Other than in some bizarre world of state-supported class warfare, the recent (and recently defeated) bill teaming a Minimum Wage hike with cutting the Estate Tax was politics at its lowest.
We're all suffering because of the disparity between poor and rich. None of us are benefitting from the fact that the lowest paid worker in the US earns less that he or she has, adjusted for inflation, since the introduction of the Federal Minimum Wage. I'm not suggesting a Minimum Wage beyond that as a safety net (although a Living Wage, adjusted for local cost of living, would be a tremendous boon for all), but it is just plain wrong for the best and wealthiest country in the world to ensure that our lowest-paid workers can not sustain a family of four above the poverty line.
In this great country, we do not create royalty. The Estate Tax (go directy to jail, do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars if you call it the Death Tax...) is not an either/or proposition - the bulk of this un-earned income should be passed to heirs, but it is reasonable to expect some of this to be redistributed, as our founding fathers would have suported. And please, no hysterical stories of farms or small businesses going under - if the founder of a business is wealthy enough to be affected by the Estate Tax, he or she can afford a lawyer and a financial planner to keep this from happening.
In this great country, we value hard work and families. Minimum Wage earners are actually working for something (unlike trust-fund kids in most cases) and deserve respectful treatment and a place at the table. If employers won't do this, simply because they can, the safety net of the Minimum Wage is a reasonable way to direct these business owners to contribute to their brothers, their neighborhood, and their society.
After all, the GAO's own studies show some interesting things: most new jobs are created by small business owners. Most Minimum Wage-earning employees are employed by small business owners. Small Business owners in the states with the highest Minimum Wage are also the most prosperous, even adjusted for increased cost-of-living in these states. These same small business owners benefit most from more stable employees, safer neighborhoods, increased local spending, etc., that the increased Minimum Wage delivers.
A spending cut (instead of a tax cut/welfare for the wealthy) would be appropriate to balance a Minimum Wage hike. Maybe even a federal tax break to the business owner for each new employee hired at the Minimum Wage or higher after the Minimum Wage is increased.
I can already hear the Republican congressional candidates already practicing their speeches: "We tried to increase the Minimum Wage in congress, but the Democrats voted it down!" When will people stop believing this crap?