Economy

Harold Meyerson: Republican Voters Approve Hiking Minimum Wage, Republican Legislators Reject Them31

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Harold Meyerson of “The American Prospect” tells the story of Republican perfidy in overturning the will of the voters regarding minimum wage.

Republican voters approve minimum wage hikes; Republican legislators overturn them.

On Election Day earlier this month, Arkansas voters went to the polls and approved a ballot measure to raise the minimum wage. It wasn’t close: 68 percent of them voted Yes. Just to their north, in Missouri, voters also approved a minimum wage hike, with 62 percent of them voting Yes.

Though Arkansas and Missouri are among the reddest of states, these results shouldn’t surprise anyone. Every ballot measure to hike a state’s minimum wage over the past few decades has been approved. Indeed, the only group of Americans dead set against such raises appears to be Republican legislators.

On Wednesday, demonstrating just how removed those legislators are from the concerns of the American people, Republicans in the Michigan state senate voted to gut a minimum wage increase they had approved before the November elections—in a way that allowed them to rescind their approval once the elections had safely been dispensed with.

Earlier this year, progressive activists had gathered more than the required number of signatures to place a measure on November’s ballot that would have raised the state minimum wage to $12 by 2022, and the tipped worker minimum to $12 as well, but phasing it in more slowly. At that point, Republicans in the legislature intervened to enact a law identical to the ballot measure, but with the proviso that they could amend that law later this year. By so doing, they knocked the measure off the ballot. Had it remained on the ballot and been passed, as it surely would have been, it would have required the votes of three-quarters of the legislators to amend it. By passing it as a law, however, the Republicans ensured that it could be amended by a simple majority vote.

And on Wednesday, the simple, if devious, Republican majority in the state senate amended the law. In place of the stipulation that the minimum be raised to $12 by 2022, the Republicans pushed that back to 2030. The minimum for tipped workers was scaled back from $12 to $4, with that figure not to kick in until 2030 as well. The measure now goes to the House, where the Republican majority is expected to follow the Senate’s lead and send it to the desk of Republican Governor Rick Snyder, of Flint-deadly-water fame. The reason for this unseemly haste is that come the new year, a Democrat, Gretchen Whitmer, will succeed Snyder as governor, and she’s made clear there’s no way she’d sign such changes into law.

Michigan voters swept Democrats (all of them women) into every major statewide office in November’s voting; Republicans narrowly retained their state legislative majorities through the grace of gerrymandering. With Whitmer as governor, they won’t be able to carve such sweet-deal districts for themselves in the post-census redistricting, but for now, their gerrymandered moats and gerrymandered minds insulate them from the concerns and desires of their fellow Americans. ~ HAROLD MEYERSON

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