Friday, February 2, 2007

Dr. Coburn's Vote Against the Working Poor

The U.S. Senate voted this week to approve an increase in the minimum wage, the first increase in the minimum wage rate in a decade. The vote was 94-3.

Unfortunately for Oklahoma, one of the three senators voting against the increase was our very own Oklahoma physician, Sen. Tom Coburn. (Sen. Inhofe might have voted with Coburn, but was absent for the vote.)

Here's part of Sen. Coburn's explanation of his vote:

This bill is unfair to workers and, in many cases, it will be harmful to the very people it is supposedly designed to help.

This bill has far more to do with increasing the political capital of politicians in Washington than increasing real wages of low-income families.

Coburn continues:

Free markets, and the American ideals of entrepreneurship and hard work, are far better equipped at setting and raising wages than politicians in Washington.

Looks like the good doctor has spent too much time reading right-wing economic tracts than living among the working people of Oklahoma. After all, almost all Oklahomans believe in entrepreneurship and hard work. But the last time we checked, hard-working Oklahomans weren't exactly pulling down the big bucks.

Rural and urban working-class Oklahomans are just as hard working as anyone else, as Dr. Coburn surely knows. They deserve to make a living wage for their efforts.

Moreover, Dr. Coburn's vote puts him in a small group of economic ideologues, including Sen. John Kyl of Arizona. Guided by misguided economic principles and oblivious to the real economy of working Americans, Dr. Coburn and like-minded ideologues believe the free market will solve all the nation's economic ills.

The record, of course, shows otherwise. As AltTulsa has noted before, CEO salaries are at record levels—400 times the average salary of their workers. The recently ousted CEO of Home Depot was paid $210 million to leave his job! ( Wonder what he'd have been paid if he had done a good job?)

This kind of free market is one in which the rich get richer and the middle and working classes get shafted, an economic reality that even Dr. Coburn ought to recognize.

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