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JIM HIGHTOWERI Maximum Lies Remember all the Gloom & Doom predicted by those lawmakers and lobbyists who fought the raise in minimum wage this past summer? omebody’s going to get hurt. Somebody loses a job or somebody closes up shop,” wailed Bob Dole himself. Representative Robert Walker of Pennsylvania flatly proclaimed that the increase in the minimum wage “will set off an inflationary spiral that will tax every American family.” The U.S. Chamber of Commerce lobbied furiously against it, moaning that any increase “will lead to a loss of jobs, hitting hardest at unskilled workers” thereby showing a sudden concern for the unskilled that Chamber of Commerce pooh-bahs never demonstrated before. Still, an increase was approved and, lo and behold, NONE of these dire predictions have come to pass. Instead of a loss of minimum wage jobs, there has actually been an uptick in the number of such positions. At the same time, there has been ZERO increase in wage inflation from passage of the bill. Quite the contrary, raising the minimum wage turns out to be raising worker satisfaction and productivity. Plus putting a bit more money in workers’ pockets is even increasing business. How does it do that? The president of the K-Bob’s steakhouse chain explained it to the Wall Street Journal like this: “Our employees are [also] our customers. And if employees have more buying power, they have a little more money to spend.” Claire’s Stores, a chain that retails fashion accessories, agrees that paying more to low-wage workers may be producing a boom for business, instead of a bust. The customers of this Florida-based, 1,500store chain include people who make the minimum wage, and executives credit the wage increase with helping to boost their sales by seven percent this year over last. Despite the claims of the Chicken Littles, raising wages is the best way to get America moving again. SECURITY SCARES When it comes to all the scare-talk from Washington about the social security “crisis,” remember the old line from “Dragnet”: “Just the facts, ma’am.” The fact is, there is no crisis, but we’ll all have a crisis if we let Newt Gingrich’s Gang of “Reformers” get their hands on our retirement money. Fact No. 1: Social Security is a program that works. It exists as a compact between generations. The money I put into it now goes into the trust fund that pays today’s retirees. Tomorrow, when I’m retired, the generation behind me will be paying into the fund to cover my benefits. Then, when that generation retires, the ones behind them will do their part… and so on. Fact No. 2: Since some generations of retirees are larger than others, the social-security tax has to be adjusted to keep the trust fund flush. This needs to be done today, but this is an adjustment, not a crisis, and it doesn’t even require a big adjustment. Fact No. 3: The problem is not in the viability of the trust fund, but in the fact that Congress keeps raiding it, using the surpluses we’ve amassed in that fund to finance everything from the Pentagon buildup to corporate welfare. We should not be trusting our trust fund to Congress, but instead we should make it off limits to anything but paying for retirements. Fact No. 4: The same fat-fingered lawmakers who have looted the fund, now want to use its depleted condition as an excuse to turn the whole system over to Wall Street, claiming the trust fund could earn more if it were invested in things like junk bonds and foreign currencies. What they don’t mention is that you’ll be more likely to win in Las Vegas than on these Wall Street scams, and that the Wall Street brokers would skim up to $40 billion a year in fees off the top. Those who claim we must corporatize social security to “save” it…are thieves. BANKERS BONKERS Whoa! Not only is the Dow Jones average soaring, not only are corporate profits and chief executive salaries riding high…but so is another economic indicator: Personal bankruptcies. Wait, that’s not good news. No indeed, but there it is. In the midst of our so-called booming economy, Americans are going broke in record numbersmore than a million of us had to declare bankruptcy last year, which was 29 percent more than the previous year. The rate is even worse this year as so many families find that their stagnating incomes just don’t cover what they owe. The typical filer for bankruptcy these days is a white, married homeowner working full-time for under $30,000 a year. Not to worry, though, Congress is riding to the rescue! To the rescue of the bankers, that is. You see, much of this personal debt has been piled up on credit cards, so it’s owed to the banksthe very banks that keep foisting more and more credit cards upon us, pleading with us to run up more debt. But now that they’re left holding the bankruptcy bag, they’ve gone bonkers, running to Congress whining that the laws need to be restricted so fewer people can use the cards. Interesting, isn’t it, that they don’t whine when Donnie Trump goes bankrupt, or when corporations use bankruptcy to terminate pension plans for workers, or when bankers themselves go belly up, as they did in droves during the S&L robbery of the ’80s. But when ordinary folks need protection to get back on their feet…oh, do the bankers turn pious! They’re in Washington right now blaming the victims and demanding that Congress “make people take individual responsibility.” It’s not the bankruptcy laws that need fixing, it’s our economic policiesso that working families can again have goodpaying jobs, good health care coverage and the other basics that keeps one out of bankruptcy. Jim Hightower is a former Observer editor and Agriculture Commissioner. His national radio show broadcasts daily, but not in most Texas citiesreaders should visit Threadgill’s World Headquarters and sign the petition to get Jim on the air. Or call THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19 AUGUST 1, 1997