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Tilting at Windmills

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October 5, 2010

AND THEN THERE WERE FOUR (AND MAYBE FIVE).... I have to admit, it really never occurred to me the existence of the minimum wage could be a campaign issue in 2010. And yet, here we are.

Last week, Republican Senate hopeful Linda McMahon of Connecticut, the wealthy and scandal-plagued wrestling company executive, suggested it's time to consider lowering the minimum wage. Over the weekend, extremist Senate candidate Joe Miller (R) of Alaska went even further, arguing that the entire concept of the minimum wage is unconstitutional and should be eliminated.

But as yesterday progressed, the list of GOP Senate candidates hostile towards the minimum wage grew even longer.

Democrats believe a handful of GOP Senate contenders in pivotal races have opened themselves up to a lethal line of attack on the minimum wage.

As of Monday, 4 Republicans running for the Senate in Alaska, Connecticut, West Virginia and Washington have made controversial statements opposing the minimum wage. To be sure, some have gone farther than others, but Democrats believe that the statements are political death wishes as unemployment holds steady around 10%.

Democrats view the issue as a base energizer, particularly among union members. They also plan to use the statements to show that Republicans are out of touch and out of the mainstream for their states -- a line of attack they have already been using in most of these states. Don't be surprised to see these statements in campaign ads soon.

McMahon in Connecticut raised the prospect of a wage decrease, and in the state of Washington, Senate hopeful Dino Rossi has made similar remarks. West Virginia's John Raese, meanwhile, is more in line with Alaska's Miller, and has been candid in his demand that the minimum wage be eliminated altogether. We could arguably say there are five Senate GOP candidates on the list, because Kentucky's Rand Paul has also questioned whether the minimum wage should exist.

Remember when the Republican Party used to champion a "living wage"? Its candidates don't.

It's difficult to choose the most radical of the bunch, though Raese proclaimed just a couple of weeks ago, "I profess [sic] that minimum wage be eliminated and we operate on the laws of supply and demand just like we did before the Depression." Raese also told CNN yesterday that Tea Partiers are too liberal, adding, "Minimum wage is something that Franklin Delano Roosevelt put in during the Depression. It didn't work during the Depression, it certainly hasn't worked now."

Even by Republican standards, attacking the very existence of the minimum wage is crazy. I'd like to say it's unpopular, but the idea is so far from the American mainstream, I can't find any polls even asking the question. (Usually, polls ask whether the minimum wage should go up, not whether it should be abolished.)

Put it this way: GOP Senate candidates like Raese and Miller are talking about going back to a time when child labor was legal, and when pillars of American society like Social Security and Medicare didn't exist.

I know most Americans are unsatisfied with the status quo, and are impatient with the pace of change. I don't know whether Americans are ready to elect nutjobs to the United States Senate.

Steve Benen 8:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (28)

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Comments

-lowering the minimum wage is such a dumb idea, that if I didn't know better I'd say it was a Democrat (sic) proposal. . .

Posted by: DAY on October 5, 2010 at 8:48 AM | PERMALINK

"I profess that minimum wage be eliminated and we operate on the laws of supply and demand just like we did before the Depression."

Yeah, that worked out pretty well then, didn't it? Too bad that kind of unfettered, laissez-faire supply and demand without a minimum wage kinda Caused the Great Depression?

Posted by: kevmo on October 5, 2010 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK

At least now we are able to see the contours of the Republican plan for the American economy:

Everbody gets a cut!

For those at the top it's taxes. For those at the bottom it's wages. What's the difference, as long as everyone gets a piece of the action? Republicans have gone from being a parody of their former selves to a farce, as if they are trying to do Stewart's and Colbert's jobs for them. They should leave comedy to the professionals.

Posted by: broken arrow on October 5, 2010 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

Day at 8:48 AM
He he he , I think therefore I make a boo boo .

Posted by: FRP on October 5, 2010 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

For decades we on the left have been saying that we win on the issues, that if the repugs were forced to state and defend their 'ideas', they'd be doomed. They, however, were clever enough to mask their true intentions, running on culture war issues, until now that is. The rise of the teabaggers is the best thing to happen to our side in some time, and none too soon.

Posted by: BillFromPA on October 5, 2010 at 9:00 AM | PERMALINK

Interesting that Rossi is mentioned. One of his supporters in Vancouver, WA, keeps flooding the Oregonian with smears of FDR and his "Over Taxing the Rich to provide for make work wasted projects such as the CCC and WPA which only extended the Depression".

Ah, for those Golden Days of the Poor House, 16 hour work days six days a week and any small child could prove his or her worth in the mine, factory or in chimney sweeps. But, there are far more Rossi signs in Clark County than those of Sen. Patty Murray. Sad.

Posted by: berttheclock on October 5, 2010 at 9:02 AM | PERMALINK

For people who don't believe in evolution, Republicans sure love their Social Darwinism. On second thought, Darwin might have a hard time explaining how America has "evolved" in the past thirty years. Aside from having an overdeveloped sense of their own self-interests, and a complete disregard for those of others, what competitive advantages do Republicans have?

