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Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. is leading the fight to increase the minimum wage.  The congressman would like to see every American get a wage of at least $10 per hour, which is an increase from the current rate of $7.25 per hour.  President Barack Obama promised that the minimum wage would be over $9 per hour by this year, but he has not been able to make it happen.

Jackson is citing President Obama’s campaign promise and is promoting his wage increase as the Catching Up Act of 2012.    Jackson notes, however, that even an increase to $10 per hour would not match the real wage that was paid in 1968 (adjusted for inflation).

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“I’m calling on President Barack Obama to honor his campaign commitment of 2008 to stand behind legislation that raises the minimum wage for the American people a little more than he requested in 2008 because the numbers and the economy reflect that $10 is not an unreasonable starting point,” Jackson said at a June 6 news conference.

Ralph Nader, a former presidential candidate, has backed Congressman Jackson on the issue as well.

“The minimum wage increase used to be the signatory dynamic of the traditional Democratic Party since they got it in 1938. That’s how decayed they are,” Nader said. “You’re fighting their desire to win the election up against their inherent caution and cowardliness to do anything other than raise more money and put more insipid ads on TV.”

I spoke with Congressman Jackson this morning, along with his father, Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr.  The only thing wrong with Congressman Jackson’s proposal is that it shouldn’t be a proposal at all.  The truth is that the minimum wage should have surpassed $10 per hour years ago, and we should be embarrassed to live in a nation that thinks that $400 per week is too much for someone to receive after working a full-time job.

Capitalism and free enterprise are powerful economic boosters.  America became the richest nation in the world because of our ability to inspire investment and innovation.  But the risk of adopting unfettered capitalism is that when it is unregulated, capitalism is designed to enslave a perpetual underclass.  Capitalism doesn’t care about the elderly, the sick, the poor or the handicapped.  It is only our collective conscience that creates a society that is beneficial to everyone, and that conscience is communicated through our legislators.

To the extent that our politicians have been kidnapped by corporate money, there is little hope that Congressman Jackson’s legislation will ever be passed.  At the same time, it can be successful if people take the power back from those who’ve become corrupted.  After we get the minimum wage up to $10, perhaps then we can start working to get a wage that actually allows families to survive.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.