Statement by Ralph Nader on Colorado Senate Race: “Cory Gardner: Fringe on the Minimum Wage”

Over the years, Cory Gardner has not held back from letting Coloradans know how staunchly opposed he is to minimum wage raises. In 2006, he opposed a ballot initiative to raise the Colorado minimum wage. In 2007, he again voted against raising the Colorado minimum wage. And earlier this year, he spoke out against pending legislation to modestly raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10.

What he is not letting on, though, is how fringe his minimum wage position is relative to history, modern economics, business interests, conservative principles and the public sentiment.

Fringe relative to history: The federal minimum wage is as American as Elvis, enacted in 1938 by an overwhelming majority in Congress. It has been raised over 20 times and has ­­ despite near­constant cry­wolfs by corporate lobbyists ­­ never caused a problem. As Republican Congressman Don Young put it, “I have been through three different minimum wage increases and I have not seen that much of a negative impact to our economy.” A raise in the federal minimum wage today from $7.25 to $10.10 ­­ benefitting tens of millions of American workers ­­ would be no different. In fact, today’s push for a higher minimum raise is less of a raise in the minimum wage and more of a restoration of the minimum wage, seeing as the minimum wage 46 years ago was $10.94, adjusted for inflation.

Fringe relative to economics: Earlier this year, seven Nobel Prize­winning economists and eight former presidents of the American Economic Association endorsed a higher minimum wage, arguing the “a minimum­wage increase would provide a much­needed boost to the earnings of low­wage workers” and “could have a small stimulative effect on the economy as low­wage workers spend their additional earnings, raising demand and job growth, and providing some help on the jobs front.” This is no surprise: multiple meta­analyses of the economics literature conclude that modest minimum wage increases lead to no significant job losses.

Fringe relative to business: Of small businesses polled by the American Sustainable Business Council this year ­­ a plurality of whom were Republican ­­ 61% support a raise in the minimum wage. One respondent put the connection between the minimum wage and business success especially well: “I know firsthand that investing in employees is the best investment a business can make. We need our government to raise the minimum wage so that all workers can make a living and businesses have the stronger customer base we need to create lasting homegrown jobs and profitability.”

Fringe to conservatives: A growing set of conservative luminaries ­­ like Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Tim Pawlenty, Phyllis Schlafly and Bill O’Reilly ­­ have come out in favor of raising the

minimum wage. Perhaps its because they agree with former California Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron Unz that ­­ from a conservative perspective ­­ it makes “more sense for employers to pay their workers than the government.” As a recent Economic Policy Institute study points out, raising the minimum wage to $10.10 would save taxpayers $7.6 billion per year in public assistance expenditures, reducing a regime of poverty­wage free­riding by corporations like Walmart and McDonald’s. It’s no wonder 26 Republicans signed a letter to John Boehner in 2006 calling on him to raise the minimum wage and insisting that “nobody working full time should have to live in poverty.”

Fringe to American public sentiment: In poll after poll, 70­80% of Americans support raising the minimum wage, including a majority of Republicans. This wide public sentiment is supported across all demographics, with ­­ according to a Hart Research poll ­­ 80% of non­college educated white people, 74% of Westerners and 80% of Independents supporting a minimum wage raise. Americans have a moral message for Congress: the people who feed, clean up after, serve, and care for us daily deserve a raise!

269,000 Coloradans ­­ 18% of the Colorado workforce ­­ would be directly helped by a raise in the minimum wage to $10.10. 207,400 ­­ 17% of all Coloradan children ­­ have a parent who would be helped. Colorado’s small businesses are waiting on the $578 million in aggregate wage increases that are going to, for the most part, be spent at their stores. These Coloradans do not need more fringe Senate opposition to modest wage increases. They need a Senator who can support them in their push for a long­awaited, much­deserved minimum wage restoration.