Will conservative Democrats never learn? Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) is facing a tough re-election battle in Arkansas, which is both a low-income state and the home of Walmart. So what position is he taking when it comes to raising the minimum wage, which would pull many of his constituents out of poverty but require Walmart to pay higher wages? If you guessed “he’d find a way to be mealymouthed and spineless,” give yourself a gold star.
On the one hand, Pryor kinda sorta supports a state ballot initiative that would raise the Arkansas minimum wage to a whopping $8.50 an hour over three years. (The state currently has a $6.25 minimum wage on the books, below the federal level, so that’s the initiative’s starting point.) On the other hand, Pryor opposes raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10:
“I know $10.10 still isn’t a whole lot of money, but I think it’s too much, too fast,” Pryor, who is seeking a third Senate term, said in an interview at the Capitol. “I’m not supportive of that.”
Seriously. It’s not much, but it’s too much for the poors, apparently. That’s $21,000 a year for a full-time worker, enough to get a family of three out of poverty, but leaving them well within food stamp eligibility.
Meanwhile, 52 percent of Arkansas voters support raising the minimum wage to $10 while just 38 percent are opposed, according to a Public Policy Polling poll, with 47 percent saying they’d be more likely to vote for a candidate who supported raising the minimum wage. Maybe that’s why Pryor went way out on a limb to say raising the state minimum wage all the way to $8.50 over three years is “a pretty reasonable approach.” But he should look at another question in that poll: 73 percent agreed with the statement that “Someone who works full-time should be paid enough to keep them out of poverty.” That’s your winning argument, and it points to a wage well above $8.50. Except that apparently Walmart’s money (they’re Pryor’s sixth-largest campaign donor) speaks more loudly—and Pryor doesn’t seem to get that being Walmart’s lapdog won’t make them go to bat for him over a Republican.
This article was originally printed on Daily Kos on February 7, 2014. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Laura Clawson is the labor editor at the Daily Kos.