The grass-roots energy building around the minimum wage issue may upend Hillary Rodham Clinton’s plans to ease into proposing specific economic policies.Curiously, this movement is putting much less pressure on Republican presidential aspirants, according to the Times. Now, you'd think that's because Republican presidential wannabes are unswervingly opposed to the minimum wage. But that's not what the Times story says. It strongly suggests that Republicans are perfectly cool with the existence of the minimum wage, and are therefore pretty much in the same boat as Clinton (and President Obama) when it comes to the issue of a big increase:
The issue will be in the foreground on Wednesday, when fast-food and other low-wage workers plan a nationwide walkout that is expected to draw tens of thousands of people to rally support for a $15-an-hour minimum wage. The protest is the latest show of strength by the Fight for $15, a campaign that economists partly credit with the recent decisions by employers like Walmart and McDonald’s to raise the minimum wage they pay workers....
“The campaign is clearly going to have to come out with a position on it,” said Dean Baker, a progressive economist who met with economic advisers to Mrs. Clinton on other issues. “There is pressure on her to come up with a number.” ...
Even Republicans, whose party has long been skeptical of the minimum wage, have begun to soften their opposition. “I’m not for repealing the minimum wage,” Senator Marco Rubio of Florida said at a candidate forum in January. “But I can tell you, I don’t want people to make $10.10 an hour. I want them to make $30 an hour.”So there are no qualms about the minimum wage on the part of Rubio (or, by implication, the rest of the GOP field)?
Sorry, that's not accurate. This quote is thoroughly out of context. It comes from a January forum sponsored by the Koch-funded Freedom Partners and moderated by ABC's Jonathan Karl. Rubio, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz all participated -- and not one of them was willing to say whether, ideally, there should be a federal minimum wage at all. Cruz said that "the minimum wage consistently hurts the most vulnerable." Paul said, "The minimum wage is only harmful when it's above the market wage" -- which means that he believes it's never actually useful, and that it's harmful except in those special moments when wages are already high, at which point it's completely ineffective economically. Rubio says it's "a disruption that we don't need."
Karl repeatedly tries to pin the three candidates down on the existence of the minimum wage and the proper rate. Their answers are pure evasion, but not one of them will say that the minimum wage is a good thing, and not one of them will say that the minimum wage should be raised at all.
This is consistent with other statements they've made. In 2013, Rubio told Charlie Rose, "I don't think a minimum wage law works." That same year, Cruz, on Facebook, called an Obama administration proposal for an increase in the minimum wage "zombie economics," linking to a Forbes opinion column that said, "Using [Paul] Krugman’s terminology: The idea that government can create prosperity by enacting a higher minimum wage is 'a zombie idea ... that has been thoroughly refuted by analysis and evidence, and should be dead.'” And other top Republicans feel more or less the same way. Last year, Scott Walker said, of his state's minimum wge (which is set at the federal level), "I'm not going to repeal it, but I don't think it serves a purpose." Jeb Bush last month said, "I think state minimum wages are fine. The federal government shouldn’t be doing this. This is one of those poll-driven deals."
I'm going to lengthen this post significantly by giving you the complete exchange from that forum with Jonathan Karl. Read it. Then tell me: Are these guys softening on the minimum wage?
JONATHAN KARL: Well, let me just two specifics here, one: I think an easy one with the three of you-- the minimum wage. I think all three of you have come out against raising the minimum wage. So my question is do you think there should be a federal minimum wage at all? Just simple yes or no answer.
SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: No, it's more than a yes or no answer. Those are always-- the bottom line is--
JONATHAN KARL: No, no.
SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: --I'm not for repealing the minimum wage. But I can tell you, I don't want people to make $10.10 an hour. I want them to make $30 an hour, $35, $40 an hour. And the only way you're going to get there, not through a law but through a growing economy that creates those jobs-- and then have-- giving people the opportunity to make that and more. And my problem with raising the minimum wage is not that I wanna deny someone $10.10. I'm worried about the people whose wage is gonna go down to zero because you've now made them more expensive than a machine.
JONATHAN KARL: But you're not for repealing the minimum wage. You think there should be a federal minimum wage. You're happy where it is now at $7.25 an hour?
