Thursday, December 15, 2005

Dems (of course) show the true meaning of Xmas

The better way to use Christmas to advance a political agenda

Perhaps more so than at any time in recent memory, the politicization of Christmas is a little overwhelming this year. Republicans at the activist level are crusading against "happy holidays," while Republicans on the Hill are rallying behind a congressional resolution to "protect… [the] symbols and traditions of Christmas."

Perhaps hoping to level the playing field a bit, some Dems have made an effort to use Christmas to advance a far more noble cause. House Dem Whip Steny Hoyer, for example, is less concerned about what clerks at the mall are saying and more concerned about the plight of low-income working families.

As Congress focuses on leaving town to enjoy the holidays, I stood in the cold before the Capitol Christmas Tree with Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Rep. George Miller (D-CA) today to call on Congress to act on the true meaning of Christmas – hope, generosity and good will toward others – and raise the minimum wage.

As a new report we released today with the Center for Economic and Policy Research details, families living on the minimum wage scrape and struggle each month to afford life’s most basic necessities. It is simply not possible for them to enjoy the holidays like the rest of us. No dozens of presents piled under the Christmas tree. No lavish meals on Christmas Eve and Day. It would take almost their entire December paycheck to afford the more than $700 that the average American spends celebrating Christmas.

Congress has the power to brighten the holiday for the almost 8 million Americans living on the minimum wage by increasing their paycheck. Yet, this is the eighth year in a row that Congress has failed to enact even a small increase in the minimum wage. By freezing it at an inadequate $5.15 and ignoring the effects of inflation, Congress has essentially given a pay cut to these workers. In fact, if the minimum wage in 2005 was worth what it was worth in 1968 (its peak value), it would be $8.88 an hour.

How can the leadership in Congress leave Washington this week to enjoy a plentiful Christmas and a comfortable New Year knowing that their inaction has guaranteed another tough Christmas for millions of Americans?

It's not an unreasonable question. To their credit, Hoyer, Miller, and Kennedy stood in front of the Capitol Christmas tree to discuss the matter yesterday, and as Christmas-related press stunts go, I thought this one was pretty good.

Ezra suggested the other day that the effort wouldn't generate much in the way of press interest and I was hoping he'd turn out to be wrong. He wasn't. Knight Ridder mentioned it in passing and the only paper to cover it in any real detail was, oddly enough, the far-right Washington Times.

When Dennis Hastert issued a press release calling Congress' tree a "Christmas tree," reporters were all over it, and yet, three high-profile Dems can't get an AP story connecting Christmas and the minimum wage? Bah humbug, indeed.

(The Carpetbagger Report)