The Reality of Poverty
While Vito Fossella is off skiing in Vail, Colorado and staying in five star hotels his constituents are busy working to actually support themselves. Not many may realize he is making $165,170 in salary. If that was not bad enough, he is about to get a pay increase this January that would bring his salary to $168,500. Curiously some members of Congress think if they can make this much money maybe, just maybe they should increase the minimum wage for the lowest paid workers in America. Unfortunately Rep. Fossella is not one of them. The current minimum wage by the way is $5.15 per hour, whereas Rep. Fossella's salary breaks down to about $79.40 per hour for a forty hour work week.
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It might be prudent at this point to mention that Rep. Fossella, as with all members of Congress enjoy some of the best health care benefits possible and is guaranteed a pension after retirement. In fact he keeps that pension even if he goes to jail, as Rep. Cunningham has shown us. Oh and he gets paid vacation time, if that wasn't evident with all of the time this Congress has been in recess. For the minimum wage earner to make $10,700 per year they would have to work year round without any time off including federal holidays. As for them getting access to healthcare, well that is another story.
Democrats in the House are leading the charge to try to decrease the disparity between minimum wage and a liveable wage, lead by Rep. Barrow (GA-12) who is trying to
"discharge the Committee on Rules from the consideration of the resolution (H. Res. 614) entitled, a resolution providing for consideration of the bill (H.R. 2429) to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to provide for an increase in the Federal minimum wage; which was referred to said committee on December 15, 2005 [source]
This has 191 signers, curiously missing from that list is Rep. Fossella even though it has bi-partisan support as evidenced by Rep. Christopher Shays (CT-04) a Republican from Connecticut being the most recent co-signer.
Currently the Democrats in the Senate and House are trying to attach a raise in the minimum wage to a bill granting Congressional pay raises. Rep. Miller (CA-07) introduced a motion to instruct conferes on S 250, the VOCATIONAL AND TECHNICAL EDUCATION FOR THE FUTURE ACT. The following is from Rep. Miller's speech on the House floor:
This motion instructs the conferees to make it clear that when the bill states its purpose is to prepare students for highways jobs, that in no event should those jobs pay less than $7.25 an hour. The minimum wage today is just $5.15 an hour, and for nearly 10 years the Republican leadership has stood in the way of a raise for America's lowest wage workers. That is a shame, it is an insult, and it is a moral outrage. This is the year when Members of Congress from both parties should come together and show how serious they are about raising the minimum wage and that they are serious about valuing hard work.
Mr. Speaker, I want to remind my colleagues that the Fair Standards Labor Act, containing the minimum wage, was passed in 1938 to alleviate poverty. Yet now the minimum wage condemns workers to a life of poverty for themselves and for their children. That is what we do when we fail to raise the minimum wage. We put the Federal stamp of approval, the congressional stamp of approval, if you will, on the wages of those individuals, so that even though they go to work every day, every week, every month, and all year long, they will not be able to raise themselves out of poverty.
That is just unacceptable for this Nation, which is the beacon to the world about economic opportunity, which is the beacon to the world about understanding what it means to have every citizen participate in our society. If they work those 52 weeks a year, they will only earn $10,700, which is $5,000 per year below the poverty line for a family of three. The current minimum wage will not even support a single worker and a single child above poverty. Raising the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour will mean an additional $4,370 a year to help minimum-wage earners support their families.
I don't have to tell you, Mr. Speaker, because I know you support this act, but here are the facts. Here are the facts. Those workers today are stuck at 1997 wages. By Federal law, their wage is $5.15 an hour. That wage was secured by the Congress of the United States on a bipartisan vote to raise that wage to $5.15. Since that time, the Republican Congress has refused to entertain an increase in that minimum wage.
On July 12, 2006 the House voted against this motion 260-159, and our very own ski aficionado and member of Congress joined them in voting down a pay raise for the lowest paid American workers.
It is perplexing to explain why Rep. Fossella would vote down an increase to the minimum wage but what will disappoint anyone with any sense of compassion, is that 9% of Staten Island lives below the poverty level according to the 2001 Supplemental Survey by the US Census Bureau.
The following are based off of the Census numbers for Staten Island:
9% of the residents of Staten Island lived in poverty
11% of related children under 18 were below the poverty level
6% of people 65 years old and over were below the poverty level
8% of all families and 27% of families with a female householder and no husband present had incomes below the poverty level
Since the release of this information in 2001, the poverty level in Staten Island has increased to 10.1% in 2003. Staten Island has a projected population of 464,573 in 2005, equating to about 46,000 people living below the poverty line. In 2004 Vito Fossella won his re-election by only 35,000 votes.
While Vito Fossella skis, his constituents keep falling below the poverty line.
Contact Vito Fossella:
Staten Island Office: (718) 356-8400
Brooklyn Office: (718) 630-5277
Washington DC Office: (202) 225-3371