The Minimum Wage and the Doom of the GOP

Alain Rossi, a restaurant worker in London, protests against employers who pay less than the U.K.’s minimum wage.

Photo by Cate Gillon/Getty Images

If you want to get a sense of how profoundly doomed the Republican Party is in terms of efforts to appeal to mainstream American economic interests, you just need to look at the debate over raising the minimum wage. We know two things about this issue. One is that minimum wage hikes are super popular. The other is that there are a lot of doubts about the minimum wage, especially as to how optimal it is, among elite types.

One thing Republicans could do in response to President Obama’s popular plan to help economically struggling Americans is say “yes” and vote for it. But obviously they won’t do that.


So something else they could do is take up one of several alternative policies that economists tend to like better. They could embrace a larger Earned Income Tax Credit. They could embrace a Guaranteed Basic Income. They could target their assistance at families with a bigger refundable child tax credit. But they’re not going to do any of those things either. Nor are they going to say that the real solution is expansionary monetary policy to create tight labor markets and the chance for workers to obtain higher market wages without government intervention. They’re just going to offer nothing, until at some point Democrats have enough seats to pass the minimum wage hike or a handful of Republicans defect and join them.

This isn’t because there are no conservative thinkers with better ideas than a minimum wage hike, but because none of those ideas will be embraced in practice by Republican politicians or deployed by the conservative movement in any way other than as a smokescreen.