Posted by: broken arrow on October 5, 2010 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

This kind of supports a theory I've been thinking about for a while now.

A lot of armchair analysis takes the Tea Party stuff as a reflection of public anger at the weak economy - ie people have lost their jobs or see them under threat, think Obama has done a poor job defending them, are receptive to the right-wing economic message etc.

But I'm starting to realize that it's actually the people who haven't been much affected by the recession who are providing the energy for these guys. They're not angry about the economy, they're angry at (as they see it) being asked to part with their hard-earned tax dollars to bail out, not just failed bankers, but failed citizens at the bottom of the ladder as well. I mean really, really angry. Remember the raging CNBC guy from a year and a half ago? I understood the argument that maybe some of the mortgage-modifictation programs were poorly structured. But I could never fathom the rage and resentment, bordering on euphoria, that briefly made this guy a national hero to some.

Now I think I see it better. And it's of a piece with the angry resentment against HCR on the part of those who think the health care system isn't broken, even if it obviously is: the point is, for them it's not broken, because they're not at the lower echelon of the system where they need ever worry about losing benefits. So they resent being asked to bear any burdens to keep others from losing benefits. Same for this opposition to the minimum wage - for tea party voters, the minimum wage is just another welfare program.

It's all a product of a huge, huge lack of empathy by the "winners" from the last five years towards the "losers". And, even more astonishing, it's a lack of empathy transformed into spittle-flecked rage against anyone who might seem to argue that they should offer empathy to the losers. And to the extent that this is becoming ever more widespread it's all deeply depressing.

Posted by: Basilisc on October 5, 2010 at 9:08 AM | PERMALINK

I know most Americans are unsatisfied with the status quo, and are impatient with the pace of change. I don't know whether Americans are ready to elect nutjobs to the United States Senate.

I'll be pleasantly surprised to wake up the morning after the elections to learn that fewer than two of those nutjobs have been elected to the Senate. They're ready, all right.

Posted by: dr. bloor on October 5, 2010 at 9:08 AM | PERMALINK

steve sez:
I know most Americans are unsatisfied with the status quo, and are impatient with the pace of change. I don't know whether Americans are ready to elect nutjobs to the United States Senate.

Huh? Looking at the ones that are in office now, there certainly seems to be no shortage whatsoever of "nutjobs" serving as elected representatives in DC.

You grossly underestimate the stupidity of the American citizenry, Steve.

Posted by: WyldPirate on October 5, 2010 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

"It's all a product of a huge, huge lack of empathy by the 'winners' from the last five years towards the 'losers'. And, even more astonishing, it's a lack of empathy transformed into spittle-flecked rage against anyone who might seem to argue that they should offer empathy to the losers. And to the extent that this is becoming ever more widespread it's all deeply depressing."

Word, Basilisc. I'd intended to post, but you beat me to it, and did it better than I could've. Makes you wonder how the majority of them can still consider themselves christians, doesn't it?

Posted by: azportsider on October 5, 2010 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

Quote: 'for tea party voters, the minimum wage is just another welfare program.'

Nearly every interview of a 'bagger I've seen or read has them being asked if they're on Medicare or collecting SS or any other gummint program, and they are, without fail.

Posted by: BillFromPA on October 5, 2010 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

I remember in the 90s when the GOP was talking about this, I saw several polls that showed around 85% national support for the minimum wage.

Posted by: Speed on October 5, 2010 at 9:27 AM | PERMALINK

"I don't know whether Americans are ready to elect nutjobs to the United States Senate."

Of course they are! Enough of the American voters can be persuaded to support whomever we desire! One of the keys is to suppress the voter turnout of those that we cannot persuade with our massive advertising expenditures.

We will spend whatever it takes to retake the House and Senate and if a few nutjobs are thrown into the mix, so be it! If we could successfully market a war on Iraq, why can we not market a few nutjobs!

Posted by: RepublicanPointOfView on October 5, 2010 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

The real irony here is that the Tea Partiers have tried to take on the brand of the country's founding revolutionaries. But in simple terms, the American Revolution wasn't about being taxed, but about being taxed without representation — and the inequity of the tax dollars going overseas to the wealthy overlords and The Crown.

Well, now you've got a bought-and-paid-for national movement claiming to be anti-taxation and anti-redistribution of wealth, who are more than delighted to do the bidding of their wealthy overlords, making absolutely sure that the hard-earned money of our nation's most underappreciated laborers [those that work for minimum wage] are paid less so that their managers and CEOs can retire in even more absurd wealth. It's redistribution of wealth, too! The irony is it can not possibly help the vast majority of Tea Partiers.

Many Tea Partiers, when amongst themselves, actually express a disdain for the underprivileged. They look forward to the "social Darwinism" [read: "genocide"] that extreme poverty will accomplish in the richest nation in the world.

Posted by: chrenson on October 5, 2010 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

McMahon is walking back her comments. At the debate she insisted she never said she'd lower the minimum wage. Blumenthal did push the issue however--noting that when she was asked if she supported lowering the minimum wage, she stated that she'd think about it.

