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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Illinois businessman Bruce Rauner, a top candidate for the Republican nomination for governor, demonstrated this week why Democrats are eager to use the minimum wage as a political cudgel in the 2014 midterm elections.

On Tuesday, Rauner suggested reducing the state’s $8.25-per-hour minimum wage to the national level, a $1-per-hour reduction.

“I will advocate moving the Illinois minimum wage back to the national minimum wage. I think we’ve got to be competitive here in Illinois,” Rauner told Illinois Radio WGBZ.

Rauner’s stance sharply contrasts that of Governor Pat Quinn (D), who has said that he wants to raise the minimum wage to $10 per hour. But it’s not particularly controversial in the context of the Republican primary. After all, each of his rivals for the nomination — Kirk Dillard, Dan Rutherford and Bill Brady — oppose raising the wage. Still, throughout the rest of the state, the idea of cutting the already insufficient minimum wage sparked instant outrage.

As The Chicago Sun-Times reports, the backlash to Rauner’s plan was swift and severe.

“In my 26 years in the Legislature, I’ve seen many candidates roll out anti-poverty plans, but Bruce Rauner is the only candidate to roll out a pro-poverty plan,” Democratic state representative Lou Lang said.

“He’s delusional if he thinks that the General Assembly would bow to his class warfare on low-income workers. He needs to have his delusion shaken up,” Lang added. “He needs to come to grips with the fact that the era of robber barons is over, and impoverishing workers is no longer an economic growth strategy.”

Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson similarly blasted Rauner, insisting that “instead of alleviating poverty, this cruel and backwards proposal would take thousands of dollars from working people who are doing some of the hardest, most difficult jobs in our society.”

And Chicago labor leader Karen Lewis took even more direct aim at Rauner, who made a fortune in private equity, charging, “It is ironic that billionaire Rauner, who reported $53 million in earnings last year, or $7.36 per second, is calling for a reduction in the state’s minimum wage.

“While he sits back and ponders where to take his next exotic vacation or which mansion to lay his head, others are trying to survive in a climate of foreclosures, rising medical costs, and the shuttering of neighborhood schools,” she added. “Instead of pledging a war on poverty he is vowing to advance a war on poor and working-class people.”

The heated response to Rauner’s proposal was stunningly successful; within days, he was apparently scared away from it.

“I made a mistake. I was flippant and I was quick,” Rauner told the Chicago Tribune on Wednesday. “I should have said, ‘Tie the Illinois minimum wage to the national wage and, in that context, with other changes in being pro-business, I support raising the national minimum wage.’ I’m OK with that.”

Rauner expanded on his new position — that after cutting the minimum wage, we should raise it — in a Tribune op-ed on Thursday, writing, “Raising the national minimum wage would raise the level in Illinois and in our neighboring states, eliminating our competitive disadvantage. I support that.”

It’s not hard to understand how Rauner went from advocating a minimum-wage cut to advocating a raise in just a few days. Polls have consistently found that Illinois voters overwhelmingly favor raising the minimum wage to $10 per hour (a recent survey from left-leaning Public Policy Polling pegged support at 58 percent). It is a very difficult political environment to be running against a measure that could lift millions out of poverty.

Increasing the minimum wage isn’t just popular in Illinois; it has broad national appeal as well. So it’s not surprising that Democrats are planning to use the issue as a centerpiece of their 2014 campaigns. And if other Republicans mirror Rauner’s apparent fear of being attacked on the issue, their strategy could prove very successful.

H/t: Think Progress

Photo: The All-Nite Images via Flickr

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  • daniel bostdorf

    We REALLY need to get past this liveable wage/minimum wage issue because — frankly—it is delaying the inevitable future of how we conquer poverty once and for all… a guaranteed income…

    The GOP is just simply afraid…. of everything that values human life….unless the value translates into a wedge issue like abortion….which is a civil rights issue which they don’t believe in anyway..

