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The Good Fight
Whatever that is
Unless all you do is play video games or something you probably know that the Senate passed the $1.9 trillion COVID relief package. No judgment here if you haven't heard; you're clearly living a better life than I am. It still has to go back to the House, but it seems like a done deal. Yes: the entire process is a shitshow, the Senate is a corrupt and white supremacist-based institution, etc., and I'm sure there is plenty of garbage buried in the package that will come out that will irritate me, but for the most part it seems the package is going to do a heck of a lot to help a lot of people. And that's a good thing. It's about damn time.
It wasn't looking good about twenty-fours hours ago, as I sit here writing Saturday night. I was trying to write this piece then, and it was emerging from a place of deep disappointment. In just a few hours I learned that not only did my favorite senator, Jon Tester, vote against the $15/hour minimum wage, but he also, as Amanda Eggert wrote for the Montana Free Press, "introduced an amendment that would include reauthorization of the [Keystone XL] pipeline in the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package the U.S. House passed last week." I was pissed, because these are two huge issues with gigantic ramifications for our country and the world. If you remember, canceling that Keystone XL abomination was one of the first things Biden did in office.
The final draft of the relief package actually contained a Keystone bill offered by our other Montana senator, though, that useless seditionist ghoul Steve Daines. His bill would have authorized continued construction of the pipeline as part of the package, overturning Biden's cancellation, and it failed. Ha ha, Daines, you bumbling moron! All 50 Democrats in the senate voted against it, including Tester. Daines is such a useless turd that it tickles me to death that he is probably pouting about the entire thing right now. And I hope Tester voted against it just to spite Daines. Who knows.
On the other hand, Tester is one of eight Democrats who voted against the federal minimum wage increase and he is taking a lot of heat for it. As he should, because I haven’t seen an explanation behind it from him yet. The situation in this country as it relates to minimum wage is inhumane and unconscionable. When my buddies and I moved to Seattle in the late 80s in service to the Devil and His Music, two of us were making minimum wage—$3.35/hour, if I recall—working at a Kentucky Fried Chicken 36 hours/week. We had an apartment, a little extra money, etc. We weren't loaded but we weren't destitute either. When we leveled up and got jobs at a salad dressing manufacturing plant at a starting wage of $6.00/hour, we were doing pretty damn well.
That was a long time ago, and I'm not one of those people who is going to say, "I did this then, so you should be able to do it now!" because people can't. That's the travesty of the minimum wage. It hasn't budged in over ten years, at least not at the federal level. People can't live on it, not even close. I doubt any two people making the federal minimum wage of $7.25 could make it sharing a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in King County, WA, like we did. I doubt they can if they are making Washington state's minimum wage of $12.00.
So now the Left is howling for the heads of Tester and the other seven Dems who voted against it. I understand it and as I mentioned, my disappointment was deep. But it's a complicated issue. If we go after Tester, what is the alternative? I can tell you, it’s another useless Daines-like Senator from this state, because the Left in Montana is nowhere near organized with a good candidate to replace him with. Tester is as good as we are going to get anytime soon.
The minimum wage is difficult and I don't know that attaching it to the COVID bill is the place for it anyway, not without protections for businesses that will struggle to meet the requirement. It’s its own enormous issue. I’d like to see the Senate abolish that stupid filibuster and then get after it. Hell, I’d prefer a universal basic income anyway.
According to Wikipedia, this year "the Congressional Budget Office released a report which estimated that incrementally raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 would benefit 17 million workers, but would also reduce employment by 1.4 million people." That last bit is the kicker. For example, we do pretty good business at the bookstore where I work, but we don't do $15/hour-for-the employees-kind-of-business. The boss running the show doesn't even get that much. The three other plebeians working there, of which I am one, don't make anywhere close to it. Nor are we in the same situation as some industries where just a nudge of the prices will make things right. We already get shit on every week by people who remind us they can buy the same thing from Amazon "way cheaper." Same for Costco, the other big box places, etc. But Amazon is the big one.
Which brings me to two truths that live atop hills I will fight and die on. First, If you are a member of an Indigenous tribe and you support membership rules based on bullshit blood quantum fractions, then you are an active participant in the ongoing genocide of your own people. Time plus math will lead to the ultimate extinction of your tribe. It is that simple. And second, if you buy anything from Amazon, anything that isn’t essential to your survival and unobtainable anywhere else, then you are an active participant in the destruction of any hope we have in any kind of democratic society. Not just books, which they can sell at a loss (and do), but all the other shit that eliminates jobs and small businesses and turns people instead into wage slaves because that's the only work there is. In the way that blood quantum requirements are a key weapon in a colonialist mindset bent on killing all Indigenous people and keeping our resources for itself, Amazon and its ilk are key weapons in the capitalist pursuit of elevating the tiny percentage of wealthy people into complete control of the huddled masses struggling for access to what we need to survive. That's not hyperbole, that's how it is. It is all connected. The playing field is in no way level. And our government isn't going to level it for us, we have to do it ourselves and force them to react to it, in the same way we need to force Tester to react to our demands and involve ourselves however we can to convince other people at the grassroots level to get on board with those demands.
My point is this fight over the minimum wage—and other things not addressed in the bill, like canceling student loan debt, medicare for all, and Keystone and its ilk—is far from over. And we must be resolute in holding our representatives accountable, and in holding ourselves accountable, which is more important. So throw a fit, then get back at it.
It's time we start paying the real costs for all the shit we consume, because more than anything else that is what is burning up our opportunities for long term survival. So this is the question: What are you willing to give up to make things better for other people? That is a question I pose to myself all the time. What am I willing to give up to make things better for other people? Because as I keep saying over and over, there's no going back to how things were about a year ago. There just can't be. We have to fight to make sure it doesn’t. I don't know what "the fight" even looks like, I just know it can't look like what happened on January 6th at the Capitol. But there must be one, and there has to be a way. I’d love to hear examples of things done in anyone’s communities that seemed unlikely. Think Georgia. Think Arizona flipping blue. I need some encouragement. I won't accept any bullshit "it will never happen" rhetoric either.
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