Thursday Trifecta

Photo Credit - Misty Rebik

Photo Credit – Misty Rebik

Yesterday brought a truckload of news on three important issues: nuclear non-proliferation, the Iowa caucuses and local worklife.

Democrats in the U.S. Senate blocked a vote on legislation intended to derail the process of bringing the Islamic Republic of Iran into compliance with its obligations under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. By signing and ratifying the NPT Iran is entitled to a peaceful nuclear program in the areas of medicine and electricity generation as long as they comply with treaty terms. They weren’t in compliance.

How did Iran get to the point where developing a nuclear weapon became imminent? Thank the George W. Bush administration and its laissez-faire attitude toward Iran’s uranium enrichment program. Bush wouldn’t talk to Iran, or do much to enforce its obligations under the NPT. The Obama administration changed all of that, talked to Iran, and together with the P5 +1 nations forged an agreement to bring Iran into compliance.

Republicans howled that the deal was struck. Now that the political process has run its course, they shouldn’t have much to complain about. However, they do despite the administration’s cooperation with the Congress. Or as Laura Rozen, reporter for Al-Monitor posted on twitter,

In a survey of 832 likely Iowa Democratic caucus participants, Bernie Sanders closed the gap with Hillary Clinton to within the margin of error in the new Quinnipiac University poll released yesterday. People feeling “the bern” were quick to state Sanders now leads Clinton, but it’s early and one poll doesn’t mean as much as they may hope on Sept. 10.

Nonetheless, it is good news for Sanders to poll leading Clinton, even if it is within the margin of error. Already his campaign is raising money from the poll although the long odds continue to favor Clinton as the Democratic nominee. Steve Rattner of the New York Times posted the following analysis:

In a unanimous vote, the Johnson County Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance to raise the county-wide minimum wage to $10.10 by 2017. It was cause for celebration for the Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa which helped organize a demonstration supporting the ordinance prior to the vote. The first $0.95 per hour increase is effective Nov. 1, although cities within the county can nullify terms of the ordinance, which they have been waiting for the county to finalize.

In the end this ordinance does little to alleviate the issues driving poverty in our county. According to Pew Research Institute, increasing the minimum wage benefits what Pew calls “near minimum wage earners,” or people who earn less than $10.10 per hour. “The near-minimum-wage workers are young (just under half are 30 or younger), mostly white (76%), and more likely to be female (54%) than male (46%). A majority (56%) have no more than a high-school education,” according to Pew.

The Iowa Policy Project uses the Economic Policy Institute data on minimum wage. Pew says 20.6 million people nationwide would be impacted by an increase in minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. EPI puts the number at 27.8 million. It is prudent to look at both numbers, but as low wage workers understand, the primary impact of public policy is on individual lives, more than broad statistics.

I favor the analysis of local author Paul Street who used the EPI family budget calculator to break down the impact of a minimum wage increase in Johnson County. He said, “considering all this, I can be forgiven, perhaps, for not showering praise on the Johnson County Supervisors for moving forward on a proposal that would raise the county’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour by 2017.”

Read Street’s guest opinion in the Sept. 7 Iowa City Press Citizen here.

Thursday was not a bad day for those paying attention. I drove to the county seat to pay my property taxes. Coming straight from the garden, I wore rolled up blue jeans, sandals and a T-shirt, funding the government for another six months.

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