The time has come to help U.S. workers

After reading the New York Time article, "$10 Minimum Wage Proposal Has Growing Support From White House," it got me thinking about how long public policy has been tilted in favor or employers and corporate America.

If The Harkin-Miller Act was to become law it would raise the minimum wage over two years, in three 95-cent increments, to $10.10, and could give those working in lower cost-of-living states something close to a living wage.

While workers in states like Connecticut, where the minimum wage is presently at $8.25 - with increases effective Jan. 14, 2014 to $8.70 and Jan. 5, 2015 to $9 - wouldn't pass up ten bucks an hour; 40 hours at $10.10, equaling a $404 per week, wouldn't earn them anything close to a living wage.

Still, I'm all for it, any income increase is in the correct direction, but for most American workers the dream of earning a living wage would remain well out of reach.

The problem of providing jobs that fail to pay enough for a family to live on has been growing for decades, since the business bottom line became paramount and shareholders more important than employees.

It arguably began on a cold January day in 1981 when Ronald Reagan waltzed into the White House and proceeded to cut the top income tax rates by almost a third and surgically removed an important piece of Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, guarantying fair interest on our savings accounts. In one stroke of his pen he made a stock market gamble much more lucrative than a savings account.

Today there is a total disconnect between employer and employee. Paying employees less has generated huge profits, produced multi-million dollar CEO bonuses and provided big bucks for stock market gamblers.

Some can recall when savings account interest was substantial, but we've watched as savings account interest fell and bank profits soared.

American employees built companies, only to watch employers move the work to places where laborers are treated like dirt, the environment like a toilet, all so they could increase profit.

Now some businessmen, with the help of the Republicans, want to shutter the Environmental Protection Agency, kill American labor unions and move jobs to low-wage "right to work" states.

Our elected leaders must step between employee and employer, between the consumer and Wall Street - and regulate. At least enforce laws we have and put the time-tested Glass-Steagall regulations back on the books.

Reagan only took a chunk out of the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act. In 1999 Clinton signed the Republican's Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act that finally eviscerated the entire law; ultimately setting the nation up for the Great Recession.

Dodd-Frank tries to put some regulation back, but Republicans have been blocking it at every turn. More is needed.

Passage of the minimum/living wage proposal would at least show some concern for the people who provide services and produce the products.

Those who vilify the Occupy Wall Street movement are the same folks who want to widen the enormous divide between American capitalism and American labor.

Hmm, who could they be?

John Way is a retired engineer who lives in Norwich, where he is a member of the Democratic Town Committee.


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