The Associated Press this week dove into Labor Department data and found something interesting: states that raised their minimum wage are creating more jobs than states that didn’t. It’s the kind of development that does no favors for Republican Party orthodoxy.
In light of the data, I thought prominent GOP figures might avoid the subject for a while, though Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) may have missed the memo.
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama gave a joint interview last month in which they said they hope their daughters work minimum-wage jobs – just as the First Couple once did. “I think every kid needs to get a taste of what it’s like to do that real hard work,” Michelle Obama said.
The president added, “We are looking for opportunities for them to feel as if going to work and getting a paycheck is not always fun, not always stimulating, not always fair. But that’s what most folks go through every single day.”
It seemed pretty innocuous, though the Obamas’ comments apparently bothered Rand Paul.
Speaking at a downtown conference for libertarian and conservative technology types [in San Francisco], the Kentucky Republican and prospective 2016 White House contender said he had an “opposite” view from the Obamas when it comes to seeing his own sons work delivering pizzas and at call centers.“The minimum wage is a temporary” thing, Paul said. “It’s a chance to get started. I see my son come home with his tips. And he’s got cash in his hand and he’s proud of himself. I don’t want him to stop there. But he’s working and he’s understanding the value of work. We shouldn’t disparage that.”
I didn’t hear a recording of Paul’s comments, but I’ve read the Politico report a few times trying to make sense of the senator’s argument. I’m just not sure what he was trying to say.
First, I’m reasonably certain the Obamas weren’t suggesting they want their daughters to earn the minimum wage for the rest of their lives. From context, it seems the First Family was talking about having a minimum-wage job at some point, not forever. When Paul argue he sees minimum-wage work as “temporary,” which is the “opposite” of what the Obamas said, it seems the senator misunderstood the interview.
Second, and arguably more important, is Paul’s apparent belief that the minimum-wage is just a starting point for young adults. As Tim Murphy explained, there’s overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Only a quarter of minimum wage workers are teenagers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nearly half of minimum wage earners are over 25, and 585,000 (18 percent) are over 45. These aren’t kids just learning the value of the buck; they’re adults who need income to support themselves and their families. As Mother Jones has reported previously, the current minimum wage doesn’t come close to doing that.
For what it’s worth, earlier this year, the Kentucky Republican was asked whether he believes the minimum wage should exist at all. The senator refused to answer.