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State, national columnists

Conservatives back minimum wage hike

By From page A11 | April 09, 2014

From the moment Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed America’s first minimum wage law in 1938 (25 cents per hour, or $11 a week), conservatives have fought increases every time and everywhere they’ve been proposed.

It would cost millions of jobs, industrialists and business interests argue every time anyone tries to boost the minimum. Meanwhile, executive salaries have skyrocketed, leaving many millions of workers far behind in a phenomenon now called “income inequality.”

But now comes Ron Unz, former publisher of the American Conservative magazine and once a Republican candidate for governor, backing a new minimum wage for California two bucks an hour above the $10 minimum now set to take effect two years from now. Unz is not to be taken lightly; he authored and largely funded the 1998 Proposition 227 ban on most bilingual education programs.

Far from the Republican bugaboo it long has been, software entrepreneur Unz claims a higher minimum wage will solve many pet GOP peeves and could restore his party’s faded fortunes in the state. He is once again pushing an initiative, this time aiming to raise the minimum to $12 an hour immediately.

But Unz doesn’t plan to fund the campaign for this one alone, and contributions from others have been slow coming. So it might not reach the ballot until 2016.

If you’re a conservative and you don’t like illegal immigration, Medicaid, food stamps and other welfare programs, you might be disappointed by that kind of wait. That’s because Unz makes a good case for his claim that the best way to cut back on all those longtime GOP targets is to eliminate the need for them by paying workers more.

“I first got involved with this when I realized that a higher minimum wage solves the illegal immigration problem. The vast majority of illegals are in this country for jobs, jobs Americans won’t do,” Unz says.

He claims it’s not the nature of work in car washes, hotels, restaurant kitchens and vegetable fields that turns off American workers – it’s the lousy pay for that work.

“Americans won’t do those jobs because the wages are so low you can’t survive,” he says. “Now Los Angeles is talking about raising the minimum for hotel workers there to $15. When you raise the wages to a level like that, a lot of people are suddenly happy in jobs they wouldn’t touch before.”

If U.S. citizens take those jobs once they pay significantly better than welfare, a lot of the illegal immigration problem will go away. The same for programs like food stamps and Medi-Cal, Unz claims.

President Barack Obama’s effort to up the federal minimum to $10.10 gets firm resistance from Republicans in Congress voicing the same old arguments. Fighting Obama’s plan, Republicans pounced on a February report from the Congressional Budget Office saying it could cost about 500,000 jobs nationally.

Unz argues that number is misleading. Initial job losses, he claims, would be followed by job increases stemming from the roughly $150 billion a year the higher minimum would put into the economy. California Assembly Speaker John Perez, a Democrat, made the same argument last year while backing the scheduled 2016 increase. “Putting that kind of money into the economy will create far more jobs than it might cost,” Perez said.

And, Unz said in an interview, the report to Congress found that 27 million people – about 98 percent of those affected – would benefit, while just 2 percent might not.

“If a policy helps 98 percent of the people affected, it usually looks pretty good,” Unz deadpanned.

Plus, he figures, when minimum wage earners get more money of their own and need less welfare spending, the government will save as much as $250 billion a year, which could be used for anything and might beef up the economy.

So far, Unz has won backing from prominent conservatives like Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly and talk show host Bill O’Reilly. But elected politicians on the right are staying away from his putative proposition and those on the left are silent, perhaps because Unz would considerably outdo the plan they passed last year.

Whenever this plan reaches the ballot, Democrats will be in the odd position of either backing a Republican’s plan that makes them look like pikers, or opposing their own ideas.

Thomas Elias is a California author. Reach him at [email protected]

Thomas Elias


Discussion | 13 comments

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  • Rich GiddensApril 08, 2014 - 8:10 pm

    If Conservatives back another min wage hike, then they are not conservatives. They are liberals----or worse!

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  • Mr. PracticalApril 09, 2014 - 6:10 am

    Headline should be singular... Conservative backs minimum wage hike.

