In a debate this week, 1st District Democratic U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer and her Republican challenger state Rep. Ashley Hinson disagreed on raising the minimum wage.
Finkenauer favors raising the federal minimum wage, which has remained at $7.25 since 2009, to $15 per hour by 2025.
Hinson said $15 “isn’t the answer,” and that minimum wage rates should be up to states such as Iowa, where lawmakers last voted to raise Iowa’s base wage to $7.25 in 2007. Every bordering state, with the exception of Wisconsin, has a higher minimum wage than Iowa.
Hinson said the base wage might need to be raised by “a moderate amount.” In the past, during the 2018 campaign, Hinson said lawmakers should “have a discussion” about the minimum wage.
I happen to agree with Hinson that $15 per-hour isn’t going to be a great fit in parts of rural Iowa. That’s why it made so much sense in 2016 when Linn and Johnson County leaders voted to raise local minimum wages by moderate amounts. Higher minimums were a good fit in those urban areas. Local officials who know local economic conditions took action to help local workers.
But Hinson and her fellow Republicans who run the Golden Dome of Wisdom couldn’t abide these insolent blue counties and moved quickly in 2017 to yank authority over local wages away from local governments, so Linn and Johnson slid back to $7.25. The GOP argued higher local wages would create a “patchwork” of differing rates, as if the state wasn’t already a patchwork of wages, business climates and development rules.
During that debate in the Iowa House, a Democratic amendment was offered to raise the state minimum to $9.75 on July 1, 2017, and to $10.75 on Jan. 1, 2019. It also would have provided annual cost-of-living increases.
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Republicans ruled the amendment non-germane. Democrats called for a vote to suspend the rules and debate the amendment. Hinson was among majority Republicans who shot down the motion and shut down debate.
So much for having a discussion about raising the minimum wage.
In 2007, lots of Republicans voted in favor of the increase to $7.25. It passed 79-19 in the House and 40-8 in the Senate.
But somewhere along the line, it became fashionable in the GOP to scorn the minimum wage. Surely, any adult still earning the minimum must have made bad choices and failed to properly deploy bootstraps. No raise for you.
Republicans are aghast at $15 per hour. But this is what happens when you ignore struggling people long enough. They get angry and turn up the volume. They’re no longer willing to be moderately compromised into poverty.
And while Republicans ignore hundreds of thousands of Iowans working at or within shouting distance of the minimum wage — including many workers risking their health in the pandemic — we see the GOP pass large tax cuts mainly benefiting wealthy earners. We see a party unwilling to even entertain the notion of curbing huge corporate tax credits. We see massive incentives to rich companies for a handful of jobs.
There’s nothing “moderate” about a GOP agenda that yanked away public worker bargaining rights, made it tougher to get compensated for a work injury and shielded businesses from liability for sick workers in a pandemic. Hinson voted for it all. It’s time to have a discussion about that.
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