Posted by: golack on October 5, 2010 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

If you don't have any money, then you can't buy stuff. And "Buying Stuff" is what drives our economy. (or used to, in what we now can call the 'good old days'. . .)

Posted by: DAY on October 5, 2010 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

"If you don't have any money, then you can't buy stuff."

Yes, even the bigot of bigots Henry Ford realized that.

Posted by: berttheclock on October 5, 2010 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, let's lower the minimum wage and start with those sad people in Congress. Let's take away the automatic raise they get every year, the benefits, the extra perks, and only get paid for actual work, not posing for the camera or having grunts do all the work for them. I don't think they will like getting paid for one day a week.
This is one of the reasons unions became so strong and for a party that wants to break unions, they seem to be cutting off their nose to spite their face.

Posted by: Schtick on October 5, 2010 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

apparently, present day conservatives believe the grapes of wrath was a piece of utopian literature.

Posted by: Jamie on October 5, 2010 at 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

Hey, let's also bring back the Draft..... do you love your country? I can see it coming.

Posted by: avahome on October 5, 2010 at 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

re basilisc: "It's all a product of a huge, huge lack of empathy by the "winners" from the last five years towards the "losers"."

I agree, but I think it is more complicated than a simple personality flaw. Generosity and empathy are emotions that flourish in periods of abundance. People get mean when they have to fight for their next meal. What is happening in the US right now is directly related to the rising inequality (see that chart that Kevin Drum posted recently). The short story is that the wealth of the US has been flowing to the top 1% of the population and everyone else--from ~the 99%-ile down--has been losing ground. Even people who are 'winners' by any definition are feeling the ground slip from under them.

If you add to the lack of empathy the inability to think clearly--'down is up' to them--you've got the modern Republican base.

Posted by: PTate in MN on October 5, 2010 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

As I said yesterday, there are clear, simple, and fast campaign themes here: REpubs want to stick it to the working stiff. They have said so, by:

1. wanting to reduce the minimum wage
2. wanting raise soc. security minimum age
3. Make sure the ultra rich don't pay more in taxes


15 second spot: " Do you work for a living? Are you hoping to retire at 65? Want a decent wage? Do you want the ultra rich to pay their fair share? THen vote for ....."


It doesn't matter if the specific candidate supports these or not. Every R vote, anywhere, is a vote against the wage-earning common man and woman. This is not a nuanced issue. Repubs want to stick it hard to the working stiff.

Posted by: bigtuna on October 5, 2010 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

It's all a product of a huge, huge lack of empathy by the "winners" from the last five years towards the "losers".

But are the teabaggers economic "winners"? I haven't seen earnings breakdowns comparing a 'bagger to the national average, but it seems to me that many of them are in fact middling to below average. They are being led around by the nose by the "winners". They are being told who to be angry at. The Tea Party movement is artificial. A bunch of somewhat disaffected people have been whipped into a frenzy by hate radio and TV, forged into a weapon, and aimed at the Obama and the Dems. Many of them are fighting against their own best interests.

Posted by: Tim H on October 5, 2010 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

bigtuna:
15 second spot: " Do you work for a living? Are you hoping to retire at 65? Want a decent wage? Do you want the ultra rich to pay their fair share? THen vote for ....."

Yeah !!
Too bad we don't have a Democrat in the White House to say this stuff
Too bad they HAVEN'T been fighting for the last TWO YEARS
Where's Howard Dean when we Really need him ?
Forget making Robert Gibbs the DNC chair, Bring back Howard Dean

Posted by: frisco on October 5, 2010 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK
A lot of armchair analysis takes the Tea Party stuff as a reflection of public anger at the weak economy
A lot of that armchair analysis comes directly from (or is just repeating things from) the same Scaife- and Koch-funded right-wing lobbying groups that have been funding and organizing the Tea Party movement from its inception.

The Tea Party movement is a movement of the hyper-rich and their dupes, that pushes policies designed to destroy the middle class and economic mobility while placing all meaningful economic and political power in the hands of a narrow elite.

The challenge for the rest of us is helping those who have been duped see that, since the vast majority of the people involved in the movement would be among the victims if its policies were enacted.

Even the elites involved in it are short-sighted, since pretty well established that everyone would do worse, in absolute terms, in the system they prefer, but the elites behind the movement would do better in relative terms, and are clearly more concerned that they do better than everyone else by a wider margin than that they do better on an absolute scale.

Posted by: cmdicely on October 5, 2010 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

You forgot Chris Dudley, Republican nominee for Governor, in Oregon who wants to lower the voter-passed minimum wage. He's a multi-millionaire former basketball player with no government experience, no basketball skills and who moved his residence to Washington State to avoid paying Oregon taxes.

He's an idiot. He's selfish, and he feels entitled -a perfect example of today's Republican party.

Posted by: kitsune on October 5, 2010 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think that Republicans should be considered experts on getting out of economic depressions, their specialty is getting into them.

Posted by: rk on October 5, 2010 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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