Predictably, Boehner said what the right usually says when the subject comes up: “When you raise the price of employment, guess what happens? You get less of it.”
This has been an ongoing debate for many years, but the evidence clearly favors the Democratic position: raising the minimum wage does not hurt businesses, and arguably helps them when more consumers have more money in their pockets.
But there’s an angle to this that’s often overlooked. GOP leaders, including Boehner, have no qualms about rejecting a minimum-wage increase, but are generally reluctant to oppose the existence of a minimum-wage law. It’s the logical end to their line of thinking, but Republicans are loath to look like extremists given support for the minimum wage with mainstream voters.
There are, however, exceptions.
After President Barack Obama suggested raising the minimum wage to $9 per hour in his State of the Union speech, rising Republican star Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) quickly joined other prominent GOP lawmakers in denouncing the proposal as bad policy.
“I want people to make a lot more than $9,” Rubio said Wednesday. “Nine dollars is not enough. The problem is that you can’t do that by mandating it in the minimum wage laws. Minimum wage laws have never worked in terms of helping the middle class attain more prosperity.”
“I don’t think a minimum wage law works,” he said flatly.
Is that so.
Remember, it’s not at all uncommon for Republicans to balk at a minimum-wage increase. It wasn’t always a sharply partisan issue – even Bush/Cheney accepted an increase – but given how far the GOP has moved to the right, objections to Obama’s proposal were predictable.
But that’s not where Rubio drew the line. Instead, the far-right Floridian went further than most in his party are willing to go – he’s arguing against the very existence of a minimum-wage law.
As Rubio moves forward with his national ambitions, I have a hunch we’ll be hearing about this again. In the meantime, I’d love to hear other GOP leaders go on the record saying whether they agree with Rubio – do they support a minimum wage or not?