NPR today had a story about Democrats seeking an issue to draw their voters to the polls. The issue they’ve picked is the minimum wage. Democratic strategists think that Republicans have repeatedly bested them by using ballot initiatives to draw out their base. In past elections, as in this one, the Democrats believe that the issue Republicans have used most successfully is gay marriage. (We’ll ignore the fact that Democrats have forced that issue into the open by using the Courts as their preferred venue.)
I’m very dubious about minimum wage initiatives. Pointing to France and Germany, my favorite examples of the reductio ad absurdum of governments running businesses, it seems to me that the more government interferes the more it stifles job growth. You end up with the French and German model of vastly fewer numbers people working for somewhat higher wages. I’m more inclined to a system that sees more people working, even if they have lower wage jobs. My bias here is the fact that, owing to my expert typing abilities, I’ve never held a minimum wage job in my life (and I’ve worked since I was 15). This means, of course, that I’ve never worked for a rock bottom salary, nor have I had to support myself or my family on that money.
In any event, the NPR story claims that 80% of all voters are for increasing state minimum wages above the federal minimum wage (which is about $5.50 per hour). As the issue is apparently totally lacking in heat and controversy (even I, while suspicious of its virtues don’t care too much), why is this a silver bullet issue? People pour into ballots when their hot buttons are pushed. For this feel-good initiative, will voters really haul themselves out of bed early in the morning to make time to vote for it?