Flip-Flop-Flip: Now Romney Ends Up On Wrong Side Of Minimum Wage Flip-Flop

Isaiah J. Poole

In January I called attention to the work of our former colleague Anne Thompson, who captured video of presidential candidate Mitt Romney saying that he supported ensuring that the minimum wage kept pace with inflation.

“My view has been to allow the minimum wage to rise with the CPI [consumer price index] or with another index so it adjusts automatically over time,” he said in response to a question from Thompson.

It took a little while, but presidential candidate Mitt Romney has taken issue with what presidential candidate Mitt Romney said about the minimum wage.

In an interview with Larry Kudlow on CNBC on Monday, Romney indicated he was against any automatic adjustment of the minimum wage. (Discussion begins at about 4:50.)

Instead of indexing the minimum wage so that it keeps pace with inflation, he told Kudlow, “Frankly the right way to process it is to look at the minimum wage, look at how how unemployment rates are, make adjustments as time goes on based on the need to compete, the need of the job market and of course what’s happened to inflation.”

At one point during the answer, he even mentions the need to consider wages in “other nations” in setting our own minimum wage, raising the specter of our minimum wage decisions being based on what countries such as China pay their workers.

Once again, it’s the National Employment Law Project that is calling Romney on what is now a flip-flop-flip. First he was against raising the minimum wage: 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.” Then he was for it. And now he is against it. NELP added details in a press statement this afternoon.

Yesterday Romney also mischaracterized the position he took on the minimum wage as governor, when he supported automatic increases in the minimum wage tied to inflation. In the interview with Kudlow, he said that as Governor “the proposal I made, every two years, we should look at the minimum wage, we should see what’s happened to inflation, we should also look at the jobs level throughout the country, unemployment rate, competitive rates in other states or, in this case, other nations.” In fact, Romney’s expressed proposal as Governor and when he ran for the Senate in 1994 would have created automatic increases in the minimum wage based solely on inflation.

As reported by the Boston Globe in 2006, “As a candidate for governor in 2002, Romney proposed indexing the minimum wage to inflation and boosting the hourly pay for the state’s lowest-paid workers to $6.96 an hour starting January 2004. In March 2005, he was quoted as saying he supported raising the minimum wage to keep up with inflation.”

“As recently as last month, Governor Romney’s stated position on the minimum wage was quite clear. But with his latest flip flop, where he actually stands on this critical issue is as clear as mud,” said Chris Owens of the National Employment Law Project Action Fund. “With this new-found opposition to a minimum wage increase, Gov. Romney has made perfectly clear he is out of touch with the economic reality of low-wage workers and out of step with the large majority of Americans who support a fair increase in the minimum wage.”

Raising the minimum wage draws support from all income groups and political parties, including majorities of independent voters and Republicans. 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. If it had been indexed based on the Consumer Price Index since 1968, it would be approximately $10.40 today.

On this issue, the January Romney happened to be right. The March Romney is dangerously wrong, especially for suggesting that our minimum wage policies should enable the desire of multinational corporations to win a wage race to the bottom.

We hope that the April Romney will repudiate this position.

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