Raising the Minimum Wage for Working Men and Women in California and the Rest of America

The Economic Culture War Over the Minimum Wage

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With the national debate over the minimum wage likely to intensify into 2014, Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin has signed a law passed by the Oklahoma legislaturethat would forbid any municipality in the state from passing its own law setting the minimum wage higher than $7.25. Not only that, it forbids cities and counties from requiring employers to provide paid sick days or vacation days.

Above all, this is a reminder that in many ways, the minimum wage fight is taking on the feel of a culture war. Call it an economic culture war.

Whenever Democrats bring up the minimum wage, Republicans are sure to respond — or at least to feel — that it’s little more than a cynical attempt to pander to voters. After all, polls show support for an increase running between 65 percent and 75 percent of the American public. The issue puts the GOP on the defensive, not only because their opposition runs counter to the public’s wishes, but also because it pigeonholes them as advocates for those who want to pay workers as little as possible and against those who are working hard but find it impossible to get ahead (you try living, much less raising a family, on $14,500 a year).

It’s also a tough issue for Republicans because there is no Republican alternative to raising wages, other than vague notions about “creating jobs.” So where do you go if you’re only position is “No”?

• Category: National, Notable