Minimum Wage Bill Shot Down Right Before Elections

Source: Thinkstock

A minimum wage hike has been a major focus for President Obama and an issue causing quite a stir even before a bill was ready to be heard. Now that it has been — and was quickly shot down by Republicans in the Senate — the issue is far from dead. Instead, it’s been transformed into even more potent pre-election political ammo, with Democrats ramping up their claims that Republicans don’t care about average Americans, and Republicans claiming that passing such a bill would have destroyed jobs.

The vote was 54-42 — it needed 60 votes to continue on – but even lacking this legislation, there have been considerable efforts on the state level and from Obama for federal workers to increase wages. In the past, Obama encouraged states to take on their own minimum wage legislation, and for those states that did not, for their voters to encourage and pressure their state representatives. Now, he’s saying the same for the upcoming Congressional elections, elections that Democrats have been concerned about.

“If your member of Congress doesn’t support raising the minimum wage, you’ve got to let them know they’re out of step, and that if they keep putting politics ahead of working Americans, you’ll put them out of office,” Obama said Tuesday during a White House news conference. “This is a very simple issue. Either you’re in favor of raising wages for hardworking Americans, or you’re not. Either you want to grow the economy from the middle out and the bottom up so that prosperity is broad-based, or you think that top-down economics is the way to go.”

Of course, Republican arguments have been that its not a simple economic issue at all, and that an increase would have unintended effects while crippling the job market. Democrats argue that the extra expense to business would flow back to them in the form of greater consumer spending, combating that effect. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) pointed to a mere 0.1 percent growth in the economy in the past three months, saying that the bill, should it pass, would destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs.

“Let’s talk about the 800-pound gorilla here in the Senate chamber,” said Cornyn, according to The New York Times. “This is all about politics. This is all about trying to make this side of the aisle look bad and hardhearted.”

USA Today reports that 21 states will have an increased minimum wage by January 1, and others are looking at higher increments by slightly later dates. Maryland’s minimum will be a proposed $10.10 by 2018, a larger raise than some states have taken on. Minnesota has one of the lowest minimum wages, $6.15, which it will bring up to $9.50 by 2016. What’s more, its wages are being raised with the added backup of an inflation adjustment — with a cap at 2.5 percent — that would start in 2018.

The upside to this strategy of wage changes is that it allows each state to make amendments as it feels appropriate in the time span it finds most manageable for its economy. The downside is that it results in a sometimes large disparity in raises, and, of course, some states will opt out of the changes, such as Michigan, which is seeing a lobbying effort to change this.

More From Wall St. Cheat Sheet:

Follow Anthea on Twitter @AntheaWSCS