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In Denial

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Conservatives Line Up To Oppose Minimum Wage Increase

Yesterday, during a public forum hosted by Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL), a fast food worker named Shaneeka Rainer stood up to ask the Congressman to support increasing the minimum wage. Rainer has worked an entire decade receiving only one raise: when Congress increased the minimum wage in 2007.

Here is what happened, as reported by Think Progress (head over there for a video of the exchange):

Ross, who is seeking a third term representing Tampa’s northwest suburbs, was unmoved by Rainer’s plea. “It’s not right,” the Florida Republican said. “If we are going to make it a living wage, who’s going to pay for it?”

An audience member declared that he’d gladly pay slightly more for a hamburger in order to increase the minimum wage, prompting applause from the crowd.

Rainer asked the congressman whether he would be willing to come work at Arby’s with him for one day so he can see how difficult minimum wage work is, but Ross demurred. Instead, he railed against the very notion of a minimum wage and even the concept of labor laws in general.

“If the government’s going to tell me how much I can get paid and when I can work and when I can’t work, then we have a serious problem in this country,” Ross said.

There are numerous reasons that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 will increase economic prosperity and not hurt job creation. But Ross is far from the only conservative policymaker who has publicly shared his backward and unpopular view about the minimum wage. Some not only oppose an increase, but they would go so far as to repeal the existing minimum wage altogether. We’ve put together a list of some of these “minimum wage deniers”:

  • Sen. Lamar Alexander: “I Do Not Believe In” The Minimum Wage. At a Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee meeting to mark 75 years since the signing of the Federal Labor Standards Act, which set a minimum wage and mandated overtime pay, Alexander, the ranking Republican on the committee, jumped into a discussion between a witness from the Heritage Foundation and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to say of the minimum wage, “I do not believe in it.” Sanders followed up, asking, “So you do not believe in the concept of the minimum wage?” “That’s correct,” Alexander responded. “You would abolish the minimum wage?” “Correct.”
  • Gov. Rick Perry Questioned The Constitutionality Of The Minimum Wage. The outspoken Texas governor has called Social Security an “illegal Ponzi scheme,” but he hasn’t limited his scorn for the social safety net to just that program. In the 1930s, Perry said, “an arrogant President [Franklin] Roosevelt, an emboldened Congress” and a compliant Supreme Court agreed the federal government could enforce minimum wages — and the result has been “a complete and total failure.” In case those views weren’t clear enough, he also doesn’t think “it’s the government’s business to be setting the minimum wage out there.”
  • John Boehner: I’d Rather Kill Myself Than Raise The Minimum Wage. House Speaker John Boehner is so against raising the minimum wage that he once commented that he would “commit suicide before I vote on a clean minimum-wage bill.” Yikes.
  • Rep. Joe Barton Would Vote To Repeal The Minimum Wage. Responding to President Obama’s call to raise the minimum wage, Rep. Joe Barton suggested that the minimum wage should be repealed completely. “I think it’s outlived its usefulness,” Barton said. “It may have been of some value back in the Great Depression. I would vote to repeal the minimum wage.”
  • Gov. Susana Martinez Vetoed Minimum Wage Legislation In 2013. The New Mexico governor is in the news today for other reasons — Mother Jones published previously unreleased audio recordings that aren’t exactly flattering. In 2013, though, Martinez vetoed a bill that passed both houses of the state legislature raising the minimum wage from $7.50 to $8.50.
  • Gov. Scott Walker Calls Efforts To Raise The Minimum Wage A Misguided Political Stunt. “I think it is nothing more than a misguided political stunt,’ the Wisconsin governor said of efforts to raise the wage. To Walker, apparently, working to reduce inequality and put money back in the pockets of hard-working low-income Americans is “little more than a political grandstanding stunt.”

BOTTOM LINE: The minimum wage has been a good thing for this country and the effort to increase it is no stunt. You shouldn’t work full time and still live in poverty in America. As incomes at the very top keep going up and up and up, it’s time to put some more money back in the pockets of hard-working low-income Americans too. Republicans have supported increasing the minimum wage in the recent past, and they should again — instead of being the “party of NO.”