President Obama’s State of the Union address tonight will reportedly emphasize “efforts to boost wages and mobility.” That’s welcome news, but I’m more interested in what the President and his fellow Democrats do and say after the speech. The last two years have not been encouraging.
Tonight let's declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty and raise the Federal minimum wage to $9 an hour. [...] So here's an idea that Governor Romney and I actually agreed on last year: Let's tie the minimum wage to the cost of living so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on.
The United States Senate, controlled at the time by President Obama’s fellow Democrats, held zero votes on raising the minimum wage in 2013.
In the year since I asked this Congress to raise the minimum wage, five States have passed laws to raise theirs. [...] Of course, to reach millions more, Congress does need to get on board.
The United States Senate, controlled at the time by President Obama’s fellow Democrats, held one vote on raising the minimum wage in 2014.
After that vote failed in April, Democrats were supposedly going to make “raising the minimum wage the main weapon in their 2014 electoral arsenal” by “bringing the bill up for a vote again and again throughout the summer and fall.” It was a good idea -- one I’ve been urging for years -- but I never thought they’d act on it. And they didn’t. Democrats simply don’t do that kind of thing anymore. Instead of repeatedly forcing votes on incredibly popular policies that Republicans oppose, they hold one vote, then snicker as Republicans hold dozens of votes on repealing Obamacare. And, as a result, the national political debate for the past several years has been much more about repealing Obamacare than about raising the minimum wage.
And then the elections happened, and Democrats got routed -- and, at the same time, minimum wage increases passed in all five states in which they appeared on the ballot, including solidly conservative Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota. Which shouldn’t really surprise anyone: Raising the minimum wage is quite popular, just about all the time, just about everywhere. Democrats should behave accordingly.
The minimum wage is just one example. Economic policies that help the poor and middle class are better and more popular than economic policies that help the rich at the expense of the poor and middle class. But if Democrats don’t behave accordingly, they won’t reap the benefits -- and, more importantly, we’ll be stuck with bad economic policy.