Just this once, Republicans should make an exception to their policy of opposing everything President Obama proposes and support an increase in the minimum wage.
There are many good reasons why a wide majority of Americans consistently support it. According to a 2012 poll, 73 percent of likely voters supported increasing the minimum wage to $10 an hour (the president is proposing $9 and then indexing it to the consumer price index for the first time). That’s not actually much of an increase: if the minimum wage kept pace with productivity gains it would be $16.50 an hour!
A minimum wage hike is that rare political issue which appeals across gender, age, race, education level, region and party, the poll showed.
But here are six other decent reasons for Republicans to abandon their opposition and support raising the minimum wage:
- Before it was President Obama’s idea, many of them supported an increase. Six years ago, when George Bush was president, at least 67 Republicans still in Congress, including Rep. Paul Ryan, backed an increase from $5.75 to $7.25 an hour. Sen. Mitch McConnell, then Senate majority leader, said, “We’re going to pass a good minimum wage increase bill because of Republican support and because Republicans insisted on a bipartisan package, not a partisan fight.” The 2012 Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, also supported an increase – before conservatives pummeled him for his position and he flip-flopped.
- It doesn’t place an undue burden on small business. It’s a myth that small business is the primary employer of low-wage workers. Sixty-six percent of low-wage workers work for major corporations like Wal-Mart and McDonalds – and they’re doing better than ever. According to a report from the National Employment Law Project, of the top 50 companies employing low-wage workers, 75 percent have higher revenues than before the recession and 73 percent are sitting on more cash. They paid their top executives an average of $9.4 million last year.
- Several topnotch companies already pay more than minimum wage voluntarily – and they’re doing fine. Among them are two of the top fast-food companies in the country. The wildly popular In’n’Out Burger in California and Arizona pays its part-time workers $10 an hour to start and its full-time workers get health benefits. The 31-year old woman who now runs the family-owned chain is the country’s youngest female billionaire. In’n’Out’s newest California competitor, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, also pays above the minimum wage: $8 an hour plus incentives shared among shift teams.
- It could help them with the illegal immigration issue. Back in September, 2011, Ron Unz,missing American Conservative commentator proposed that Republicans support an increase in the minimum wage as part of a comprehensive rethinking of the party’s immigration stance and broadening its base. A higher minimum wage, Unz suggested, might actually reduce illegal immigration.
- If Republicans oppose a minimum wage hike, Democrats will clobber them with it in the 2014 election to help them take back the House of Representatives. “Dems believe that this battle goes directly to fundamental and deeply held voter beliefs about which party is really on the side of economically struggling Americans,” the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent reported. “Having just lost an election in which they were perceived as prioritizing the interests of the rich over everyone else, Republicans understand this, which is why they wrap their opposition to the minimum wage increase in a veil of concern for low wage workers.”
- Rep. Paul Ryan, the unsuccessful Republican vice-presidential nominee and a 2016 presidential contender said his party must do a better job convincing people it has better ideas on “fighting poverty and helping people move up the `ladder of life.’” If he’s serious about that, helping people on the lowest rung with a pay hike would be a good start.