Sunday, May 25, 2014

Rationalizing the GOP's Kamizake on the Minimum Wage

The Republicans in congress are repeating the tired argument that, despite the rate of inflation since 2007, any increase in the minimum wage would derail the economic recovery. To their credit, though, the Congressional Budget Office reported that many jobs could disappear at Obama’s desired $10.10 minimum wage. Indeed, job shops like coupon processing centers; and fast food outlets, which rely on lots of low-cost labor, would be hurt if their labor costs increased by 39% (not including the Health Care mandate)- the proposed change in the minimum wage. Tell me a business that has a 40% profit margin, and I’ll like to be in it. This is the math that many small and medium business owners and managers face. It is these owners and managers who make campaign contributions and attend local GOP dinners. They are also the ones who show up at the voting booth. Yes, since the days of Abe Lincoln, the GOP has always been the party of business owners and professionals. Now what about the working-class voters who supposedly replaced the liberal professionals in the GOP? Not as large as a problem as the media makes it out to be. The majority of the minimum wage and working-class workers are in thrall to the Democratic Party already. Seeing the results from the 2012 Presidential Election, the majority of those making less than $30,000 per year (or $15 per hour) rejected the candidate who derided the 47%. The common theme is that working class whites vote Republican because of social issues and cultural concerns, against their economic self-interest. But this is not entirely true, since Bubba might say: “The illegal immigrants are taking our jobs”. Or, the pest exterminator’s apprentice, who is worried that the EPA will increase their paperwork burden. Anyhow, the Democrats believe that they have a winning message in wanting to raise the minimum wage. Or, on the flip side, make the GOP look like a bunch of bitter, stingy grinches. To the middle class Republican voting base, making $30,000 per year, but not yet a manager or owner, $7.25 versus $10 per hour is semantics. Perhaps, even, they are worried that they will lose a pay raise, as wages are redistributed downwards in businesses with tight margins. To others, it becomes a matter of perception of the GOP: Do you feel that your party cares about the working poor? Yes or No? Then there is the Texas “miracle” and California “nightmare”. To the Right, anything California is doing is self-destructive. To this element, teaching “gay” in the schools, powerful teachers’ unions, lax enforcement of immigration laws, and a $10 .10 per hour minimum wage (in “lockstep” with Obama-Pelosi-Reid) all contribute to the Golden State’s malaise. But Texas has written a different story over the past 20 years. After putting “that liberal” Ann Richards out of office in 1994, The Bush-Perry model of social and fiscal conservatism has led to booming business, better public colleges, and millions of proud Texans. If it works (that is, keep the GOP in office), then don’t change it. For working-class Republican voters, the reasons for “voting against one’s economic interests” are simpler- guns and religion: Mistrust of the “gimmick”: After all, the party of Pelosi wants to take away your “assault” rifles while at the same time give murderers a free pass from the electric chair. Or there is a religious element: The San Francisco “devil incarnate” promises a pay raise, but only if I vote for secularism in the public sphere and for abortion on demand. As Jesus resisted temptation, so must I. This made it clear to me why some Republicans really hate “RINOs”- that is, fiscal conservatives with socially liberal leanings. One meme read: “Moderates… they’re more…electable?”, interlaced with sad photos of Bob Dole, John McCain and Mitt Romney. If the GOP were to be taken over by anything less than a firm stand on social issues, then Bubba has little incentive to vote Republican. Enter West Virginia. Bucking the southern trend, the Democratic Party still wins the white working class vote. There may be some union influence- particularly among coal workers- but it’s that the Democrats there know what the voters want. While recent Democrats running for the presidency have lost by ever increasing margins in that state. (Yes, Bill Clinton carried it twice), local Democrats have been able to paint themselves not as gun-grabbers or elite secularists, but as “for the working man”. The risk for them is the “D” next to their name. So they don’t attend the Party Conventions, put a bullet through Cap-and-Trade, and attack Obama in their campaign ads with as much zeal as a conservative Republican. With a candidate who is pro-gun, moderately pro-life, opposes the Welfare Queens, and talks about “securing the (southern) border”, Bubba can be sold on liberal economics. As for this year’s elections, each state has a different dynamic. In Massachusetts, Connecticut and Oregon, a redo of the close Governor elections in 2010. In Maryland and New York, rural conservatives versus urban liberals, with suburbanites breaking a tie. In Virginia, the GOP wants to reestablish their 1990’s-era mandate by winning a statewide election for the first time since 2009, despite nail-biter races in 2013 (McAuliffe (D), didn’t break 50%...Obenshain (R) for AG, 163 ballots short of 2 million cast… GOP control of the State Senate, 11 ballots shy). In the more liberal states, social issues have been decided, and the minimum wage has already been raised. The question for GOP candidates in these liberal states is if the recalcitrance of Southern, Western, and rural republicans will tarnish their otherwise credible campaigns.