At a Meet & Greet in Bettendorf, Iowa, Republican Senate candidate Sam Clovis said that he doesn’t think the government should set a minimum wage except in the few areas where employers have monopolistic control.
After an audience member said in reference to the minimum wage, “The U.S. government has got no right to dictate to any business owner what they pay their employees,” Clovis responded, “Exactly.”
He went on to explain, “I don’t think the U.S. government should talk about minimum wage. Because every time you raise the minimum wage, you increase unemployment.” He said he does support a starting wage for those who work in an area where employers “could collude and offer lower wages,” but “not in cities, not where you have competition for workers.” He also called the minimum wage “a form of taxation.”
Meanwhile, he claimed that just 1.2 percent of the workforce works for minimum wage and that the majority are “men 16 to 25 who live at home.” He also claimed, “Not a single worker I know of in the city of Sioux City that works for minimum wage. Not a single one.”
Clovis is not the only potential lawmaker to espouse this view. Last week North Carolina Republican Senate candidate Thom Tillis warned that the government setting a minimum wage creates an “artificial threshold” and said he would prefer that the market set it instead. Current lawmakers have said the same, with Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) saying the government shouldn’t set a minimum wage, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) going as far as to call for abolishing it, and Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) saying he would vote to repeal it. Hedge fund manager Gary B. Smith has also joined the call to scrap the minimum wage.
But even with a minimum wage of $7.25, wages for the average worker are still stagnating despite increasing productivity and inflation. If the wage had kept pace with inflation since the 1960s, it would be over $10 an hour, and if it were in line with increases in workers’ output, it would be over $21. Yet American workers have experienced an entire decade without wage growth.
Raising the minimum wage, on the other hand, would mean billions more in higher earnings for working Americans and lift millions out of poverty. While a recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report warned of the potential for small job losses with an increased wage, there are other reasons to believe that businesses would see a benefit from it from increased demand for their products, lower turnover, and increased efficiency.
Meanwhile, the CBO found that a significant number of workers would get a boost from an increase in the minimum wage — 16.5 million — throwing doubt on Clovis’s claim that so few workers make that wage. And the demographics of a minimum wage worker don’t line up with his description: the average age of those who would be impacted by an increase in the wage is 35, while about a third have children and more than half work full time.