In something that shouldn’t come as a surprise, at all Republicans have already announced their opposition to a minimum-wage hike. Here’s House Speaker John Boehner, throwing cold water on the proposal:
“I’ve been dealing with the minimum wage issue for the last 28 years that I’ve been in elected office,” Boehner told reporters at a press conference, arguing that raising the minimum wage would hurt people trying to climb the “ladders of opportunity” that Obama mentioned in his speech.
“When you raise the price of employment, guess what happens? You get less of it. At a time when Americans are still asking the question, ‘where are the jobs?’ why would we want to make it harder for small employers to hire people?” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell complained that President Obama “spoke of workers’ minimum wages, instead of their maximum potential,” and Florida Senator Marco Rubio did the same when asked about the issue on CBS This Morning:
“I don’t think a minimum-wage law works,” Rubio said on “CBS This Morning.” "I want people to make a lot more than $9. Nine dollars is not enough. The problem is that you can’t do that by mandating it in the minimum-wage laws. Minimum-wage laws have never worked in terms of helping the middle class attain more prosperity.
What’s a little funny is that this comes immediately after Republicans (by way of Rubio) made an explicit effort to appeal to voters—Latinos and other minorities—who disproportionately rely on the minimum wage. And accordingly, these are the voters most supportive of efforts to hike the minimum wage. In a survey conducted before the election, Democratic polling firm Lake Research Partners found that 73 percent of Americans—including 85 percent of Latinos—supported raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour, $1 higher than President Obama’s proposal. Fifty-six percent of Americans believe a higher minimum wage would help the economy, and only 20 percent oppose a hike.
None of this is to say that Republicans should support a higher minimum wage. The GOP works in the interest of business owners—I wouldn’t expect them to support new regulations that burden with higher costs. But if Republicans are going to stand against a popular proposal, they should offer an alternative—something to show that they are concerned with stagnant wages, and committed to building a country where hard work guarantees a decent life. There’s nothing about conservatism that precludes Republicans from expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, or structuring welfare programs so that they supplement recipients with continued cash as they work.
But today’s Republicans aren’t just “conservative”—they’re committed to a revanchist ideology that stands against the whole idea of constructive government, and works to nullify attempts at majoritarian action. In that playground, there’s a lot of space to run around, but not much to do. On this, and every other proposal in the State of the Union, we can’t expect anything more than opposition from the GOP—it’s all that’s left.