Senator: ‘I Don’t Believe There Ought To Be A National Minimum Wage’


Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)

A Republican senator said he opposed any federal minimum wage on Thursday, arguing that increasing minimum pay by even a dollar would have a detrimental effect on the economy. The comments, made by Sen. Tom Coburn (OK), come just one day after the Senate failed to advance a measure that would have raised the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

“I don’t believe you ought to interfere in the market,” Coburn argued during an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “If there’s to be a minimum wage, my theory is, if Oklahomans want a minimum wage, we ought to have it. I don’t believe there ought to be a national minimum wage.” The senator went on to say that “there’s lots of down sides and there is lots written in the economics field on raising the minimum wage, whether you raise it a dollar or $20.” Watch the exchange:

The latest economic research has found that increasing the minimum wage has a net-zero effect on job growth and can actually help businesses retain quality workers for longer, boost worker productivity, and push employers to cut waste elsewhere.

A study from the Economic Policy Institute concluded that a $10.10 minimum wage would translate into a direct raise for 16.7 million workers and increase economic spending. Places like Washington state and San Francisco — both of which have raised the minimum wage — have also experienced job growth above the national average and expansions of payrolls at restaurants and bars (businesses that are supposedly most vulnerable to job losses).

Coburn also wondered how Democrats settled on a $10.10 figure instead of raising the wage to $50 or $100 dollars an hour. They maintain that the increase — which would occur gradually over 30 months and would then be pegged to inflation — would prove least disruptive to businesses. It would still leave many families struggling to get by, however, and would not represent a “living wage.” The $10.10 figure is also where the minimum wage would be if it had kept up with inflation since its peak in the 1960s and is well below where it would be if it had kept up with workers’ productivity.

If Congress were to pass it nationally, almost 5 million people would be lifted out of poverty and the gender wage gap would shrink by 5 percent. Spending on food stamps could also decline by $46 billion over the next decade.

Coburn is the only Republican still in Congress to vote against raising the minimum wage in 2007, but joins a long list of prominent GOPers who hope to abolish the pay standard. During the Bush administration, Coburn argued that boosting wages would make it harder for some Oklahoma residents to qualify for government assistance.