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  • OneApril 09, 2014 - 6:33 am


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  • One .... More TimeApril 09, 2014 - 6:39 am


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  • JagApril 09, 2014 - 11:41 am

    So let me get this straight Republicans pass a higher minimum wage and we become the darling of California? Are you F---ing kidding me? This is a very liberal state and it is just going to keep moving that way, I work for a small company in San Francisco and we have another factory in Los Angeles we had about 500 employees in San Francisco and when they decided on their own $10.41 an hour minimum wage two years ago we move those jobs to Los Angeles that paid about $8.50 an hour now San Francisco is looking at a $15.00 an hour wage and I am sure we would have to move the rest to L.A or out of California, Have you seen the ads Texas is running in California? Why do you think states like South Carolina and Tennessee are getting these companies like BMW and Boeing? No unions and lower cost of doing business, California should be the software state.

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  • rlw895April 09, 2014 - 12:00 pm

    Interesting, but it's probably not reasonable to expect one state to get so far ahead of the feds. The federal minimum wage is where the action should be at this point. I'm sure Obama and the Dems would be happy to go along with anything the GOP would propose in excess of the present Dem proposal.

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  • Mr. PracticalApril 09, 2014 - 1:04 pm

    rlw, nice sarcasm. You know as well as I do that no right-minded Republican is going to support the current Obama proposal, much less propose something higher. The impact minimum wage has on the economy is a complicated issue. Raising the minimum wage when tens of thousands of businesses are on the edge of insolvency would be nuts. For those of you that have never signed the front of a check, like most of our legislators, it's important to understand the impact. If the minimum wage goes up a dollar, the impact to the employer is significantly higher. You have to add another 15% for the increase in payroll taxes. Workers comp premiums are based on payroll and that goes up as well. Other industries you a percentage above minimum wage as their structure for pay. Many auto shops for instance, pay their mechanics twice the minimum wage. So for them, after the increase in wages, payroll taxes and workers comp, that one dollar minimum wage increase is closer to a $2.50 per hour increase. It also pressures employers to increase pay proportionally for non minimum wage employees. A minimum wage increase, particularly at this time is going to result in some lost jobs and a higher cost of goods and services, eroding purchasing power of the increased wages. I'm glad rlw believes that the states shouldn't get ahead of the federal proposal. That means he is against the new proposal by Steinberg and Leno to raise the minimum wage to $11 in 2015, $12 in 2016 and $13 in 2017. If that bill passes and the governor signs it, say goodbye to your favorite restaurants. Keep in mind, in the history of free enterprise, minimum wage was never intended to be a living wage. Its for non skilled, entry level jobs that give people a chance to enter the work force, gain experience and move on to something better.

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  • patrickApril 09, 2014 - 1:40 pm

    Minimum wage was never intended to be a living wage. Its for non skilled, entry level jobs that give people a chance to enter the work force, gain experience and move on to something better. I strongly agree with you. It will result in higher prices on everything. It will also result in a greater increase of tax revenue for federal---state--- and local cities. I believe that is the ultimate goal of the liberals. The raise will not really help the entry level jobs.

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  • CD BrooksApril 09, 2014 - 3:26 pm

    Patrick, I'm a liberal and I have been at the forefront of coming out against these increases for years. In fact if I didn't know better I'd say you plagiarized my work! :) Not only that but this makes it difficult for kids getting summer jobs because adults take all the work. I am on record and I stand by my belief that we should return the minimum wage to $5.00 an hour.

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  • patrickApril 09, 2014 - 3:37 pm

    CD actually I took the first sentence from Mr Pratical last sentence.

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  • JagApril 09, 2014 - 4:16 pm

    Applaud you CD I am a TEA party but I believe in a woman’s right to choose, (progress) Can I get a term limits on the house and senate?

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  • CD BrooksApril 09, 2014 - 5:36 pm

    Jag, I'm on the fence with term limits. What if we actually have somebody doing a good job? But yeah okay, I'll go with term limits!

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