Oct. 21, 2005 – Despite recent reports showing a widening income gap and increasing poverty in the nation, the US Senate this week narrowly voted down two measures that would have boosted the federal minimum wage for the first time in nine years. Both bills would have raised the wage floor a modest $1.10 an hour over eighteen months, the first such increase since 1996.
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The rejection of a minimum wage hike comes even as recent reports by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) and the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), both progressive think tanks, found that middle- and low-income workers in the US are less economically secure today than they have been in a decade or more.
According to the CBPP, the wealthiest 1 percent of the nation has more than doubled its after-tax earnings since 1979 while the bottom 75 percent have experienced a drop in real income. Earlier this month, CEPR released a report showing that worker wealth has remained stagnant in constant dollars during the same period.
In voting, the Senate split largely along party lines, defeating a bill offered by Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) 51-47 and one offered by Republican Senator Mike Enzi (Wyoming) 57-42. The bills were nearly identical, except that Enziâ€™s called for a series of small-business tax breaks to offset any potential negative consequences of asking employers to up their lowest-paid workersâ€™ compensation, in addition to altering federal overtime regulations.
Initially, Kennedy sought a $2.10 hike, but amended the proposal in an effort to placate fiscally conservative Senators, he noted in a statement Wednesday. The defeat was the second time around for the Massachusetts Senatorâ€™s proposal this year.