It was the very first question in last night’s debate. Fox’s Neil Cavuto noted to Donald Trump that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) is moving forward with a plan for a $15 minimum wage for state workers, and the moderator asked the candidate if he’s “sympathetic” to protestors demanding a national increase.
“The reason I can’t be is we are a country that’s being beaten on every front, economically, militarily,” Trump replied. “There is nothing we do now to win.” He added, “Taxes too high, wages too high, we’re not going to be able to compete against the world.”
The same question then went to Ben Carson, who said, “People need to be educated on the minimum wage,” before making clear that he needs to be educated on the minimum wage.
It was then Marco Rubio’s turn:
“If I thought that raising the minimum wage was the best way to help people increase their pay, I would be all for it, but it isn’t. In the 20th century, it’s a disaster.”
First, we’re not in the 20th century. Second, the minimum wage is an effective and popular policy, so Rubio may regret condemning it as a “disaster.” And third, this is consistent with the senator’s previous suggestion that he doesn’t necessarily support the existence of a federal minimum wage.
The New Republic’s Suzy Khimm added that the debate offered a new twist on the traditional Republican agenda: “Don’t just give the rich a big tax break, but also lower wages for the poor.”
I continue to think this fight will be one of the centerpieces of the 2016 general election. Each of the Democratic presidential candidates wants a significant wage hike over today’s floor – Hillary Clinton has endorsed a $12 minimum, while Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley want a $15 minimum – and there’s ample polling evidence that the American mainstream agrees with them.
Don’t be too surprised if the GOP finds it difficult to persuade voters that the minimum-wage law itself is unnecessary, and anything above $7.25 an hour would be a “disaster.”