Could a $10 minimum wage actually happen?
Could a $10 minimum wage actually happen?
Nancy Pelosi is pushing a new bill to raise the minimum wage even higher than what Obama requested
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi proposes raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour.
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State of the Union address, President Obama proposed raising the
minimum wage to $9 an hour. Yesterday, House Minority Leader Nancy
Pelosi urged her colleagues to raise it even higher, to $10.
Why push for a minimum wage hike now? The Dow hitting an all-time high might have something to do with it. Here's Pelosi:
This week, we saw something
quite remarkable, the stock market soaring to record heights. At the
same time, we see productivity keeping pace. But we don't see income for
America's middle class rising. In fact, it's been about the same as
since the end of the Clinton years. [The Hill]
One solution, according to Pelosi, is to support legislation drawn up
by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) to raise
the minimum wage from its current level, $7.25, to $10.10 over the
course of three years in annual 95-cent installments. Arguments for and
against a minimum wage hike aside, the question becomes whether a bill like the Fair Minimum Wage Act actually has a chance of passing.
The American people support policies like it — in theory. Two days
ago, Gallup released a new poll showing that 71 percent of adults would
support Obama's proposed hike to $9. While, unsurprisingly, more than 9
in 10 self-identified Democrats supported it, quite a few Republicans
(50 percent) did too.
So, it's settled. Vox populi, vox Dei, as the saying goes.
Well, not so fast. As the poll also shows, "raising the federal minimum
wage is typically a crowd pleaser." Go back to 2010, when two-thirds of Americans supported raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour, or just about any other year, and you'll find that it's almost always a political winner.
Nevertheless, that support doesn't always translate into votes in
Congress. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has already come out
against Obama's proposal: "Listen, when people are asking the question
'Where are the jobs?' why would we want to make it harder for small
employers to hire people?" — arguing that if employers have to pay
workers more, they'll have to cut back on hiring, or worse, start
firing. Obama, when he was campaigning in 2008, vowed to raise the
minimum to $9.50, which, obviously, did not happen. The consensus is
that this time around, a Republican-led House won't pass any bills
raising the minimum wage either. Ezra Klein says the GOP ignores the
pleas of the people at its own peril:
Obama's minimum wage increase
might not pass the House. But if it doesn't, then Democrats have a
hugely popular cudgel with which to beat Republicans in the 2014 midterm
elections. That's basically what happened in the 2006 elections, and
the strategy was so effective for Democrats that George W. Bush
subsequently signed a minimum wage increase into law. [Washington Post]
Harold Meyerson at The American Prospect notes that
"[the] constituency that today's GOP most desperately seeks to win, or
at least neutralize, is Latinos — the ethnic group most clustered in
low-wage jobs, and most certain to benefit from a minimum wage hike."
The fact that the policy has so much support among groups that the GOP
desires, and that the Republicans have no popular alternative could, according to Slate's Matthew Yglesias, mean a new minimum wage has a chance to become a reality — eventually:
With no affirmative agenda to
assist low-wage workers, the debate will continue to be framed around
the Democrats' overwhelmingly popular minimum wage proposal and it'll
pass. Probably not in this Congress, but perhaps in the next. [Slate]
The minimum wage was last raised in 2007 from $5.15 to $7.25. Back
then, liberals made the hike more palatable for Republicans with
small-business tax incentives, something that some members of Congress
are hoping to replicate. But some Democrats, like Finance Chairman Max
Baucus (D-Mont.) — who helped engineer the 2007 tax incentives — are
doubtful that those kind of tactics will work this time around. Baucus tells Roll Call,
"When we consider tax reform, I doubt that minimum wage is a part of
anything that we can propose." Perhaps Pelosi and her Democratic
colleagues will have to put this one on the back-burner.
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