Minimum Wage and the Tea Party


(Attribution: Mario Piperni, [CC BY-ND 3.0] via


During his State of the Union Address in February, President Obama called for increasing the federal minimum wage from $7.25/hour to $9/hour, but is now favoring an effort by Congressional Democrats that would bump it up to $10.10/hour.

Sen. Tom Harkin’s bill (S.460) and Rep. George Miller’s bill (H.R.1010) would incrementally raise the minimum wage over a two year period, culminating in the $10.10 figure — and would also ensure that in the future, the minimum wage is tied to inflation.

That last part is important because, as a recent Congressional Research Service report pointed out, “the real value (purchasing power) of the minimum wage has decreased substantially over time.”  Pegging it to inflation would solve that problem, but is likely to be a point of contention for Republican politicians.

Rep. Michele Bachmann on the minimum wage

Republicans — and Tea Partiers in particular — are generally opposed to any increase in the minimum wage, and many of them would gladly abolish it altogether.  In 2005, Rep. Michele Bachmann was quoted as saying, “Literally, if we took away the minimum wage — if conceivably it was gone — we could potentially virtually wipe out unemployment completely because we would be able to offer jobs at whatever level.”

When in 2011, ABCNews’ George Stephanopoulos pressed Rep. Bachmann on her preposterous 2005 comment, she ducked, dodged, avoided, and maneuvered, but didn’t recant.

Of course, abolishing the minimum wage would give unscrupulous corporations like Walmart the option of further mistreating their employees if it tickled their fancy — and it probably would.

Sen. Ted Cruz on the minimum wage

Following Obama’s State of the Union address, Sen. Ted Cruz told “If you raise the minimum wage, the inevitable effect will be, number one: young people will lose their jobs or not be able to get their first jobs.  Unemployment among young people will go up if the minimum wage goes up as President Obama says.  Unemployment among Hispanics, among African Americans, among those struggling to get their first job to climb the economic ladder, will go up.”

The facts, however, would seem to dispute Sen. Cruz’s textbook Tea Party assertion.  A report published in February by the Center for Economic and Policy Research analyzed evidence dating back more than a decade, and found that “the weight of that evidence points to little or no employment response to modest increases in the minimum wage.”

Of course, Cruz and Bachmann aren’t the only Tea Partiers to express their opposition to a mandated, base rate of pay.  Sen. Marco Rubio responded to Obama’s February proposal by telling Charlie Rose, “I don’t think a minimum wage law works.”  Rand Paul, too, has said, “I think the question you have to ask is whether or not when you set the minimum wage it may cause unemployment.”

Fortunately, the American public overwhelming supports increasing the minimum wage, according to a Gallup report published this month.  A whopping 76% favor doing so, and 69% support automatically increasing it to account for inflation.

Considering Tea Partiers’ contempt for so-called “entitlement programs,” and considering the fact that low-wage earners are often forced to utilize those programs (like food stamps), you’d think Tea Partiers would actually see increasing the minimum wage as a good thing.  But they don’t.

Comedian Bill Maher summed it up nicely when he said, “If Colonel Sanders isn’t going to pay the lady behind the counter enough to live on, then Uncle Sam has to — and I, for one, am getting a little tired of helping highly profitable companies pay their workers.”