Obama's Call for Rise in Minimum Wage Draws Predictable Republican Response

Rubio, Ryan, Boehner Shoot down wage that would not even lift working Americans out of poverty

President Obama's proposal in his State of the Union address Tuesday to raise the minimum wage and, for the first time, index it to inflation elicited the bogus response Republicans have been spouting on the subject for 75 years, ever since the Fair Labor Standards Act was enacted in 1938.

House Speaker John Boehner said:

“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? I’ve got 11 brothers and sisters on every rung of the economic ladder. I know about this issue as much as anybody in this town,” the speaker told reporters on Wednesday morning.

Six years ago, when Congress last voted to raise the minimum wage to $7.25, Boehner voted against it. That was only the second time the federal minimum wage has been raised in the past three-plus decades. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan called the proposed raise "inflationary" and "counterproductive." And Sen. Marco Rubio chimed in with:

"$9 is not enough. I think we all would want that. The question is is a minimum wage the best way to do it? And history has said the answer is absolutely not. In fact, the impact of minimum wage usually is that businesses hire less people. That’s the impact of it. They’ll just hire less people to do the same amount of work…We have a lot of history to prove that the minimum wage, raising the minimum wage does not grow the middle class.

Rubio is right about one thing: $9 is not enough. A higher baseline would be better. The rest of Rubio's utterances on the subject are utter nonsense.

A study two years ago by the Review of Economics and Statistics saw "no detectable employment losses from the kind of minimum wage increases we have seen in the United States." A survey of studies last year by the Center for American Progress found "significant evidence that even during hard economic times, raising the minimum wage is likely to have no adverse effect on employment."

As noted, $9 isn't enough. The National Employment Law Project has noted that "if the real value of the minimum wage had just kept pace with the rising cost of living since 1968, it would be over $10.50 today." But an improvement is an improvement, and the indexing is something that should have happened from the outset.


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