Despite broad, national support for an increase to the minimum wage, a growing number of prominent Republican policymakers are arguing that the minimum wage shouldn’t exist at all. In effect, their position calls for a minimum of zero – the free market will take it from there.
But in my recent round-up of GOP officials who espouse this position, they all had something important in common: they’re incumbent officeholders. In North Carolina yesterday, a leading Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate broke some new ground.
U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis on Wednesday said he opposes President Barack Obama’s plan to increase the federal minimum wage, calling it a “dangerous idea.”The Republican went even further to suggest government shouldn’t set a minimum wage, labeling it an “artificial threshold.”
Unfortunately for Tillis – or perhaps fortunately, if the candidate is eager for the public to learn about his position – an American Bridge tracker recorded the exchange and quickly put it online.
For those who can’t watch clips online, here’s a transcript of the Senate candidate talking with reporters.
REPORTER: Getting back to the minimum wage issue, what do you consider a living wage?TILLIS: Um, I think for the most part the market needs to define that. I think when we create artificial thresholds then you run into a big problem. And I think we need to know that there is a segment of the population that relies on the minimum wage but there are a lot of jobs that go beyond the minimum wage, but for the most part, John, I think that we have to have the market more than anything drive what an employer is going to pay for a job.REPORTER: If the market should drive, should we get rid of the minimum wage?TILLIS: Um I’m sorry, say that again?REPORTER: If the market should drive the minimum wage, the decision about how much people should make, should we get rid of the current minimum wage?TILLIS: Yeah, I think you should consider anything that frees up the market, that creates more jobs. But the reality is that you can’t un-ring that bell, and it could create as much, ah, you’d have to look at it, whether or not that creates destabilization in a market that is already destabilized. But at the end of the day the market drives the economy, or drives the pay for the vast majority of the positions that businesses hire for anyway.
Remember, up until quite recently, voters generally didn’t hear politicians seeking major offices – especially in competitive states – talk this way. Republicans would argue against raising the minimum wage, but usually wouldn’t argue against the existence of the minimum wage.
But as GOP politics move further to the right, more and more figures in the party are taking the risk, state their controversial position, and assume they can win anyway.
Last month, Public Policy Polling found 57% of North Carolinians support a minimum-wage increase. The survey did not ask whether North Carolinians believe the law should exist.