Beyond the Minimum: Raising America's Wages

This fall in states around the country, voters will have the opportunity to raise the minimum wage -- an important first step in making sure that nobody who works full-time makes wages below the poverty level.

But the minimum wage is just one step. America's economy has faced stagnating wages for years and middle class families are hurting -- especially as energy and health care inflation price us out of travel and medical care.

Fortunately, an innovative group of leaders in the state are pioneering new solutions to give America a raise -- and finally spread the wealth of this country around.

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(UPDATE Lou Called!) Open Letter to Lou Dobbs

UPDATE (5/25: 12pm) Lou Dobbs just called me himself. He liked the letter and wants to talk about it on his show. Stay tuned!

reposted from the DMIblog - thought it was important enough given the immigration debate in Congress now to repost here.

Dear Mr. Dobbs:

When you say that "Never before in our country's history have both the president and Congress been so out of touch with most Americans. Never before have so few of our elected officials and corporate leaders been less willing to commit to the national interest. And never before has our nation's largest constituent group -- some 200 million middle-class Americans -- been without representation in our nation's capital," I could not agree more.

Yet I write to you today confused about the role that you have decided to play in our nation's immigration debate, and with the hope that you will use your tremendous influence to facilitate a substantive discussion about the impact of immigration on America's current and aspiring middle class.  

With one in six middle-class Americans without health insurance, 1.3 million applying for bankruptcy in 2003 alone, the cost of higher education at public universities skyrocketing by a rate of almost 50% during the president's term, and wages stagnating while CEO profits increase, the middle class as we know it is at risk of disappearing.

Our nation is in need of comprehensive immigration policy that operates not from the agendas of special interests - big business, immigration advocates, the entrenched right-wing lobby - but from that of the current and aspiring middle class.  

In fact, that's why last year DMI released "Principles for an Immigration Policy to Strengthen and Expand the American Middle Class," which created a two-part litmus test to evaluate immigration policy based on its impact on the middle class.

1.    Recognizing that the American middle class relies on the economic contributions of immigrants, the first part of the test holds that pro-middle class immigration policy should bolster - not undermine - the critical contribution that immigrants make to our economy as workers, entrepreneurs, taxpayers, and consumers.

2.    Further recognizing that, when immigrants lack rights in the workplace, labor standards are driven down and all working people have less opportunity to enter or remain in the middle class, the second part of the test holds that a pro-middle class immigration policy must strengthen the rights of immigrants in the workplace.

You recently wrote that "This president and Congress talk about bringing illegal aliens out of the shadows while they turn out the lights on our middle class." But in doing so, you are misconstruing the situation. Bringing illegal aliens out of the shadows is in the best interest of the middle class. The lights are turning off on the middle class in part because employers have found it so easy to exploit immigrants. And employers have found it so easy to exploit immigrants because the current immigration policy has forced them to stay in the shadows. Under the House's immigration bill, immigrants will only become even more vulnerable to exploitation. When Americans compete in the labor market with exploited immigrants, we risk driving down wages and workplace standards for everyone.

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Penicillin for Lou Dobbs-itis, taking-on Bush' Immigration Speech

To save you all time when healing victims of Lou Dobbs Disease I've compiled our latest work on immigration policy and the middle class right here including a response we wrote to Bush's speech that ran in TomPaine this morning.
But also check out this post by DMI's Andrea Batista Schlesinger on Huff Post,"President's Melting Pot is More Like Worker Stew".

(now from the DMIblog )
Karl Rove seems to think Bush is doing a heckuva job on immigration policy, but the rest of a America isn't so sure. Check out this morning and read what DMI's Amy Traub has to say about the "inconsistent and counterproductive half-measures" the President advocated last night in his speech. From a proposal to send the National Guard to the border (but not too many of them, and not for too long) to a plan that offers current unauthorized immigrants permanent citizenship (but not all of them, and not very quickly), to warm and fuzzy rhetoric about a welcoming "nation of immigrants" alongside a scheme for them to come and work for a few years and then get the hell out, Amy concludes that catering to existing prejudices is no way to find genuine common ground in solving our immigration quandary.

If President Bush wants to start looking at the immigration crisis in a productive, constructive, pragmatic and non-pandering way he can check out DMI's immigration policy paper "Principles for an Immigration Policy to Strengthen and Expand the American Middle Class".

Want to know why a guest worker program will mean a race to the bottom for the American worker? Read The Guest Worker Gamble .

Now you're ready to cure someone suffering from even the most serious case of Lou Dobbs' Disease. Remember to practice safe public policy, kids! It can prevent the transmission of this debilitating syndrome of fear.

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