Many Republicans have made tone-deaf statements on the minimum wage throughout the 2014 campaign season, but perhaps none has been as puzzling as this take from Virginia Senate candidate Ed Gillespie (R).
At a Virginia Beach campaign stop in May, which was flagged this week by Virginia Democrats, Gillespie explained his minimum-wage opposition to his audience.
“I don’t support a federally mandated minimum wage,” Gillespie said. “If the states want to raise the minimum wages — and municipalities like New York City — that’s fine. They should be free to do that, and they do it.”
Gillespie then cited a Congressional Budget Office report that projected that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour could cost the economy 500,000 jobs, and suggested that most minimum-wage earners are teenagers just entering the workforce.
“A lot of those jobs are second earners in the family. A lot of them are first-time workers, it’s the first job they’ve ever had,” Gillespie claimed. “A minimum-wage job is where you learn to get to work on time. It’s where you learn the great feeling at the end of getting that paycheck and knowing you gave an honest week’s work. It’s where you learn the social aspect of work, where you play on a softball league or go for a beer after work.”
Gillespie’s statement is riddled with factual inaccuracies. The vast majority of minimum-wage earners are not teenagers playing softball and drinking beer (which would be illegal, by the way); 88 percent are 20 years of age or older, 36 percent are married, and 28 percent are parents.
Furthermore, the CBO report which Gillespie referenced does not flatly declare that a minimum wage hike would kill half a million jobs; rather, it states that a $10.10 minimum wage would contract employment by somewhere between a “very slight decrease” and 1 million jobs. It also pointed out that a minimum-wage increase would result in higher wages for 16.5 million workers — something Gillespie declined to mention.
In any case, the CBO’s warning has not proven accurate; job growth has been greater in the 13 states that increased their minimum wages in 2014 than in states that did not.
Past its questionable claims, Gillespie’s speech also presents a big political problem for the former Republican National Committee chairman. Polls consistently show that Americans strongly support raising the minimum wage; in Virginia, 66 percent support raising the commonwealth’s minimum wage while just 31 percent oppose it, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll.
Perhaps with those numbers in mind, Gillespie’s campaign contacted The Huffington Post after the video went public to insist that Gillespie does not support repealing federal minimum wage laws.
Even if voters accept that clarification, Gillespie remains a huge underdog in Virginia’s Senate race. According to The Huffington Post’s polling average, incumbent Democrat Mark Warner leads Gillespie by 19 percent.
H/T: Blue Virginia
Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr
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Copyright 2014 The National Memo