There seems to be a new rule for candidates vying for the Republican Presidential nomination: you must advocate for lower wages.
There’s Texas Governor Rick Perry, whose so-called “Texas Miracle” was built on low-wage jobs. Then there’s former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who is now strongly pushing right-to-work laws, which have led to lower wages in 26 states.
Most recently, at a campaign stop in Florida, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann said she would consider a reduction in the minimum wage. This is the first time she’s expressed this as a Presidential candidate. She has previously said that abolishing the minimum wage would “wipe out unemployment completely, because we would be able to offer jobs at whatever level.”
Since Bachmann could very well be the Republican nominee for President, it’s important to consider the implications of this statement.
The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, which accounting for inflation is lower than it was 30 years ago. A worker who gets paid the minimum wage for 40 hours a week would make $15,080 – before taxes. For an individual, that’s barely above the poverty line, and if you have a child to care for, that amount becomes even more stringent.
If President Michele Bachmann were to fulfill this promise and abolish the minimum wage, what would happen to the 4.4 million Americans currently making the bare legal minimum - or less?
For one thing, unemployment would absolutely not disappear, as Bachmann claims. Lowering or eliminating the minimum wage would act as the opposite of a stimulus; the low-wage workers who spend income the fastest would have even less than the small amount they have to provide for themselves and their families. That would hurt overall demand, which would hurt the businesses that rely on that fast cash, which in turn would make it harder for them to hire. And that hurts the whole economy.
In a broader sense, abolishing the minimum wage would make it practically impossible for millions of Americans to survive. In 2011, $15,000 a year is barely enough for an individual, and if a worker has a child to care for, those costs create an untenable, unstable situation for millions of American families. As one editorial stated: “the United States is too rich to tolerate such an underclass.”
It’s heartbreaking to think that anyone would advocate paying third-world wages to American workers, let alone someone who wants to be our President.