- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean yesterday dismissed as economic “mumbo jumbo” the argument that raising the minimum wage would cause unemployment.

The former Vermont governor made his claims during a conference of liberal Christians yesterday at National City Christian Church in Northwest, during which Mr. Dean was introduced to cheers and a standing ovation from a morning-session crowd of more than 600 people along with the Rev. Jim Wallis, the evangelical who founded the liberal religious magazine Sojourners.

“We believe that overcoming poverty must become a nonpartisan issue. We have called both Democrats and Republicans to address the issue,” Mr. Wallis said.

When Mr. Wallis introduced Mr. Dean, the Democratic National Committee Chairman (DNC) chief began by saying he “felt right at home” among people praising Jesus.

“This is a moral nation, so the first thing we must do is convince people that poverty is a moral problem,” Mr. Dean said. “It is a moral principle to raise the minimum wage. It is nothing but economist mumbo jumbo to say raising it will hurt jobs.”

When Mr. Dean was running for the 2004 presidential nomination, he cause much skepticism about his claims to religious practice by citing Job as his favorite New Testament book and his account of leaving the Episcopal Church because of a dispute over a bike path.

The Dean speech came on the second-day of a three-day conference titled “Building a Covenant for a New America,” which takes its title from an article earlier this year in Sojourners. Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Ken Mehlman was invited to share the stage with Mr. Dean, but organizers said yesterday that he declined.

The conference’s sponsors include Sojourners and Call to Renewal, who say that its purpose is to mobilize support for a religious agenda to end poverty, both domestically and internationally. The conference’s banners and handouts described raising the minimum wage as one of its three principal issues, the other two being child poverty in the United States and foreign aid.

Christian Weller, senior economist at the Center for American Progress, said that a minimum wage increase from $5.15 to $7.25 would increase minimum wage earners’ share of the nation’s overall wealth.

“Profits are at their highest levels, but the purchasing power of the minimum wage is at its lowest since the 1950s. I think it is only fair to take a bit from the top and give it to the bottom,” Mr. Weller said.

Adam Taylor, senior director of campaigns and organizing for Sojourners/Call to Renewal, urged his listeners to appeal to their representatives to increase this year’s Foreign Operations budget to $5 billion.

After the speakers finished, the crowd gathered in the front of the Church, chanting in unison, “Hey hey, ho ho/poverty’s got to go.” They then proceeded down the streets, urging stalled drivers to honk if they wanted higher wages and waving signs that read, “Poverty Is Not A Family Value” and “Make Poverty History.”

At a later gathering, Upper Senate Park on Capitol Hill, the Rev. Anthony Campolo said that “it’s time for people of faith to stand up for what the Bible teaches.”

“America will not be judged on how secure we make our people. We will be judged on how we treat the poor,” he said.

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