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Would Congress Really Eliminate Minimum Wage & Privatize Soc. Security?

October 28, 2010

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Five of the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate this year, including John Raese in West Virginia and Rand Paul in Kentucky, have said they do not believe in the minimum wage and would like to privatize Social Security. How far would those ideas get in Congress?

According to Chris Plein, who teaches public administration at WVU, they are more of a mark of political philosophy than a serious policy position. He says Congress is not very likely to eliminate the minimum wage.

"This is such a deeply entrenched part of our marketplace, that those in Washington might not be willing to expend political capital on this particular issue."

The Bush administration tried to privatize Social Security, without success. Helen Hartnett teaches social welfare policy at WVU. She says people have been told a lot of scary things about Social Security, although she's not too worried.

"There is public support for something to change with Social Security, and I think a lot of it is fear-based. I personally, as somebody who will receive Social Security, I'm not concerned."

According to Plein, the system will have to adapt to an older population, which means fewer people contributing. But he says a crashing stock market also calls privatized investments into question.

"I think it's fair to say that no matter what one's political orientation might be, all of our faiths in the stock market has been shaken just a bit."

An estimated 15,000 West Virginians make minimum wage. The state also has a high number of elderly dependent on Social Security. Raese has said minimum wage laws are unconstitutional. When asked if he thinks Social Security is constitutional, he refused to answer.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV