The person who laid out the front page of the New York Times last Friday must have a dark sense of humor. It can’t be an accident that directly above a teaser for a story about Congress voting to raise the Federal minimum wage for the first time in a decade is another story on the exponentially increasing income gap between the Kings and the Princes of corporate America. As in: a decade ago the chief executive of Office Depot was paid $2.2 million, about double that of his number two. Last year it was $12 million, more than four times the compensation of the second in command.
This income disparity between the Haves and the Have Mores has become a national trend, the Times points out. In the decade after 2005, the top one percent of taxpayers increased their take by 128 percent. During the same period, the income of the top .01 percent quadrupled to an average of $14 million.
Meanwhile, the Federal minimum wage rose not one penny. Until now. The Times story described the bump from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour as “a major victory” for low income workers. (If you are doing the math, you know that this $2.10 increase raised the minimum wage all of 40.5 percent). So, after ten years of going nowhere, how did this spendthrift legislation ever come to a vote? It was attached to the bill authorizing more money for the war in Iraq. Representative John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, objected to putting the measure “on the backs of the military.” It was, he said, “a sneaky way to do business.” He’s right. It’s just a shame that Congress had to resort to piggybacking to marshal the votes needed to pass this long overdue measure.