Warning to Republicans: Don’t Fall for Obama’s “Income Inequality” Campaign
Avoid the Pitfalls of 2012
President Obama set the stage for 2014 early last December when he delivered a lengthy speech claiming that income inequality was destroying the American middle class.
“I believe this is the defining challenge of our time,” Obama said. “It drives everything I do in this office.”
Income inequality will be the theme of Obama’s State of the Union message. It will be the bedrock of House Democrats and highly vulnerable Senate Democrats running for reelection in red states.
The income inequality theme will continue the class warfare campaign that worked for Obama in 2012. He had a convenient target in Mitt Romney. He relied on the old reliable tactic of demonizing Republicans as selfish, cruel, and heartless.
Now we will hear the push for extension of unemployment benefits and food stamps, plus more and more money for education, infrastructure, and research.
The centerpiece of the Democratic blitz will be an effort to raise the minimum wage. This is one of Obama’s favorites. As usual, his argument is all rhetoric and no facts.
Republicans can begin the debate by citing the facts. Only by removing emotion from the argument and talking sense can they reach millions of midterm election voters skeptical of Obama’s rhetoric. The minimum wage should account for the struggle among many workers – particularly those responsible for supporting families – but any increase needs to be rational.
Here are excerpts from a list of seven facts about the minimum wage, courtesy of Wynton Hall of Breitbart News. They should be required reading for every Republican member of the House and Senate.
1. Just 2.8% of American workers earn at or below the minimum wage.
“The U.S. Department of Labor says 1.6 million people make the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Another 2 million earn below that rate, such as restaurant servers who make tips in addition to a lower base hourly wage which, according to U.S. News and World Report, ‘in many cases actually puts them significantly above the minimum wage in reality, if not officially.’”
2. Half of all minimum wage workers are 16 to 24 years old.
“According to the Department of Labor, “minimum wage workers tend to be young,” and “about half of those paid the Federal minimum wage or less” are below age 25. Many of these are students working while in school or teenagers with part-time or summer jobs.”
3. Labor workers already make well above the minimum wage.
“Democrats and unions hoping labor workers will be energized by a minimum wage bump will be sad to know that laborers in every single sector of what the government calls “production and nonsupervisory employees”—like manufacturing, construction, mining, retail, transportation, etc.—already earn well above the minimum wage.”
4. Even those who support minimum wage hikes concede it could kill jobs.
“Many economists and conservatives point to the body of economic literature that shows minimum wage increases kill jobs and simply encourage companies to pass along the added cost in the form of higher prices. But even ardent supporters like socialist Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant, who recently helped pass a $15 minimum wage in the SeaTac, Washington, concede the move could spawn job losses.”
5. Minorities and the poor are hit hardest by the minimum wage.
“Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman famously noted that “the most anti-black law on the books of this land is the minimum wage law.” Higher wages mean employers seek higher, more skilled workers. That, said Friedman, puts those with disproportionately less education and experience at a significant disadvantage when looking to put their foot on the first rung of the employment ladder.”
6. Even progressives concede the minimum wage is no panacea for America’s economic woes.
President Barack Obama’s former chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisers Christina Romer says, ‘economic analysis raises questions about whether a higher minimum wage will achieve better outcomes for the economy and reduce poverty.’”
7. 21 states already have minimum wages that are higher than the federal $7.25/hr rate.
“Just last week, 13 states boosted their minimum wage rates above the federal minimum wage rate of $7.25/hr. That means 21 states now already have minimum wages that exceed the federal rate.”
These are hard facts. But they will find no place in Obama’s rhetoric. The income inequality theme has only one purpose – energize the hard-core Democratic base. Panicky about the failure of Obamacare, Democrats are desperate to change the subject. Voter turnout at the polls next November is the order of the day for Obama and his party.
After five years of failed economic policies, Obama will predictably make false promises about economic growth and cast Republicans as hardhearted obstructionists. The GOP should beware. The tidal wave of emotion and blame has only just begun.
During the course of his career, Walker has worked in Chicago, Washington DC, New York City, and Phoenix. He served as a reporter in Chicago, a press secretary and speechwriter in Washington, and in numerous positions in New York in corporate and financial services communications.
Walker is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.