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Romney’s Support of Minimum Wage Indexation Provides Political Cover to the Left; Updated

This was as predictable as the sun rising in the east.

MITT ROMNEY has had a rough time explaining how he would maintain a social safety net for the poor. His recent remarks have suggested callousness. But amid the kerfuffle, he offered one good idea: specifically, he told the Associated Press on Wednesday that he backs indexing the federal minimum wage to inflation, just as he did when running for governor of Massachusetts a decade ago.

It was only a matter of time before liberals realized the gift Romney gave them with his announced support of minimum wage indexation, and those at the Washington Post were quick to exploit the opportunity Mitt gave them.  Obama and others on the far left have always revved up their base by promising to index the minimum wage to inflation.  Despite the fact that none of their members earn the minimum wage, Obama’s union buddies in particular are big supporters of the job-killing scheme since it reduces competition for union members in the unskilled labor market.  Obama promised to pursue indexation during his 2008 campaign and we again see it in his 2012 platform. But despite their campaign rhetoric, we rarely see any concrete legislation promoting this job-killing scheme.  Obama never formally proposed this, even when he had super majorities in both houses of Congress sufficient to ram ObamaCare down our throats (which has made elements of his kook base most unhappy).  Why?

The answer is simple: Even many liberals know this will effectively create a built-in job killer which will bite the economy each and every year as employers are forced to lay off those workers whose productivity doesn’t justify the artificial price floor imposed by Washington. Since Republicans, at least until Mitt Romney, refused to go along with this self-destructive measure, Democrats didn’t want to assume sole ownership of a hare-brained law that the overwhelming majority of economists — and empirical evidence — agree will inevitably increase unemployment among the ranks of unskilled and low-skilled workers each and every year when the COLA is applied.  Democrats have been content to use the issue mainly in deep blue districts to rally their uneducated Democrat voters (a redundancy, I know) by painting Republicans as "out of touch" or something, knowing full well the proposal was never going to become law.

But those days are over since we’re now faced with the appalling likelihood that Mitt Romney will be the standard bearer for the Republican Party.  And given that Romney is in favor of such an abomination to free markets, how can Republicans oppose it?  Ann Coulter and other Romney apologists have been forced to tie themselves in knots to justify government decreed mandates that private citizens enter into private contracts under the force of law as a conservative stratagem.  Now, assuming Mandate Mitt does indeed secure the nomination, Republicans will be forced to justify minimum wage indexation. They’ll have to in order to support his candidacy. I’ve written several posts in the past ridiculing Democrats for their support of the minimum wage. I never thought I’d be writing them about a Republican candidate for president, though.  But that was before Mitt came to town.

The irony is palpable. As the Wall Street Journal notes, even the "Pelosi Democrats" avoided legislative action to index the minimum wage to inflation when their party controlled both Capitol Hill and the White House. Despite the protestations of their base, they knew it was too risky politically. Not anymore. If Romney’s the Republican nominee, they’ll have their cover.  If they’re smart, they’ll name the legislation the "Mitt Romney Minimum Wage Indexation Law".

Rick Santorum noted a few weeks back that Multiple Choice Mitt ran to the left of Ted Kennedy on some issues in 1994.  Now we’re faced with the prospect of the Republican candidate effectively running to the left of Barack Obama on what’s been a part of the Holy Grail of the Left for decades.  Thus, in order to support the "conservative" candidate in 2012, conservatives will have to defend individual mandates and price floors.  The GOP establishment who gave us this guy believes we’ll fall dutifully into line and do just that.  Not me.

Update: In the comments C4P reader "Ellengba" notes that it would be nearly impossible politically to repeal the minimum wage. Excellent point. I agree that repeal would be difficult, at the very least, due to the pervasive ignorance surrounding this issue. I advocate what Reagan did: Quietly freeze it. After a sufficient period of time, the price floor (i.e. minimum wage) will fall below equilibrium and its job-destroying impact in the unskilled labor market would be significantly reduced if not eliminated entirely. This would have the same practical effect as repealing the law.

It worked quite well for Reagan (see 1980s) but, unfortunately, he has been the only President since FDR initiated the gimmick who possessed the common sense and courage of his convictions to put sound economic policy above politics. But Romney is no Reagan. Indeed given the Mittster’s long history of flip-flopping, he has no convictions at all (other than his desire to be President, that is). His recent pronouncements make it clear he intends to use this issue to pander to the ignorant, as Democrats do. Either that or he doesn’t have a clue how markets work.  Take your pick.



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