Maine becomes 13th State to vote to overturn Citizens United

On Monday, Maine joined West Virginia, Colorado, Montana, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, California, Rhode Island, Maryland, Vermont, New Mexico and Hawaii in calling for an amendment to the United States Constitution on campaign finance. Maine’s State House voted 111-33 with strong bipartisan support in favor of the measure while the Senate voted 25-9.

Polls indicate that 73% of Democrats and 71% of Republicans disagree with the Supreme Court’s Citizen United ruling and want to keep corporate spending out of political campaigns.

To take effect, an amendment must gain the support of two-thirds of the House and the Senate and be ratified by 38 states.

10 States To Increase Minimum Wage On New Year’s Day


— by Keystone Research Center

HARRISBURG, PA – The minimum wage will increase in 10 states on Jan. 1, modestly boosting the incomes of nearly 1 million low-paid workers in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

The minimum wage rates in those states will rise between 10 and 35 cents per hour, resulting in an extra $190 to $510 per year for the average directly-affected worker. Rhode Island’s minimum wage will rise as a result of a law signed by Gov. Lincoln Chafee in June; the remaining nine states will raise their minimum wages in accordance with state laws requiring automatic annual adjustments to keep pace with the rising cost of living.

More after the jump.

Pennsylvania minimum-wage workers haven’t seen a meaningful increase since 2007, during which time the buying power of the minimum wage has fallen 10%, said Dr. Stephen Herzenberg, an economist with the Keystone Research Center. A minimum wage increase that would boost consumer spending is especially needed because of Pennsylvania’s recent lagging job-growth performance. Pennsylvania also needs a minimum-wage hike because it is among the states with the fast-growing income inequality.

Herzenberg also recommended that the state’s minimum wage be set to increase automatically each year to offset the impact of inflation, as Pennsylvania legislator salaries already do.

In the 10 states with minimum wage increases already on the books, the hikes will boost consumer spending, hence GDP, by over $183 million, according to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute. While weak consumer demand continues to hold back business expansion, raising the minimum wage puts more money in the pockets of low-wage workers who often have no choice but to immediately spend their increased earnings on basic expenses.

We need policies that make sure workers earn wages that will at the very least support their basic needs, said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project. But earning an income that meets basic needs shouldn’t depend on the state where a working family lives. We need to raise and index the federal minimum wage to help all of America’s workers.

The 10 state-level minimum wage increases scheduled for Jan. 1 will benefit a total of 995,000 low-paid workers: approximately 855,000 workers will be directly affected as the new minimum wage rates will exceed their current hourly pay, while another 140,000 workers will receive an indirect raise as pay scales are adjusted upward to reflect the new minimum wage, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Seventy-one percent of these low-wage workers are adults over the age of 20, and 69 percent work 20 hours per week or more.

As of Jan. 1, 2013, 19 states plus the District of Columbia will have minimum wage rates above the federal level of $7.25 per hour, which translates to just over $15,000 per year for a full-time minimum wage earner. Ten states also adjust their minimum wages annually to keep pace with the rising cost of living – a key policy reform known as “indexing” – to ensure that real wages for the lowest-paid workers do not fall even further behind: these states include Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. Nevada has not scheduled a cost-of-living adjustment to take effect this year.

Because the federal minimum wage is not indexed to rise automatically with inflation, its real value erodes every year unless Congress approves an increase. Without further action from Congress, the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour will lose nearly 20 percent of its real value over the next 10 years and have the purchasing power of only $5.99 in today’s dollars, according to a new data brief by the National Employment Law Project. The federal minimum wage would be $10.58 today if it had kept pace with the rising cost of living since its purchasing power peaked in 1968.


Rhode Island is this year’s greatest minimum wage raiser

The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2012, introduced in July by U.S. Senator Tom Harkin and Representative George Miller, would help recover much of this lost value by raising the federal minimum wage to $9.80 by 2014 and adjusting it annually to keep pace with the cost of living in subsequent years. The Fair Minimum Wage Act would also raise the minimum wage for tipped workers from its current rate of just $2.13 per hour, where it has been frozen since 1991, to $6.85 over five years. Thereafter, it would be fixed at 70 percent of the full minimum wage.

A large body of research shows that raising the minimum wage is an effective way to boost the incomes of low-paid workers without reducing employment. A groundbreaking 1994 study by David Card and Alan Krueger, current chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, found that an increase in New Jersey’s minimum wage did not reduce employment among fast-food restaurants. These findings have been confirmed by 15 years of economic research, including a 2010 study published in the Review of Economics and Statistics that analyzed data from more than 500 counties and found that minimum wage increases did not cost jobs. Another recent study published in April 2011 in the journal Industrial Relations found that even during times of high unemployment, minimum wage increases did not lead to job loss.

A recent report by the National Employment Law Project found that 66 percent of low-wage employees work for large companies, not small businesses, and that more than 70 percent of the biggest low-wage employers have fully recovered from the recession and are enjoying strong profits. An August NELP study showed that while the majority of jobs lost during the recession were in middle-wage occupations, 58 percent of those created in the post-recession recovery have been low-wage occupations. That shift towards low-wage jobs is a 30-year trend that is only accelerating, according to a recent report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

“Severely Conservative” Governor Sweeps All Five Primaries

According to Prof. Andrew S. Tananbaum:

With only Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul as official opponents, Mitt Romney swept to easy victories in five primaries yesterday. Nevertheless, even with such weak opponents, in only one state, Connecticut, did he crack 2/3 of the vote, and there just barely with 67.4%. And this in the region of the country where he is best known and where he is judged by how he governed in Massachusetts rather than by what he was forced to say to placate the base on the primary campaign trail.

Newt Gingrich having focused his efforts on Delaware and only garnering 27% of the vote is said to be reconsidering his campaign although he continues to rally for support in North Carolina which votes a week from Tuesday. (See map below the jump.)

As for Ron Paul, inTrade gives him about a 3.5% chance of carrying his home state of Texas which does not vote until May 29, so he’ll presumably continue his quixotic campaign until the bitter end.

Updated map follows the jump.
Color Key  

Romney: Orange.
Santorum: Green.
Gingrich: Purple.
Paul: Gold.
Rick Perry: Blue.
No Votes: Black.
No vote yet: Grey.

Trivia Contest

  • Find the counties won by Rick Perry.
  • Find the counties where Ron Paul tied Rick Santorum.