A History of Opposition to Raising the Minimum Wage

A full-time minimum wage worker in America earns a yearly salary of just $14,500. If all 1.6 million minimum wage workers in the United States worked full-time for 4 years, they would not earn as much money as the Kochs are worth – a staggering $100 billion. Yet despite this shocking disparity, the Kochs’ main political organization Americans for Prosperity has waged a war against giving hardworking Americans a raise by increasing the minimum wage. When a minimum wage increase came up for a vote in the Senate in late April of this year, AFP urged legislators to vote against the proposal – or risk facing campaign backlash from AFP when it comes to election time.

This isn’t the first time the Koch-funded AFP has come out against raising the minimum wage. In 2012, AFP claimed that the minimum wage “has hindered Americans in their quest for prosperity,” and in 2013 AFP claimed that raising the minimum wage “does more harm than good.” Has AFP checked with hardworking Americans trying to make ends meet on $7.25/hour about how much harm an increase would do to them? With AFP leading the charge against raising the minimum wage, it’s no wonder Republicans like North Carolina Senate candidate Thom Tillis have called raising the minimum wage a “dangerous idea” and questioned whether a federal minimum wage should exist.

AFP Identified One Vote Against Raising The Minimum Wage As A Key Vote. Americans for Prosperity’s online scorecards of key votes in the 110th, 111th, 112th and 113th Congresses included one vote on raising the minimum wage: 2007 House vote 18, on the Fair Minimum Wage Act. [AFP Scorecards for the 110th, 111th, 112th and 113th Congresses, Viewed 4/16/14]

AFP Foundation: Minimum Wage Represents “Failed Government Intervention”; “Policymakers Should Let Individuals And Businesses Freely Decide What Wage Levels Are Appropriate.” According to the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, “The history of minimum wage laws in the United States tells the story of a failed government intervention into the economy. Minimum wage laws have the unintended consequence of increasing unemployment and reducing opportunities for young and low-skilled job seekers. Despite these discouraging outcomes, politicians have continued to press for a higher minimum wage. For too long, this has hindered Americans in their quest for prosperity. Instead of creating more labor market barriers, policymakers should let individuals and businesses freely decide what wage levels are appropriate.” [AmericansForProsperityFoundation.com, March 2012]

AFP: “Raising The Minimum Wage Does More Harm Than Good.” According to a “Legislative Alert” on Americans For Prosperity’s website, “A minimum wage hike is simply an ineffective way to help Americans rise out of poverty. It only reaches half of those it is intended to help and not in a positive way. Increasing employment opportunity gives low-skilled workers the best chance of finding employment and climbing up the economic mobility ladder. Raising the minimum wage does more harm than good.” [AmericansForProsperity.org, 12/19/13]

AFP Opposed Bill Raising Minimum Wage To $10.10 An Hour, Saying That It Would Mean Fewer Jobs And “Do More Harm Than Good To The Very People To It’s Trying To Help.” According to an April 2014 letter to U.S. Senators from AFP Director of Federal Affairs Brent Gardner, “On behalf of more than two million Americans for Prosperity activists in all 50 states, I write to urge you to vote NO on S. 2223, increasing the minimum wage to from $7.25 to $10.10. This is a misguided policy that will mean fewer jobs in this sluggish economy. I urge you to vote NO on FINAL PASSAGE on S. 2223, increasing the federal minimum wage. Americans for Prosperity will include this vote in our congressional scorecard. There is a consensus among economists across the political spectrum who think this is bad economic policy. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) put out a report studying the effects of a $10.10 minimum wage. They concluded that it would cost the economy 500,000 jobs and increase pressure on employers to cut hours and workers. In March, 500 economists sent a letter to President Obama, calling a minimum wage increase a ‘poorly targeted anti-poverty measure.’ Even the President own economic advisors have warned against this. Writing in the New York Times, former Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers Christina Romer called it a ‘half-measure’ writing that, ‘[E]conomic analysis raises questions about whether a higher minimum wage will achieve better outcomes for the economy and reduce poverty.’ The bottom line is that this legislation will do more harm than good to the very people to it’s trying to help. A minimum wage increase is not the recipe for growing the economy and helping workers. Given the current economic and regulatory environment, Congress should focus on promoting pro-growth policies that lead to job creation, not higher unemployment.” [Gardner letter to Senators, 1/29/14]

  • Romer Said That If Raising Minimum Wage Were Sole Anti-Poverty Policy Option, She Would Support It, But It Would Be Better “If We Were Willing To Spend Some Money” On An Expanded Earned Income Tax Credit.According to Romer’s March 2013 New York Times op-ed, “SO where does all of this leave us? The economics of the minimum wage are complicated, and it’s far from obvious what an increase would accomplish. If a higher minimum wage were the only anti-poverty initiative available, I would support it. It helps some low-income workers, and the costs in terms of employment and inefficiency are likely small. But we could do so much better if we were willing to spend some money. A more generous earned-income tax credit would provide more support for the working poor and would be pro-business at the same time. And pre-kindergarten education, which the president proposes to make universal, has been shown in rigorous studies to strengthen families and reduce poverty and crime. Why settle for half-measures when such truly first-rate policies are well understood and ready to go?” [Romer op-ed, The New York Times, 3/2/13]
  • CBO Estimated That Number Of Jobs Lost From Raising Minimum Wage To $10.10 Would Likely Be Between Very Few And 1 Million, With A “Central Estimate” Of 500,000. According to the Congressional Budget Office, “According to CBO’s central estimate, implementing the $10.10 option would reduce employment by roughly 500,000 workers in the second half of 2016, relative to what would happen under current law. That decrease would be the net result of two effects: a slightly larger decrease in jobs for low-wage workers (because of their higher cost) and an increase of a few tens of thousands of jobs for other workers (because of greater demand for goods and services). By CBO’s estimate, about 1½ percent of the 33 million workers who otherwise would have earned less than $11.50 per hour would be jobless—either because they lost a job or because they could not find a job—as a result of the increase in the minimum wage. […]The overall reduction in employment could be smaller or larger than CBO’s central estimate. In CBO’s assessment, there is about a two-thirds chance that the effect of the $10.10 option would be in the range between a very slight decrease in employment and a decrease of 1.0 million workers; thus, there is a one-third chance that the effect would be either above or below that range” (footnotes omitted). [CBO, 2/14]

Paid for by American Bridge 21st Century Foundation