Romney Ends Up On Right Side Of Minimum Wage Flip-Flop

Isaiah J. Poole

Former Campaign for America’s Future staffer Anne Thompson got a scoop this past weekend when she asked presidential candidate Mitt Romney about his position on the minimum wage, and he responded by saying he supported indexing the minimum wage “so it adjusts automatically over time” with inflation.

This is not welcome news on the right, where opposition to raising the minimum wage—and in fact, opposition to any minimum wage at all—is red-hot. And sure enough, Republican candidate Newt Gingrich, when Thompson asked Gingrich if he agreed with Romney, responded with an unequivocal, “No, and I’m surprised that that is his position.” In fact, Gingrich is recorded as opposing any sort of minimum wage. (Gingrich is not alone: Republican candidates Ron Paul and Rick Perry and former candidates Herman Cain and Michelle Bachmann are among the leading Republicans who have gone on record criticizing minimum wage laws.)

Gingrich’s surprise is understandable, given that an earlier incarnation of Romney is quoted in Conservapedia, a right-wing version of Wikipedia, as opposing a minimum-wage-increase measure when he was Massachusetts governor because “there’s no question raising the minimum wage excessively causes a loss of jobs.” But that was then. As the National Employment Law Project points out, “recent polling found that two-thirds of Americans – a bipartisan majority – support raising the minimum wage to $10 and then indexing it to inflation to keep up with the rising cost of living.”

While we will continue to attack Romney’s brand of vulture capitalism, he’s right that the wages of minimum wage workers should keep pace with inflation, and that is one of the most important ways we can boost the economy.

Here’s more, from the National Employment Law Project:

The National Employment Law Project Action Fund applauded Romney’s support for raising the minimum wage to keep up with the rising cost of living. “Raising the minimum wage helps working families who are struggling to make ends meet and generates additional consumer spending that our economy desperately needs,” said Christine Owens of the National Employment Law Project Action Fund. “While Governor Romney’s economic platform is  largely a giveaway to the 1 percent, his support for automatic increases in the minimum wage to keep up with inflation is one policy that will help the Main Street economy–and the families who live and work there–recover.”

At a campaign event Monday in Hudson, New Hampshire, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich expressed surprise at Romney’s stance. When asked if he shares the same position as Governor Romney, Gingrich said, “No, and I’m surprised that’s his position.” Video of Mr. Gingrich’s response to Mr. Romney is available here.

Mr. Romney’s support for indexing sharply contrasts with recent Republican-led efforts to weaken minimum wage laws in the past year in states such as New Hampshire, Maine, Ohio, Florida and Missouri.  In Florida and Missouri, legislators have taken direct aim at statutes that provide for annual indexing of the minimum wage.

Ten states have adopted the practice pegging the minimum wage to the Consumer Price Index so that it automatically increases to keep pace with the cost of living. Last week, eight of these states increased their minimum wages between 28 and 37 cents. The minimum wage increases that took place on January 1 in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Washington, and Vermont raised wages for more than 1.4 million workers. The increased consumer spending generated by the raises will lead to an additional $366 million in GDP and create the equivalent of more than 3,000 full-time jobs, according to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute.

Romney’s statement reaffirms a position he first took when running for Massachusetts Governor in 2002, but later appeared to back away from when he ran for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.  Conservatives such as Sen. Pat Toomey have criticized Romney’s position in the past, saying, “I think that indexing the minimum wage is a problem for Gov. Romney.”

During the 2008 presidential campaign, President Obama endorsed raising the federal minimum wage to $9.50 by 2011 and then indexing it based on the Consumer Price Index.  The federal minimum is currently $7.25 per hour, or roughly $15,000 a year for a full-time worker.  If it had been indexed based on the Consumer Price Index since 1968, it would be approximately $10.40 today.

“While Mr. Romney’s support for raising the minimum wage to keep up with inflation is a step in the right direction, President Obama’s proposal to raise the minimum wage by more than $2 and subsequently index it to inflation goes significantly further toward restoring the value of the minimum wage, which has declined dramatically in the last 40 years,” said Owens.

More background on the minimum wage can be found at www.raisetheminimumwage.org.

Comments