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Missouri's Republican Senate candidates may not know what the minimum wage is, but they're in agreement on one thing: It shouldn't be raised. No, whatever the minimum wage is, it's plenty as far as Rep. Todd Akin, businessman John Brunner, and former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman are concerned.

The minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, which means $15,080 for a year of full-time work, just under the poverty threshold for a family of two. Of course, these candidates for United States Senate don't know that. Asked during a radio debate what the minimum wage is and if they'd support increasing it, all three showed just how little they know.

Steelman, the only candidate to offer a specific guess for the minimum wage—getting it wrong at $7.50—offered a slightly garbled version of a classic argument against raising the minimum, that "young people sometimes can't find jobs because they're taken by other people and they don't pay a lower wage ... are unable to pay a lower wage because of the minimum wage so that squeezes jobs out." Akin, too, claimed that raising the minimum wage would cost teenagers the chance to get experience at the low pay they are, according to him, worth.

The line that teenagers won't be able to get jobs is a multipurpose argument that raising the minimum wage will lead to fewer jobs and that teenagers working part-time jobs are the only people making minimum wage anyway. But in fact, this is wrong on both counts: "a majority of minimum wage earners are adults working many hours and living in low-income households," and studies show "that an increase in the minimum wage has a small—and even positive—impact on employment."

That set of myths wasn't Akin's only objection to raising the minimum wage, though. He actually opposes its existence altogether, saying it's "Just another example of a wrong thing that the government does. I don't think the government should be setting the prices or wages on different things, I don't think that's the function of the government."

As for the extremely wealthy Brunner, he didn't know what the minimum wage is and, clearly taken aback at being asked about something as esoteric as how much businesses must legally pay their workers, and gave a nonsensical, buzzword-laden answer about how his business had always paid more than the minimum wage. Which is ... not at all helpful for everyone who doesn't work for him.

Missouri Republicans sure face a fantastic set of choices.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Fri Mar 16, 2012 at 01:32 PM PDT.

Also republished by Kansas City Kossaks and Daily Kos.

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