IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Minimum-wage politics good for Dems, but will they raise it?

Is the minimum wage a "can't lose" cause for Democrats? And if so, will they convert that capital into real change for low-wage American workers?
Fast Food Workers Organize Nat'l Walkout Over Low Wages
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 05: Protesters rally outside of a Wendy's in support of raising fast food wages from $7.25 per hour to $15.00 per hour on December 5...

More than three-quarters of the country now support raising the minimum wage, setting the issue up to be a popular campaign topic in the 2014 elections.

A November Gallup poll found that 76% of Americans would vote to raise the federal minimum wage to $9 per hour if the issue were presented on a ballot, a raise of $1.75 from the current floor. Despite that number being driven by the support of Democrats, 91% of who reported support for the measure, more than half of Republicans surveyed also stated they would vote in favor of the measure.

Melissa Harris-Perry guest host Joy Reid and her Sunday panel questioned whether raising the minimum wage constitutes a “can’t lose” topic for Democrats. Reid pointed out the difficulty of effectively running against a minimum wage raise, given its correlation with Americans’ capacity to achieve the American dream--or merely to afford basic needs.

The issue may gain even more support with the end of extended federal unemployment benefits on Saturday. Unemployed individuals who have been searching for a decent paying job may now be more likely to take one, or several, minimum wage jobs to make ends meet without those benefits rather than holding out for a higher-paying job that utilizes their expertise. 

Michael Saltsman, research director of the Employment Policies Institute, argued during Sunday's discussion against raising the minimum wage, stating it would have an adverse effect on employment and jobs. Saltsman pointed to the example of countries like France with higher minimum wages, where he said traditionally entry-level jobs are being phrased out and replaced by machines.

Demos VP of policy & outreach Heather McGhee said there are examples of high paying entry-level jobs in the United States that offer no adverse employment effects. She pointed to evidence of greater productivity at Costco--which offers an entry level pay of more than $11.00 an hour and benefits--compared with Walmart, which offers lower wages. McGhee also stated that higher wages create a stimulative effect on the economy, as lower-income workers are likely to spend their additional wages on goods and services.

Saltsman defended the current minimum wage, stating that the solution to low wages is an increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit. McGhee's counter-argument offered that the EITC, a one-time sum that offsets taxes owed or provides a refund on a tax return, doesn’t actually help the working poor, as many accumulate debt throughout the year in order to cover basic living expenses. As a result, McGhee their EITC refund often goes towards paying off that accumulated debt and its accrued interest. McGhee said that higher paychecks each pay period, in contrast, have a dramatic impact on quality of life. She described the EITC as a "subsidy for low-wage jobs."

Panelist Richard Kim, executive editor of The Nation's website, expressed hope that there will be traction on the minimum wage prior to the 2014 elections, led by President Obama. He suggested the president could begin this process with federal contractors, signing an executive order for them to meet a minimum wage hike. He also suggested that the President should "lend his podium" to those working in states to pass minimum-wage raises.

Watch the first part of the discussion below, and find the rest now on