    Here is the reality of the Fools Errand about liveable/minimum wage:

    $15/hour is $420 a week 28 hours part time. $21840 yearly . Still poverty level.
    $15/hour full time is $600 a week/ $31200 yearly. Still near or at poverty if you consider family size.

    Federal poverty guidelines here:

    In fact, I believe the “minimum wage or livable wage” should be replaced with a guaranteed yearly income based upon Federal poverty statistics by state.

    This idea is not new. Back in 1967 Dr. Martin Luther King and highly respected economists proposed this a s a way to eliminate poverty once and for all.

    Outlined here:

    “Rev. Dr. King viewed the guaranteed income as the way to abolish poverty. It does have that effect, but when prRev. Dr. King viewed the guaranteed income as the way to abolish poverty. It does have that effect, but when properly funded (not touching earned income) and properly distributed (to all people), it becomes more than that — it can be a fundamental instrument of economic justice.operly funded (not touching earned income) and properly distributed (to all people), it becomes more than that — it can be a fundamental instrument of economic justice.”

    A guaranteed annual out of poverty level annual income would eliminate all antiquated social programs and nearly all entitlements. It would make this country the leader in eliminating poverty once and for all. In addition, We need livable affordable housing, and a justice system free from big money.

    “Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.” ……Nelson Mandela

    addenda: The article link contains a dollar figure in 1967 as needing 20 billion to do this. In 1967 1 million dollars is now $6,978,113.77.

    7 times factoring inflation:

    A 1000 million is a billion.

    Therefore—we would need only 140 billion. Easily obtainable by transfering that out of existing trillion dollar social programs….and take 20 Billion from the GOP military industrial complex contractors while you are at it…

    RESULTS: The poor are not poor. They pay taxes. have housing and the middle class is resurgent again.

    • RobertCHastings

      In 2001, shortly after his inauguration and before 9/11, George W. Bush attended an international conference in Monterey, Mexico. At that conference Bush, with others, signed on to agreements that the US and other wealthy nations would pledge only about 7/10 of 1% of GDP to eliminate poverty. Unfortunately, this was a treaty that the US never signed on to and consequently never acted upon. It is hard to believe that such a small amount could not be pledged by the wealthiest nation in the history of the planet, and delivered as their leader had promised. Of course, Bush’s ignoring of the Palestine question (an issue based primarily upon poverty) in favor of pursuing the terrorists in Afghanistan had some influence on this outcome. But every day that the Middle East and Africa battle poverty on such massive scales breeds thousands more potential terrorists who are dissatisfied with the status quo and, in essence, have noting to lose by joining the forces of fundamentalism and terror.

  • disqus_ivSI3ByGmh

    Without the minimum wage, the 21st Century version of the Robber Barons would attempt to lower wages back to 19th Century levels.

    • RobertCHastings

      The gap between the wages of the wealthiest and those who work for them is today greater than it has ever been in this country’s history. Fifty years ago, that gap MAY have been a factor of 40; today it is a factor in excess of 400. Both the wealth and the income gaps are at least as bad as they were just before the Great Depression, and we all know what happened then.

  • Howa4x

    This backlash is happening because the middle class is understanding that if wages are too low we have to subsidize corporations by giving benefits to their workers in the way of housing and food assistance. Why should we subsidize Wal-Mart owners who are worth 115 billion. People are also beginning to realize that if people have some more income they will spend at area merchants helping to stimulate growth. Christie found out this when he voted a bill to raise the minimum wage. It went to referendum and passed overwhelmingly even though Christie campaigned against it. Republican can no longer just trot out there and ask for more tax cuts for the wealthy. corporations now a flush with cash, and the stock market has never been higher. The 1% doesn’t need our help any more they have made it. Now it time to help everyone else.

  • Pamby50

    That just goes to show you how stupid you can be. Reduce the minimum wage by $1.

  • Michael Nunez

    Since we cannot restrict liberty to circumstances where we know it will lead to positive results, our faith in liberty rests on the understanding that it will, in the long run, unleash much more potential for good than for evil.