Democrats see benefits from Obama’s long-shot minimum wage push

U.S. President Barack Obama smiles as he plays on the 18th hole during a round of golf at Mid Pacific Country Club in Kailua, Hawaii December 23, 2013. Credit: Reuters
U.S. President Barack Obama smiles as he plays on the 18th hole during a round of golf at Mid Pacific Country Club in Kailua, Hawaii December 23, 2013. Credit: Reuters

President Barack Obama’s push to raise the minimum wage will almost certainly fail due to stiff Republican opposition, but analysts and Democratic strategists say the issue could help Democratic Congressional candidates in the 2014 midterm elections.

Focusing on an apparently quixotic effort to raise the minimum wage in 2014 allows the president to show support for working people and could help Democratic candidates change the subject from the disastrous rollout of the Affordable Care Act.

And a Republican rejection of the proposal to boost the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 would help Democrats portray them as unconcerned with the plight of working Americans and siding with the wealthy.

“It has an appeal with a broad segment of the public,” said Carroll Doherty of the Pew Research Center. “And it draws very strong support within his own partisan base. This is something that his party cares deeply about.”

The issue may also help unite liberals in the Democratic party base with more centrist party members.

“On any number of issues, the Democratic base thinks he’s moved too far to the center and the center thinks he’s moved too far to the left,” said Dan Schnur at the University of Southern California. “The minimum wage is one of those rare issues where he gets support from both.”

Polls show strong support for raising the minimum wage, something administration officials cite in justifying the current push. A Washington Post-ABC news poll released last Wednesday showed support for raising the minimum wage from $7.25 has support among 85 percent of Democrats and 50 percent of Republicans.

“It tends to be a very popular issue with the public, it tends to be a very popular issue with independents,” White House Council of Economic Advisers Chair Jason Furman told a think tank group last week.

SERVICE INDUSTRY JOBS

Obama called for raising the minimum wage to $9 in his 2013 State of the Union speech in February and has since backed a rise to $10.10 an hour. He revived the issue in speeches on his vision for strengthening the middle class in July and earlier this month, saying that raising the minimum could help combat increasing income inequality.

Government data show about 3.6 million hourly workers at or below the federal minimum in 2012. They make up about 4.7 percent of the nation’s hourly-paid workers, a share that has been declining.

Minimum wage workers work predominantly in service jobs such as food preparation, sales and nurses’ aides. The companies employing the most minimum wage workers are Wal-Mart; Yum! Brands, which owns Taco Bell and Pizza Hut; and McDonald’s.

The U.S. minimum wage, last increased in 2009, stands well below its inflation-adjusted high of about $10.50 an hour in 1968. Some 20 states and the District of Columbia have set minimum wages higher than the federal minimum, with the state of Washington at the top with a $9.19 minimum, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

HIGHER WAGE, FEWER JOBS?

White House aides say raising the minimum wage is a key element for the president’s 2014 agenda aimed at improving the fortunes of the middle class, and a senior administration official told Reuters that a series of one-day strikes by food workers in 100 cities across the country seeking a $15 an hour wage has helped bring the issue to the forefront.

The restaurant industry called the $15 demand unrealistic, and industry officials said it could lead to fast-food price rises of 25 percent to 50 percent.

Republicans, conservatives and segments of the business community oppose raising the minimum wage. Opponents such as the National Federation of Independent Business say small businesses would suffer, low-skilled workers would lose job opportunities and consumers would face higher prices.

The House voted 233-184 in March to defeat a bid by Democrats to raise the minimum wage. All 227 Republican members voted against it.

Academic economists differ on the impact of increasing the minimum wage. Many economists say higher labor costs would result in fewer jobs. But many studies, including one co-written by former Obama White House Council of Economic Advisers Chair Alan Krueger, have shown a modest increase in the minimum wage does not affect employment levels much, if at all.

That is because employers can take a number of steps to absorb higher labor costs, such as squeezing more productivity out of their workers, cutting wages for higher-paid employees, or raising prices.

The White House has been promoting legislation proposed by Senator Tom Harkin and Representative George Miller, which includes a sweetener allowing small businesses to deduct up to $500,000 annually in spending on equipment or expansion.

“The last time we raised the minimum wage it was signed into law by President (George W.) Bush,” said Furman. “….There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to do something like that.”


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Breaking: Local

Judge rules Tsarnaev can view victim autopsy photos

Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev can view the autopsy photographs of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

International

Nearly 300 missing after South Korean ferry capsizes

Almost 300 people were missing after a ferry capsized off South Korea Wednesday, in what could be the country's biggest maritime disaster in over 20 years.

Local

Tsarnaev defense lawyers in court Wednesday, seek family…

Lawyers for accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are due in court Wednesday to ask a judge to order prosecutors to hand over more information on the defendant's family.

News

Explosions in new Boston Marathon bomb panic, 'twisted'…

A fresh Boston Marathon terror alert, which caused Bomb Squad officers to order an evacuation while two controlled explosions were carried out, was today being…

Television

TV watch list, Wednesday, April 16: 'The Americans,'…

'The Americans' Philip and Elizabeth face "painful turns" in their missions. Maybe next week they'll have a nice easy mission with no moral ambiguity? Probably…

Going Out

Pastoral provides a country feel in the big…

One thing any packrat crafter will note on walking into Pastoral is how much fun chef/owner Todd Winer undoubtedly had in designing this, his first…

Television

'Orphan Black's' Jordan Gavaris talks Felix's Season 2…

Jordan Gavaris plays heroically helpful foster sibling Felix to main clone Sarah on "Orphan Black." We talked to him about what’s ahead for him in…

Television

TV watch list, Tuesday, April 15: 'New Girl,'…

'New Girl' Nick and Jess are hiding their breakup from the other loft residents. And Winston passes the police academy exam! That guy needed some…

MLB

MLB video highlights: White Sox beat Red Sox…

Red Sox fall on walk-off error to White Sox

NBA

NBA Draft Lottery day is May 20: Celtics…

NBA Draft Lottery day is Tuesday, May 20: Celtics percentage odds for a top overall pick

MLB

Opinion: Major League Baseball replay system shouldn't be…

Opinion: Major League Baseball replay system shouldn't be dumped just yet

NHL

Bruins - Red Wings preview: David Krejci ready…

Bruins - Red Wings preview: David Krejci ready to erupt once again in playoffs

Wellbeing

Could a facelift give you the edge at…

It's not just women lining up for procedures.

Home

Steal home decorating tips from Nattystyle blogger Natalie…

Despite the towering ceilings and enviable exposed brick, it’s easy to see how Natalie Decleve’s apartment could be considered a challenge. Perched above the streets…

Home

How to plant a garden in the city

Small on space but big on gardening? You can still have that welcoming oasis of fresh air with an urban garden. Peter Smith, owner of…

Style

Victoria's Secret Fashion Show moving to England

It will still broadcast on CBS this fall.