Today’s new Pew poll confirms that raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour is an overwhelmingly popular idea, that commands majority support from self-identified Republican voters. I’m not one who believs in the vox populi vox dei theory of governance, but as I wrote in my post on the minimum wage and the doom of the GOP a viable political party has to have something to offer in the face of these kind of numbers.
And the problem Republicans face on the minimum wage front isn’t that their stance is less popular than the Democrats’ stance. It’s that not only is their stance less popular, but they’re not offering any alternative policies to help low-wage workers either. Ideas like the Earned Income Tax Credit or unconditional cash grants have sometimes played a role as proposed market-oriented alternatives to labor market regulation, but the present-day GOP doesn’t seem favorably disposed to either of them. Over the course of this winter, it became clear that Republicans couldn’t even muster enthusiasm for an extended payroll tax holiday as a way to put money in working class pockets. As long-time readers know, my personal obsession is with more stimulative monetary policy that would be a boon to both low-wage workers and to those currently trapped outside formal labor markets but Republicans don’t support that either.
So with no affirmative agenda to assist low-wage workers, the debate will continue to be framed around the Democrats’ overwhelmingly popular minimum wage proposal and it’ll pass. Probably not in this congress, but perhaps in the next.