Paul Ryan says no to increase in minimum wage

By Bill Kaplan

Originally appeared at

Wisconsin GOP Rep. Paul Ryan came to Milwaukee the day after President Obama spoke at a Labor Day celebration there. They had very different messages. Obama called on Congress to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, the first hike since 2009. Ryan held fast to conservative zealotry and told the Rotary Club and Milwaukee Press Club that he opposed any increase. In an echo of his fellow state Republicans, Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Ron Johnson, Ryan said increasing the minimum wage would reduce employment by 500,000 to 1 million jobs nationally.

Ryan's remarks took place in the midst of his national book tour to promote a softer and more empathic persona. However, a New York Times book review quoted a column from a Texas newspaper with the headline "Ryan Blames Everything on Left". Good for book sales to the Right. But what are the facts?

A New York Times editorial said: "The minimum wage is one of the most thoroughly researched issues in economics...The weight of the evidence shows that increases in the minimum wage have lifted pay without hurting employment, a point that was driven home in a recent letter to Mr. Obama and congressional leaders, signed by more than 600 economists, among them Nobel laureates and past presidents of the American Economic Association." There's more:

-- Nine GOP-led states (Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico and Ohio) have a higher minimum wage than the federal / Wisconsin rate of $7.25 and the sky has not fallen;

-- 2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney recently said: "I...part company with many of the conservatives in my party on the issue of the minimum wage. I think we ought to raise it. Because frankly, our party is all about more jobs and better pay";

-- In May, 2014 Michigan GOP Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law an increase of the state minimum wage to $9.25 an hour, saying: "I commend my partners in the legislature for finding common ground on a bill that will help Michigan workers and protect our state's growing economy."

If Ryan really wants to help the poor he should stop repackaging stale ideas and embrace an increase of the federal minimum wage. As the New York Times said: "An estimated 27.8 million people would earn more money under the Democratic proposal to lift the hourly minimum wage from $7.25 today to $10.10 by 2016...Their average age (of the aforementioned 27.8 million) is 35; most work full time; more than one- fourth are parents; and, on average, they earn half of their families' total income" (the UW-Madison Center on Wisconsin Strategy has similar data on Wisconsin). Moreover, Ryan should pay attention to the Wisconsin Idea. It was under GOP Gov. Francis McGovern in 1913 that Wisconsin saw the beginning of the state minimum wage. We used to be first, not last.

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