Hat-tip to Amanda: Ted Kennedy is berating the Republicans in the Senate for threatening to filibuster the minimum wage increase. Kennedy went as far as calling the Republicans greedy and unloading years of emotions about the minimum wage.
“Do you have such disdain for hard-working Americans that you want to pile all your amendments on this? Why don’t you just hold your amendments until other pieces of legislation? Why this volume of amendments on just the issue to try and raise the minimum wage? What is it about it that drives you Republicans crazy? What is it? Something. Something! What is the price that the workers have to pay to get an increase? What is it about working men and women that you find so offensive?”
The Republicans were supposed to be the party that knows all about politics, and is only weak when it comes to governing. For years, Democrats lamented how Karl Rove was a marketing genius and how for decades the Republicans had run brilliant branding campaigns.
Somehow, these marketing geniuses decided it would be a good idea to filibuster a bill that 83% of Americans support and 68% consider a top priority. The Senate election campaign ads for 2008 practically write themselves. “68% of Americans say they consider raising the minimum wage a top priority. In 2006, the American people elected Democrats to Congress to raise the minimum wage to $7.25. So why did Senator ____ filibuster the bill?”
The minimum wage isn’t an especially important issue. Most low-income workers make more than $7.25/hour. What keeps them in poverty is chronic unemployment and underemployment. Unemployment insurance and retraining programs are far more useful and far more costly, even if you consider the minimum wage an unfunded mandate whose true cost is this of a government supplement of everyone’s wage to $7.25/hour.
If you’re a Democrat, the above calculus is irrelevant. The minimum wage does more good than harm. That 83% of the people want that only means that a raise does not cost any political capital. But if you’re a Republican, yielding on the minimum wage is nothing compared to what you can block if you take back the Senate in 2008 or at least don’t let the Democrats increase their margin.
The above map is the incumbents heading into the 2008 Senate elections. The Republicans are defending 21 seats to the Democrats’ 12. Colorado is pink because its Senator, Wayne Allard, is retiring. In many states, such as Minnesota and New Hampshire, the Republican Party collapsed in 2006 amidst opposition to Bush.
If the Democrats can remind everyone that Senate Republicans are killing bills virtually everyone in the US supports, they can trigger a few more collapses, and flip several more seats. This is especially true if the Republican Presidential candidate is a Senator who supports the filibuster. Giuliani or Romney could probably make the minimum wage less important by coming out in favor of it, but McCain would be the best thing to happen to the Democratic Party since Barry Goldwater.