Worth flagging now, just because if ObamaCare heads deeper into the toilet over the next year, the minimum wage will be one of O’s go-to subject-changers. WaPo’s Greg Sargent flagged this back in March as an issue that the Democratic base wanted to see some action on at the national level, as they’ve been frustrated by what was happening in the states:
To get a sense of how this dynamic is playing out, note that national liberals and labor are closely watching how two of the likely 2016 candidates — Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York and Governor Martin O’Malley of Maryland — are handling minimum wage bills in their states. In New York, Cuomo is in talks with state legislators about a bill that would raise the minimum wage to $9 — which has disappointed labor and progressive activists who have organized a group called the New York Minimum Wage Coalition to push for a bigger hike. In Maryland, a state senate panel just voted down a minimum wage hike, frustrating labor and progressive activists who privately want to see more leadership from O’Malley in pushing an increase.
National labor and progressive groups will be watching both governors on the issue. “The minimum wage bills in New York and Maryland are certainly things we’ll be watching closely,” Peter Colavito, the director of government relations for the Service Employees International Union, tells me.
Midterms are daunting enough for a president with crappy approval ratings (which are unlikely to rebound) without having an albatross like O-Care around his neck. If the insurance industry needs an injection of federal dollars next year, he’s in grave danger of a ferocious backlash where angry conservatives and indies turn out in force and dejected lefties stay home. Liberal populism is one way to goose them, and a partial defense against Republican claims that Obama screwed the little guy with his health-insurance boondoggle. Okay, then, O will say — let’s raise the little guy’s wages. Even Republicans agree! Sort of:
Support for raising the minimum wage to nine bucks runs at 76 percent nationally, a five-point increase since March. That’s right in line with public opinion generally over the past 20 years: The wording of the questions varies but since 1995 Gallup’s consistently found support for minimum-wage hikes around 80 percent, give or take a few points. Major problem for the GOP? Well, no, not really, for two reasons. First, as the gun-control debate early this year proved, it’s not just how many people support a particular policy shift, it’s the intensity with which they do it. Ask the public if they support expanding background checks and you may crack 90 percent with people who say yes. How many of them consider it a priority so high that their vote might turn on it, though? The passion lies with opponents, which is why congressional Republicans tremble at the thought of passing even modest gun-control legislation. Second, per Emily Elkins at Reason, it’s easy to squeeze high support for raising the minimum wage from a poll sample when you’re not presenting respondents with any potential negative consequences from doing so. When Elkins ran a poll on the same subject earlier this year, she found majorities swung from support to opposition when she suggested that increasing wages might mean fewer jobs. That would/will be the GOP’s countermessage when Obama starts in on this next year. It might not be enough to turn a majority against the idea, but it may soften support to the point where it’s in the same category as background checks — something people like, but not so much that anyone’s losing a general election over it.
Still, if for no other reason, the Gallup results are interesting as a probable rough gauge of how many Republicans are ideological conservatives and how many aren’t. Mention raising the minimum wage and nearly 40 percent of GOPers will tell you no way; that’s a job-killer, period. Nearly 60 percent are willing to consider the specific numbers you’re proposing, but even a chunk of them turn frosty once you start programming in periodic inflation hikes. There must be some small percentage of very centrist Republicans who are willing to consider raising the MW much higher than even nine dollars. Something for Christie’s platform in 2016!