Here’s California Republican Rep. Tom McClintock explaining why he wants to keep the minimum wage at a poverty level out of compassion and concern for workers:
“Only [raise the minimum wage] if you want to rip the first rung in the ladder of opportunity for teenagers, for minorities, for people who are trying to get into the job market for their first job.The minimum wage doesn’t support a family. We all know that. Itâ€™s not supposed to support a family. The minimum wage is that first job when you have no skills, no experience, no working history. Thatâ€™s how you get into the job market, thatâ€™s how you develop that experience, develop that work record, get your first raise, then your next raise, then your promotion. That’s the first rung of opportunity.
If your labor as an unskilled person just entering the workforce is worth say $7 an hour at a job and the minimum wage is $10, you have just been made permanently unemployable. That first rung of the economic ladder has been ripped out and you canâ€™t get on it. That is a tragedy.”
It’s mostly the same old Republican blah-blah-blah pretending that the workers making minimum wage and just above (but who would still get a raise if the minimum wage went up) are teenagers ascending some glorious ladder of opportunity. In reality, most industries that pay the minimum wage have one really, really wide rung of that ladder for people making the minimum wage, and incredibly narrow rungs at the “supporting a family” levels, and a lot of people with kids and families are stuck on that wide bottom rung that McClintock admits won’t support a family.
But there’s one fascinating difference in what McClintock said: “for teenagers, for minorities, for people who are trying to get into the job market for their first job.” You know, people who make the minimum wageâ€”minorities and teenagers. People whose “labor as an unskilled person just entering the workforce is worth say $7 an hour at a job.” Seriously, he just swept “minorities” into the hopper with teenagers and people who’ve never had a job as people who cannot possibly expect to be paid enough to raise a family and would be rendered “permanently unemployable” if for some insane reason the government were to require companies to pay them family-supporting money. He just … kinda casually tossed that one in, like it wasn’t worth a second thought, any more than the reality that most minimum wage workers are not teenagers was worth a second thought. It’s stunning.
This article originally appeared in dailykos.com on January 22, 2015. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Laura ClawsonÂ Daily Kos contributing editor since December 2006. Labor editor since 2011