Moral Low Ground

US Government

GOP Rep. Tom McClintock: Keep Minimum Wage at Poverty Level for ‘Minorities,’ ‘Unskilled’ Workers

Seattle Councilwoman Kshama Sawant made the "Fight For 15" the central plank of her campaign. (Photo: Shannon Kringen/Flickr Creative Commons)

Seattle Councilwoman Kshama Sawant made the “Fight For 15” the central plank of her campaign. (Photo: Shannon Kringen/Flickr Creative Commons)

A Republican US congressman is raising eyebrows and ire after saying the minimum wage should be kept low for “minorities” and “unskilled” workers.

The Raw Story reports Rep. Tom McClintock of California made his remarks during an appearance on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal on Thursday.

Host Greta Brawner asked McClintock if he could support a Republican presidential candidate like Mitt Romney, who is one of a growing number of conservatives advocating a minimum wage hike to $10.10, a move also backed by President Barack Obama.

McClintock opined that raising the minimum wage would “rip the first rung in the ladder of opportunity for teenagers, for minorities, for people who are trying to get into the job market for their first job.”

“It’s not supposed to support a family,” he continued. “The minimum wage is that first job when you have no skills, no experience, no working history. That’s how you get into the job market, that’s how you develop that experience, develop that work record, get your first raise, then your next raise, then your promotion.”

“If your labor is an unskilled person just entering the workforce is worth say $7 an hour at a job and the minimum wage is $10, you have just been made permanently unemployable,” added McClintock. “That first rung of the economic ladder has been ripped out and you can’t get on it. That is a tragedy.”

But according to Pew Research, fully half of all US minimum wage earners are 25 years or age or older. Three quarters are adults. The majority of these workers spend their working lives toiling in front-line service industries that are an essential part of the American economy. While conservatives often claim these are “stepping stone” jobs, the Economic Policy Institute’s State of Working America study found that 35 million Americans, or more than a quarter of the nation’s workforce, earn less than $10.55 an hour.

At $7.25 an hour, the United States has one of the lowest minimum wages in the developed world. Australia’s minimum wage, by comparison, is currently more than $15 an hour. But American cities and states, even conservative ones, are raising their minimum wages, with few, if any, apparent negative effects on the economy.

Spearheaded by the Fight For 15 movement and progressive leaders like City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant, a Socialist, Seattle has raised its hourly minimum wage to a nation-leading $15. San Francisco voters overwhelmingly approved a hike to $15 as well. Numerous states have also raised their minimum wages in the past year.

Many economists and progressive politicians say $15 still isn’t enough. Citing studies, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) recently noted that if the minimum wage had kept up with inflation over the past half century, it would currently be $22 an hour.

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