What do you give to a man who has everything? A man like publisherSteve Forbes, worth a reported $430m. What do you give him if you're his beloved-but-on-the-ropes Republican Party?
How about a cynical campaign to defeat a US federal minimum wage increase?
That's what Forbes calls for in his column in the 18 November edition of Forbes magazine. To keep from getting "smacked around by President Obama and congressional Democrats", instead of "passively taking a hit", Republicans should gin up their spin machine to portray a minimum wage increase as a job-killer. Hold House hearings, he says, and parade out people who will say they were hurt by the last minimum wage increase.
Do they really think those House witch hunt hearings still have any credibility?
In case they do, here's a big red flag for Forbes and any Republicans who may be listening to his advice: the public doesn't buy your argument. A recent national survey conducted for the National Employment Law Project (Nelp) by Hart Research Associates finds just 25% buy the claim that raising America's wage floor so working people can live in decency costs jobs.
And the public would be right. Recent respected academic research has determined that raising the minimum wage does not result in job loss – even during bad economic times.
Forbes, a two-time unsuccessful Republican presidential candidate, is on the wrong side of the public in more ways than one. The Nelp-commissioned survey shows that 80% of the public – including 62% of those in Forbes' own party – supports raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and adjusting it for inflation in the future, as President Obama and congressional Democrats propose.
An increase in the minimum wage is overdue. If the minimum wage had just kept pace with inflation since 1969, it would be around $10.70 an hour today instead of $7.25 (or the scandalous $2.13 for tipped workers). If it had kept up with the growth of workers' productivity, it would be $18.72. Meanwhile, if it matched the wage growth of the wealthiest 1%, it would be $28.34.
The stagnation of the minimum wage is digging a deeper and deeper hole between the Steve Forbes's of this country and the rest of us. For the first time since the Great Depression, middle-class families have been losing ground for more than a decade. In fact, America's working families are earning less today than 15 years ago.
This loss hasn't been about productivity – no, America's workers are more productive than ever. And it's not about education – in fact, wages for college grads outside the top income brackets have stagnated or even declined.
What's happened is that the wealthiest people in America have sucked up all the pay raises. Since 1997, all income growth has gone to the wealthiest 10%. Most of those increases have gone to the richest 1%.
Raising the minimum wage is the right way to begin closing the economic chasm between America's wealthy and regular working people. Lifting the wage to $10.10 an hour would benefit 30 million workers, pump $32bn into the economy and add 140,000 new jobs – all without increasing the national deficit. It would have particular impact on the lives of women – who are two-thirds of minimum wage earners.
Not to mention that it's the right thing to do. Does anyone who works hard and plays by the rules in this wealthy nation deserve to live in poverty, forced to choose between paying for rent or food or the heating bill?
Most people in the country think not. But with his $430m, Steve Forbes is living a very comfortable life as he plots to deny others the basic decency of a hard-earned wage they can live on.