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Staying the Course at Home: The GOP's War on the Poor and the Disenfranchised

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In the last 24 hours, Republicans in Congress have blocked two vital pieces of legislation —attempting to make sure that America's poor and voiceless citizens stay that way.

Just a week after Congressmen gave themselves a $3,300 a year pay raise —their salaries are pegged to cost-of-living increases —Senate Republicans killed a proposal to raise the mimimum wage, which is not adjusted annually for inflation.

Because the $5.15 an hour rate hasn't gotten a boost in nearly a decade, the purchasing power of the minimum wage is the lowest it has been in 55 years. Thanks to inflation, mimimum wage workers have, in essence, had their pay slashed by $1.16 an hour since 1998 —or $2,320 a year. In the same period, Congressional pay has soared by $34,000 a year. That's the annual equivalent of three full-time mimimum wage salaries. This is a national disgrace.

While the Senate waged its war on the poor, members of the GOP controlled House waged a campaign to kill the kill the voting Rights Act. The seminal civil rights legislation —which finally brought democracy to the Deep South —is set to expire this year.

The House appeared ready to bring up its renewal on the floor this week, but a backroom insurgency blocked the vote. These racist Republicans want to strip the act of its requirement that the Justice Department OK changes to voting laws in nine states with a long, dark history of state-sponsored disenfrachisement.

(This is not, as some would claim, ancient history. Just last October a federal court threw out a new Georgia law requiring all voters to obtain a $20 government-issued photo ID as an unconsitutional barrier to the franchise.)

In the current nativist climate, Rep. Steve King of Iowa is also leading a charge to axe the Act's requirement that bilingual ballots be made available in districts where 5% of the public speaks a language other than English.

Stick it to the poor and keep them from the ballot box. Your GOP at work.

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