Nader takes on Capito over minimum wage

The following is an open letter to Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito:

Over the past weeks, three more prominent Republicans have joined the growing conservative support for raising the minimum wage:

On April 30, Tim Pawlenty said: “For all the Republicans who come on and talk about, ‘we’re for the bluecollar worker, we’re for the working person,’ there are some basic things that we should be for. One of them is reasonable increases from time to time in the minimum wage.”

Rick Santorum followed up on May 5 with: “Let’s not make this argument that we’re for the bluecollar guy but we’re against any minimum wage increase ever.”

On May 9, Mitt Romney joined in, saying of the minimum wage: “I think we ought to raise it, because frankly, our party is all about more jobs and better pay.”

The three former Presidential candidates are the most recent in the long line of conservatives – including Phyllis Schlafly, Bill O’Reilly, Peter Thiel, and Ron Unz – who are showing their fellow Republicans that raising the minimum wage is good for workers (millions of whom would be lifted over the poverty line), good for businesses (who would see higher consumer spending and lower worker turnover) and good for taxpayers (who would no longer be paying as much for public assistance programs that subsidize the low wages paid by profitable megacorporations).

Only a couple of years ago, it was you who was the Republican ahead of the curve. In July 2006, you joined 26 Republican House members in a letter to John Boehner urging him to schedule a vote on providing a “substantial increases in the minimum wage.” In the letter, which is attached here, you argued that the annual income of a minimum wage employee working full time – $10,700 per year – would leave a single parent with two children thousands of dollars below the federal poverty line. You capped your argument with the strong and powerful statement: “Nobody working full time should have to live in poverty.”

West Virginians are counting on you now more than ever to stand by your letter and sign Rep. Tim Bishop’s discharge petition to bring a minimum wage raise to a vote in the House of Representatives. 120,000 West Virginians make less today than minimum wage workers made 46 years ago, adjusted for inflation. A minimum wage increase like that proposed in HR 1010 would increase West Virginian wages, in aggregate, by over $287 million a year. Workers helped are not secondary earners in families: rather, the West Virginia workers who would be helped by increasing the minimum wage earn, on average, 54.6 percent of their family’s total income. Indeed, it is no surprise that at least 17.6 percent of West Virginian children – over 68,000 children – would be helped by a minimum wage restoration.

All West Virginia tax payers need the relief of a minimum wage raise, too: a recent Center for American Progress report by economists Michael Reich and Rachel West showed that a minimum wage hike to even as low as $10.10 would save West Virginia taxpayers $37 million in food stamp outlays a year.

When West Virginians were struggling in 2006, you had the courage to write: “nobody working full time should have to live in poverty.”

As the struggles of West Virginia’s lowwage workers come to your desk again in 2014, we are all wondering: is the Shelley Moore Capito who wrote that letter eight years ago still around or has she given in to the corruption of cash register politics?

Whether you sign Rep. Tim Bishop’s discharge petition will illuminate the answer.

Ralph Nader

Washington, D.C.