I’ve been hitting Rep. Dave Reichert pretty hard on his uncompromising opposition to raising the federal minimum wage, which at $5.15/hour now sits at a 50-year low, adjusted for inflation. So I thought it only fair to ask the Congressman to explain his position.
I didn’t get a direct quote from Reichert, but his press secretary Kimberly Cadena was kind enough to respond. She wrote:
Congressman Reichert voted no because he believes that minimum wage should be dictated by economic indicators and state and local governments, not the federal government. That principle works successfully in Washington State, which has one of the highest minimum wage rates in the country, higher than the current federal minimum wage rate. Even if the proposed federal minimum wage increase had passed, Washington State’s minimum wage rate is still higher than the proposed increase.
Hmm. This seems to indicate that Reichert supports Washington state’s minimum wage, but opposes one nationally. Yet this not only puts Reichert in the uncomfortable position of denying to other Americans the same benefits offered to his constituents at home, it also seems to put him at odds with the Washington State Republican Party’s own platform, whose section on “economic opportunity” includes:
Reforming the current Washington State minimum wage law to make Washington businesses more competitive.
So… if as Reichert (or at least, his press secretary) says, his principle on the minimum wage “works successfully in Washington State,” how exactly does one reform it to make WA businesses “more competitive?”
Here’s a suggestion: raise the federal minimum wage to $7.25/hour so that our businesses are on a more level playing field with those in neighboring states.
Barring that, Reichert is left in a kinda logical bind. If he claims that WA state’s nation-high minimum wage has not hurt the competitiveness of our state’s businesses, thus refuting the WSRP plank that calls for reform, he undermines the argument that raising the federal minimum wage would hurt the competitiveness of businesses nationwide. Yet if he supports the competitiveness premise of the plank, but refuses to level the playing field by raising the federal minimum wage, he’s really only left with one option: lowering WA’s minimum wage to bring it in line with other states — the lowest common denominator approach.
No doubt different states have different economic conditions and different costs of living, so if one believes in a minimum wage one can make a reasonable argument that it should vary somewhat from state to state. But we’re not talking about mandating anything close to a living wage here — even at $7.25 an hour a full time worker would earn well below the poverty line. The federal minimum wage is merely a floor below which the race to the bottom by low-wage employers can go no further. Like WA, other states can always set their minimum wage higher.
So I it leaves me wondering… does Reichert really support the concept of a minimum wage at all, or does he just assume it’s not such a big deal to his own constituents because they’re already covered via state initiative?
I just have a hard time understanding how the highest minimum wage in the nation “works successfully” here in WA state, yet raising it elsewhere would somehow hurt businesses and workers nationally. Perhaps Kimberly will explain further.