conrad would require that legislation not add to the deficit over either five years or 10 years. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, the Finance bill would cost nearly $8.7 billion over five years, but only $6 billion is offset."
Let me use my years in the muck of Capitol Hill-ese to translate this: Because Max is insisting on trying to attach his special-interest tax giveaways to the minimum wage bill, it makes the minimum wage bill subject to procedural obstacles the bill wouldn't face if it didn't have the tax breaks attached to it. These specific procedural obstacles make it much more easy for Republicans to kill the minimum wage bill.
As I said, Max is nonetheless arguing that he needs to support the tax breaks in order to pass the bill through the Senate. Not only is this not true, but it's a terrible way to negotiate. That is, if you want to actually do the right thing. Here's an excerpt from the Wall Street Journal to explain what I mean:
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-NY) appears to have staked out a bargaining position that Senate Democrats should at least first try to pass the wage increase without the tax breaks. "Why do you need a tax break to do the right thing?" Mr. Rangel asked. "Maybe he (Sen. Baucus) doesn't have a strong feel for the depth of support that this bill has. ... I strongly disagree that this thing would be filibustered."
Max is also arguing that raising the minimum wage supposedly will hurt business. As he said, we need to "help small businesses cope" with a minimum wage increase - implying that a raise in poverty level wages will incur horrible consequences for businesses and the economy. This is a disgusting lie, and there's just no other way to put it. I wrote an entire chapter in my book Hostile Takeover about how this is a disgusting lie. It's not spin, it's not a half-truth, it's not sort of a lie, - it's an unadulterated, how-can-you-keep-a-straight-face lie. You can read my book, or just read this testimony from Economic Policy Institute economic Jared Bernstein. Here's an excerpt:
"Recently, the Fiscal Policy Institute released a study of the impact of higher minimum wages on small businesses. Their analysis focuses on various outcomes for businesses with less than 50 employees, comparing these outcomes between states with minimum wages above the Federal level and those at the Federal level. If the theory that higher minimum wages hurt small businesses is correct, then we would expect there to be less growth in such enterprises in states with higher minimum wages. In fact, the opposite is the case. Between 1998 and 2001, the number of small business establishments grew twice as quickly in states with higher minimum wages (3.1% vs. 1.6%). Employment grew 1.5% more quickly in high minimum wage states. Annual and average payroll growth was also faster in higher minimum wage states."
So let's review: Max Baucus, who comes from a state with some of the lowest wages in the country and that just overwhelmingly passed a minimum wage initiative, is using his position representing our state to attach corporate tax giveaways to a minimum wage bill - corporate tax giveaways that both endanger the bill's passage and that address a "problem" that data proves does not exist.
I encourage everyone to call Max Baucus's office and tell him this is absolutely unacceptable behavior. If you are in Montana, you can contact Max at (800) 332-6106. Otherwise, give him a ring at (202) 224-2651. Tell him to stop listening to K Street lobbyists and to stop reading their discredited talking points, and instead use his power that we the people of Montana gave him to support a clean minimum wage bill.