SENATOR TED CRUZ: John, I think it's important to look at who loses out. You know, we had a debate on the minimum wage just recently. And I gave a floor speech on the Senate floor with three simple charts, $10.10, the proposed Obama minimum wage. And then the next chart Marco just referenced was $0.00 which is the real Obama minimum wage because when you have the lowest labor force participation since 1978 to the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs under the Obama economy that's their minimum wage.
JONATHAN KARL: No, I--
SENATOR TED CRUZ: And then let me tell you the third number I had up there was $46.98. $46.98 is the average hourly wage of an oil and gas worker in North Dakota. And what I wanna see is an awful lot more people making $40 and $50 and $60 a week-- an hour and an awful lot less people making zero dollars a week.
JONATHAN KARL: Okay, but-- and I wanna-- I wanna move off this. I just very sh-- do you think there should be a minimum wage at all?
SENATOR TED CRUZ: I think--
JONATHAN KARL: $7.25, is that the magic number? Is that where we are? I mean, you--
SENATOR TED CRUZ: --I think the minimum wage consistently hurts the most vulnerable. So, for example, on this--
JONATHAN KARL: --so there shouldn't be one. The market should set the minimum wage?
SENATOR TED CRUZ: --let me give you an example of this increase to $10.10 that Obama was urging. The Congressional budget office estimated up to one million people would lose their jobs. And the people who would lose their jobs are low-income, primarily African-American and Hispanic workers. And let me make it very real, 1957 when my dad came to the United States, he was 18. He couldn't speak English. So his first job was washing dishes. He made 50 cents an hour. Why did he get that job? Because you didn't have to speak English to take a dish and put it under hot water. Now if we had come in and made the minimum wage $2 an hour, you know what would of happened? They would of fired my dad and they would of bought a dishwasher.
JONATHAN KARL: So it's--
SENATOR TED CRUZ: That's who gets hurt.
JONATHAN KARL: --so let me try this one more time. Senator Paul, you gave me--
JONATHAN KARL: --an answer.
SENATOR RAND PAUL: Let me make a comment.
JONATHAN KARL: Just a straight--
SENATOR RAND PAUL: You know, I think what's important even more than whether we should have and what we should have or how much it should be is what is our attitude towards work? I'll give you an idea of, like, Michelle Obama, what she said about her kids. She wanted them to get minimum wage jobs so they could see how terrible it was to get a minimum wage job.
I see it completely the opposite I have two boys. One works delivering pizza, the other one works at a call center while going to school and they make minimum wage. And I'm proud of them. I'm proud of them when they go, "Dad, I've got money and I will pay for some things."
JONATHAN KARL: Right, so is-- but before I move on, would you give a yes or no if you think that we should have one?
SENATOR RAND PAUL: I could go into a long answer again if you'd like.
JONATHAN KARL: No, no, I just want a straight answer. I really don't want a long answer.
SENATOR RAND PAUL: No, here's the short answer--
JONATHAN KARL: But you could also say you don't wanna answer. That's fine too.
SENATOR RAND PAUL: --no, here's the short answer.
JONATHAN KARL: It's a free country.
SENATOR RAND PAUL: The minimum wage is only harmful when it's above the market wage. Okay, so when it's above the market wage it causes unemployment. The simple way to look at this is that if it's $7 an hour and labor can afford ten workers at $7 an hour, if you make it $14 they'll afford five workers. So you will have unemployment. The CBO says it would cost a half million jobs. So this is an economic argument. This is something that should be done in a rational way, not an emotional way.
JONATHAN KARL: Okay, so let me move onto to another--
SENATOR RAND PAUL: Did you like our answers?
JONATHAN KARL: --you wanna get really quickly?
SENATOR RAND PAUL: Did you like our answers?
SENATOR TED CRUZ: He was persuaded. I think John--
SENATOR TED CRUZ: --agrees with him now.
SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: I just wanted to-- as a practical matter I'm not calling to repeal the minimum wage. I'm not saying to get rid of it as a practical matter. I think it is what it is and we don't-- that's a disruption that we don't need with all so many other disruptions happening.
But I will say this, I think that all this focus that the president has on the minimum wage is a cure-all for the, you know, the problems being faced by working Americans is not only a waste of time, I think it shows how un-serious he really is about dealing with the challenges of our time.