Mitt Romney and the Minimum Wage
I Think We're Beginning to See a Pattern, Here.
By Leon H Wolf Posted in 2008 — Comments (54) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
UPDATE [12-12-06 21:38:00 EST by Leon]: I want to be fair to Mitt Romney. I'm having trouble finding actual quotes from Mitt Romney from 1994 which say that he opposes a minimum wage hike - all I can find are news reports saying that he was opposed to a minimum wage hike. To that extent, it's entirely possible that Romney is just a liberal on this issue, rather than a flip-flopper.
UPDATE [12-12-06 21:58:00 EST by Leon]: I'm coming rapidly to the conclusion that Romney himself never said that he opposed a hike in the minimum wage. In the interest of fairness, I have included a quote from Romney in 1994 in which he denies having ever been opposed to hikes in the minimum wage. While this causes me to wonder why anyone - social or fiscal conservative - thinks he's a good candidate, it is looking less convincing as added evidence that he is a flip-flopper.
So the Romney defenders came out earlier today and flatly insisted that there was no problem - no problem at all, with Romney saying 12 years ago that "I was an independent during the time of Reagan-Bush. I'm not trying to return to Reagan-Bush," while he's saying today that Reagan is one of his heroes. Fine. I wasn't prepared to really press the point any further for now since, as I said at the time, I don't really consider one's level of support for Reagan to be all that big of a deal. Well, I had a little free time tonight, so I decided to pull some of these articles I've found into Word format so that I can reference them more easily later, and I found a line in one of the articles about the minimum wage that I had somehow missed entirely. In the July 25, 2002 issue of Hotline, in an article titled "MASSACHUSETTS: O'BRIEN LEADS DEM PRIMARY BY 12 IN DEM POLL; 28%; STILL UNDECIDED," there was this little nugget:
Boston Globe's Ebbert reports that GOP nominee Mitt Romney "surprised his" Dem opponents yesterday 7/24 "by proposing to link the" MA minimum wage to inflation in a move "that could be costly to business." Romney, "who made his name as a tough-minded businessman and turnaround venture capitalist," unveiled his proposal "as part of his economic development agenda" and "said it would help corporate leaders by making wage increases more predictable." Romney: "I do not believe that indexing the minimum wage will cost us jobs. I believe it will help us to retain jobs."
Apart from the fact that this is not exactly a "conservative" or "business-friendly" view of the minimum wage (it is, in fact, one of the oldest plays in the liberal Democrat playbook), the story of Mitt Romney's journey to this position is damning for its similarity to other journeys that Mitt Romney has recently taken.
Follow me below the fold...
You see, Mitt Romney was not always for a minimum wage increase. Back in 1994, when he was running against Teddy Kennedy, he was pressed on the issue of minimum wage increased (if there is anything Teddy Kennedy can always, at any time, be counted on to support, it's an increase in the minimum wage). At that time, he opposed an increase in the minimum wage as an "anti-business" position - since that fit with the image he was trying to portray then.
Fast forward to 2002. Mitt's fresh off conducting the Olympics, his stock is high, and it becomes clear that Swift is going to give way to Romney, and the Democrats are nervous. Right away, they latch on to two things they're going to hammer him on - one of which was the minimum wage. Watch this:
Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company
The Boston Globe
March 21, 2002, Thursday ,THIRD EDITION
SECTION: METRO/REGION; Pg. A1
LENGTH: 783 words
HEADLINE: A CHANGED CAMPAIGN;
DEMOCRATS WEIGH MOVES VS. ROMNEY
BYLINE: By Rick Klein, GLOBE STAFF
"Now that it's clear that Romney will be the Republican nominee, he's the person we're going to be talking about," Johnston said. "Mitt Romney really represents a continuation of Republican policies which have not served the state well."
That theme was echoed by several candidates yesterday, and Democrats took particular joy in an appearance yes-terday in which Swift and Romney appeared shoulder-to-shoulder, with Romney praising Swift's leadership. Romney's opponents will look to link him with Swift and her immediate predecessors, whom they are blaming for budget short-falls and cost overruns at the Big Dig.
And in some ways, the candidates said, Romney is an even better target than Swift, since some of his positions offer greater opportunities for contrast. Democrats are already mentioning his one-time opposition to a minimum- wage increase and his stance on abortion rights.
"It poses a starker contrast with regard to values," said Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham, a Chelsea Democ-rat who is running for governor. "He and I are 180 degrees apart."
On April 1, 2002, Robert Reich, who was then considered to be a front-runner for the Democratic nomination to run against Romney, went on Bill O'Reilly to discuss the new Romney candidacy:
O'REILLY: What's his weakness?
REICH: You know, I don't know anything about him.
REICH: I know that he was against the minimum wage hike. I was for it. And I fought very, very hard to increase the minimum wage across the country. You remember the mid 1990's. I don't know very much. I know that he has worked in a venture capital firm, but that's about it.
Now did Mitt Romney, man of principle and strength and pro-business Republican, respond to all this insistent criticism by standing up and saying, "I know that this is unpopular, but I'm a pro-business Republican and I'm sticking by my guns. I'm opposed to a minimum wage hike?" As you know, since you read the opening of this story, he did not. He instead adopted (have we heard this somewhere before? I can't remember.) the position that, in his estimation, the voters before him wanted to hear.
How'd that work out for the people of Masachusetts? Well, when a minimum wage bill got sent to his desk, Romney vetoed it, claiming that the increase was too large and not in line with inflation. Fair, I guess. As of four months ago, Romney was still saying that minimum wage increases were something he supported. Because he's a pro-business Republican.
And when he addresses the Club For Growth sometime between now and election day, and they ask him whether he supports pinning the federal minimum wage to inflation? I guess that will probably depend on how sharply he is criticized for his position, and how badly he needs those voters.
The one thing it will apparently not depend upon is whether it's actually good policy.
SHOW: This Week With David Brinkley (ABC 11:30 am ET)
October 16, 1994
Transcript # 677
SAM DONALDSON: Mr. Romney, what about you? Are you for raising the minimum wage?
MITT ROMNEY: I think the minimum wage ought to keep pace with inflation. I think a minimum wage is a good thing to have in our economy, and I think it ought to be updated. We've had some inflation since the time it was set and I think an inflationary increase is appropriate.