We got a good laugh the other day when the three Republican U.S. Senate candidates in Missouri got together for a debate, and none of the three knew what the federal minimum wage is. But there's another angle to this clip that's worth paying attention to.
Greg Sargent noted that, in addition to the candidates' ignorance, two of the three candidates hoping to take on Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) in November "seemed to come out for doing away with the minimum wage entirely."
The three candidates — GOP Rep Todd Akin, businessman Jon Brunner, and state treasurer Sarah Steelman — were all asked today whether they favored increasing the minimum wage.
[Rep. Todd Akin] was the most forceful in suggesting it should be done away with. "I don't think the government should be setting the prices or wages of different things," he said. "I don't think that's the function of the government."[Businessman Jon Brunner] came close. "We've got to let free enterprise reign in the marketplace," he said, which in the context of the question, seems to suggest it should be done away with. He added that it was a burden on small businesses. [...]Dems will cast the statements as the latest example of Republicans being beholden to corporate benefactors, and skapegoating people on the lowest rungs of the income ladder for our continued economic suffering.
Quite right. I'd just add that this will apparently be the second consecutive cycle in which this is a problem -- with increasing frequency, statewide GOP candidates are taking firm stands against the minimum wage.
In 2010 Senate races, for example, Republican nominees in Connecticut, Alaska, West Virginia, Kentucky, and the state of Washington argued that they either oppose the minimum wage, consider its existence unconstitutional, or both.
Remember when the Republican Party leaders used to champion a "living wage"? Many of its statewide candidates apparently don't. (As recently as the 1970s, GOP support for wage controls, at least on a temporary basis, was not uncommon.)
Indeed, the fact that U.S. Senate candidates would have no qualms about standing against the existence of a minimum wage is a reminder about how far the Republican mainstream has shifted. It's no longer unusual for statewide GOP candidates to oppose the minimum wage, child-labor laws, the existing structure of Medicare and guaranteed benefits, restrictions on torture, collective bargaining, and unemployment benefits.
Not too long ago, this would have been largely unthinkable, and such candidates would have been labeled "extremists," unable to even compete in a statewide primary.