Senate Democrats going through the minimum-wage motions
posted at 8:41 am on April 1, 2014 by Erika Johnsen
If Senate Democrats are going to try and make their particular brand of minimum-wage economic populism the centerpiece of their collective midterm campaign — which, they are — they need to put forth some actual legislation on the issue, and that mini-campaign is getting off the ground in the Senate this week. Even if Democrats can’t get the at least five Republicans votes they need for cloture on Sen. Harkin’s legislation calling for a national rate of $10.10/hour, Harkin wants to keep repeatedly bringing up the vote on it, the better to lay waste to Republicans’ own economic messaging, via National Journal:
Senate Democrats are kicking off their 2014 election-year agenda this week with consideration of a bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10. And the legislation’s lead sponsor says almost every Democrat will vote “yes” on a crucial, procedural vote.
If Democrats get the wage bill through a cloture vote, it needs just a simple majority for final passage. All Democrats “may not be with us on the final bill,” Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said on a conference call with reporters Monday. “The key is to get over the filibuster of the Republicans, and I’m pretty confident we’ll have all the Democrats on that.”
All except for one, Harkin predicts. It is likely that Mark Pryor of Arkansas, who has come out against the proposal to raise the wage to $10.10, will not join the ranks. But even in that case, Pryor is not opposed to any minimum wage increase. He supports an effort to boost the Arkansas rate from $6.25 to $8.50 by 2017.
But Pryor apparently isn’t the only one with some reservations about the wisdom of such a steep and sudden increase and its effect on jobs; The Hill reports that Harry Reid is struggling to stop several Senate Democrats from backing a potential plan to undercut the $10.10 minimum-wage target with negotiations on a lower floor:
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has been reaching out to Democrats to agree on a compromise that is threatening to divide the president’s party on this core component of its election-year message. …
Now, despite his staunch personal preference for $10.10, Reid’s office doesn’t rule out compromise depending on feeling within his caucus. …
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), a GOP target this year, also indicated a willingness to do a deal. …
Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) worries that, if Senate Democrats refuse to compromise at below $10.10, no bill will get through.
“The president had, I thought, a very good proposal last year, $9 and indexed [to inflation],” he said. …
The CBO estimated raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour would likely cost 100,000 jobs, significantly below the 500,000 jobs it warned might be lost by raising it to $10.10.
Obama initially proposed the $9/hour figure, but progressive Democrats convinced the White House to hike the figure up further in time for midterm campaigning — but it sounds like a few other Democrats are at least willing to acknowledge that such a top-down, across-the-board minimum wage makes zero economic sense:
But the real answer is: It depends on where you live. How can the same minimum wage be “right” for Manhattan and Birmingham, Ala., when Manhattan’s overall cost of living is 2.5 times greater? Manhattan will have higher average wages, and Birmingham lower wages due to these differences in the cost of living, but these wage differences say nothing about the quality of life that workers enjoy in the two areas.
Differences are even more extreme when you move out of metropolitan areas and look at rural counties, where costs of living – and yes, wages – can be much lower than in big cities. What seems like a reasonable minimum wage to someone living in San Francisco or New York City would be enough to price a low-skilled worker out of a job in a rural area like Boone County, Arkansas, where the cost of living is roughly 40 percent below the national average.