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Letter from the Editor

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In a move that showed they haven't lost sight of America's true priorities, the House of Representatives passed the "Estate Tax and Extension of Tax Relief Act" last Friday night, thereby giving much needed "relief" to the 7,500 wealthiest families in America -- those whose estates are worth at least $10 million. And as a bone to the working class, they tossed in a measure that would raise the minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $7.25 an hour -- by 2010!

Okay, you might be thinking: a little sumpin' for everyone.

But it was all a sham. It was all politics from the Karl Rove playbook. House Republicans knew that by linking the two measures, they were dooming the legislation to defeat in the Senate, which had overwhelmingly voted down estate tax repeal a month earlier. But here's the beauty part: In the fall elections, Republicans can claim that they tried to raise the minimum wage but the Democrats voted it down. Foxy, eh?

Tennessee representative Zach Wamp said as much on the House floor: "I know why you're mad," crowed Wamp to the Democrats. "You've seen us really outfox you."

That's right, Zach, you foxy bastard. You should be so proud of yourself. For 10 years, you and the Republicans have stopped any legislation to raise the minimum wage while your own salaries have risen more than $30,000 a year, thanks to built-in cost-of-living increases. You've enjoyed a fully paid health-care plan, underwritten by the U.S. government, while working-class Americans have had to pay more money for fewer health-care benefits with each passing year. You've helped pass legislation granting tax break after tax break to corporations and high-income Americans, fueling the obscenely bloated federal budget deficit. (Even the estate tax repeal bill -- which would cost the government $238 billion in tax revenues -- was further larded up with $4.4 billion in special-interest breaks for coal and timber companies.)

Wamp is by no means the worst offender; his boasting just particularly ticked me off. (Representative Harold Ford Jr., it should be noted, voted to "outfox" his own party.) But 2006 is our best -- and maybe last -- chance to change the way this country does business. We need massive turnover in the House of Representatives, à la 1994. The foxes are guarding the henhouse.

Bruce VanWyngarden, Editor

brucev@MemphisFlyer.com

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