Election years often make for bad legislation, and that's certainly the case with the Republican-sponsored U.S. Senate bill that ties a minimum-wage increase to slashing some death taxes.
The measure is designed to put Democrats in an embarrassing trap. Give them the minimum-wage increase - from $5.15 per hour to $7.25, which they desperately want - but only if their vote counts to cut the death tax, which they vehemently oppose.
Majority Republicans are championing this measure as a happy compromise that benefits both parties, as the GOP supports the cut in death taxes but opposes the minimum-wage increase. But this is the kind of "compromise" that gives Congress a bad name, and conscientious senators of both parties should oppose it.
First, because increasing the minimum wage always is a bad idea. It results in employers cutting back on low-wage jobs. Yet, Democrats want to boost it because it's not a livable wage. Well, it's not supposed to be. It's an entry-level wage that usually goes to a family's third or fourth wage earner, generally a teenager who spends it in lieu of an allowance.
Second, the reduction in the death tax - also known as the estate tax - is itself a compromise. The original bill rightly called for eliminating the tax, not reducing it. The fact is, as study after study has shown, the death tax does not add significantly to government revenues, but it does ruin a lot of prosperous businesses and throw people out of work.
The economic damage this does can cost the government more money than it brings in. The estate tax is an abomination, both morally and economically. Good legislation does not compromise with an abomination - it kills it.
Sometimes smart politics produces good legislation, but this is not such a bill. If it passes, it will not embarrass Democrats. It will embarrass the institution of Congress.