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Coburn says vote against minimum wage was "to protect salaries of low-income families"

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I figure the conversation went something like this last night in Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn's office after the Senate voted to increase the Federal Minimum Wage:
Media Flak Jane: OK, the boss was one of only three Senators to vote against the first minimum wage increase in a freakin' decade. How do we perfume this pig? Media Flak Bill: Say he was drinking before the vote? Jane: Can't. We've been using that for his support of the troop escalation. Bill: Self-medicating? Jane: Good point. He is a doctor. Bill: Wait, how about this: We say he voted against giving the working poor a raise to "protect the salaries of low-income families." Jane: But that makes no sense. Bill: I know. I think the media will buy it.
That's the only way I can make any sense out of the press release that came out of Coburn's office last night, in which he depicted his steadfast desire to keep working families in poverty as a way of helping them. The headline on the press release said "Dr. Coburn Votes to Protect Salaries of Low-Income Families from Flawed Wage Bill" and it went on to explain how it's really him and not Ted Kennedy (D-MA) protecting America's working poor. "This bill is unfair to workers and, in many cases, it will be harmful to the very people it is supposedly designed to help. Most workers will experience a minimum-wage penalty rather than a minimum-wage benefit because of this bill," said Coburn. "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 than goes on to make the ludicrous argument that raising the wages of these workers would actually hurt them because allowing them to bring more money into their families would mean they would be eligible for... less welfare! "In Oklahoma, low-wage workers are eligible for up to $25,726 in assistance in areas such as child care, housing assistance and food stamps," the reality-challenged Okie continued. "Under the minimum wage increase approved by Congress, these low-wage workers would find themselves eligible for benefits worth $4,600 less than they would under the current minimum wage. Yet, their newly increased wage would only provide an increase of $4,368 per year, resulting in a net income loss of $232 per year." Coburn then explains that this is not all that big a deal because 29 states already have minimum wages higher than the current $5.15 per hour -- even though his constituents don't happen to live in one of those states -- and closes by saying that Oklahomans need to be wary of Washington politicians showing fake concern for the poor. "American families deserve an economy in which they can prosper, not more counterfeit compassion from Washington," Coburn concludes. Hey, I think we can all agree on that. You can read more from Bob at BobGeiger.com. Update: You can go here to see statements from Senate Democrats on the minimum wage increase.
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Bob Geiger is a writer, activist and Democratic operative in Westchester County, NY.
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