LOWEST OF THE LOW: Does Arkansas's low state on wages make it ripe for political exploitation?
Jonathan Martin of the New York Times reports today
on using the minimum wage
as a political tool. in 2014.
With polls showing widespread support for an increase in the $7.25-per-hour federal minimum wage among both Republican and Democratic voters, top Democrats see not only a wedge issue that they hope will place Republican candidates in a difficult position, but also a tool with which to enlarge the electorate in a nonpresidential election, when turnout among minorities and youths typically drops off.
As we've written before,
“It puts Republicans on the wrong side of an important value issue when it comes to fairness,” said Dan Pfeiffer, the president’s senior adviser. “You can make a very strong case that this will be a helpful issue for Democrats in 2014. But the goal here is to actually get it done. That’s why the president put it on the agenda.”
labor and progressive groups are already at work on an initiative campaign to raise Arkansas's
bottom-of-the-barrel $6.25 state minimum wage. The groups have polls showing strong support for an increase in Arkansas, just as they did the last time a threatened initiative campaign prompted capitulation by the business lobby to a small increase. The proposal this time is modest — a phase-in to $8.50 an hour, but no permanent indexing of the rate to inflation.
Can a better wage for honest toil lift Democratic candidates against the likely opposition from Arkansas Republicans? Against the incessant incantation of Obama? It is a state that proudly and defiantly votes against interest time and again. I could even see the state voting FOR a wage increase while voting FOR candidates (think Cotton, Hutchinson) who stoutly opposed a minimum wage increase.
No harm in trying. A higher minimum wage won't hurt the economy. It would help. A better wage, many believe, helps small businesses by encouraging stable, more dependable workforces. There's a cost in training and retraining high-turnover, bottom-wage workforces.