2013 was an "annus horribilis" for the party of Obama. The president saw his approval rating plunge to the lowest level since he's occupied the White House. Recent polls also indicate the voting public prefers Republicans in November's congressional elections.
Against that political backdrop, Democratic Party leaders devoted the past few weeks to a series of strategy meetings and conference calls, according to the New York Times, to come up with a wedge issue on which Democrats can campaign against the GOP on federal and state levels.
Democratic Party leaders and their confederates — including labor unions and liberal advocacy groups — decided against such issues as Obamacare, climate change and immigration reform. Instead, they opted for the old standby — a proposed increase in the minimum wage.
"It puts Republicans on the wrong side of an important values issue when it comes to fairness," Dan Pfeiffer, Obama's senior adviser, told the Times. "You can make a very strong case that this will be a helpful issue for Democrats in 2014."
Pfeiffer's remarks reveal the cynicism that informs Democratic calls for a higher minimum wage. They market the issue as a matter of "fairness." But it really is nothing more than the same old politics of class warfare for which the party of Obama has long been known.
The president and congressional Democrats are backing legislation that would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour in 2015 from the current $7.25 an hour. Not only would that amount to a nearly 40 percent hike in the minimum wage, the Democrats also would allow future increases, based on inflation.
Democrats suggested the minimum wage can be increased by an amount equal to more than 10 times the current rate of inflation with no deleterious effect on employment. But a study by economists at Texas A&M University estimated a $10 federal minimum wage would result in the loss of 2.3 million new jobs nationwide.
Most of those positions would be filled by the nation's lowest-skilled, least-experienced and most-difficult-to-employ workers, on whom employers may be willing to take a chance for $7.25 an hour, but not for 40 percent more.
Of course, the party of Obama really isn't interested in the economics of a higher minimum wage, but the politics. They have read the polls suggesting a $10 an hour mandated federal wage enjoys support by Americans and they plan to ride the issue all the way to next November.
Indeed, if Democrats on Capitol Hill felt so strongly about raising the minimum wage, they could have broached it during negotiations between Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., on the budget deal lawmakers approved just before Christmas.
Republicans just might have been willing to give Sen. Murray and her fellow Democrats a higher minimum wage, say, of $8.25 an hour — in exchange for a Democratic concession on, say, entitlement reform.
But the Democrats never put their proposal to raise the minimum-wage on the table during budget negotiations. That's because their intention all along was to use the supposed "values" issue to demagogue Republicans with during next November's midterm elections.
—The Orange County (Calif.) Register