Sunday, July 12, 2015

Build the Fence...and Raise the Minimum Wage

Politics is the art of compromise, though many on each end of the political spectrum have come to see compromise as a sign of weakness. I have not yet reached this cynical state and consider the ability to compromise while moving steadily toward one's broader goals as the height of strategy.  I realize I have mentioned this idea here before, but I haven't taken the time to flesh it out.  So here goes.

Speaker Boehner and Leader McConnell should offer the Democrats a grand bargain--an increase in the minimum wage in exchange for a secure southern border and increased enforcement of current immigration laws.  Here are the reasons to make this deal:

1.  Because it separates border security from immigration policy--specifically the question of what to do with immigrants already illegally in the country.  Poll after poll show border security to be a more broadly popular policy than any approach to legalizing illegal immigrants, but as a political matter, tying the two subjects together creates a dependency that does not work for Republicans.  The matter of border security gets bound up in all sorts of side issues, nativist rants, and ethnic tensions, rather than being treated as a straightforward matter of the table stakes of sovereignty and national security.  Break this unnatural linkage and REFUSE ANY EFFORT TO CONTINUE TO LINK.

2.  Because raising the minimum wage--while dubious in its impact on actual wages and outcomes--is a relatively pain-free way for Republicans to "give" on something that Democrats are hard over on. Let's face it. There is ALREADY a minimum wage and it has been raised a number of times in the past. And to the extent that pain does develop as a result of economic distortion created by raising it, my sense is that such pain would amount to a rounding error compared against the totality of our economy.  We are standing on principle here, and it isn't working for us.

3.  Because as a political matter, this puts the Democrats on the defensive, in a HUGE way.  Let's say Boehner and McConnell make this offer in a splashy way to the President and Democrats--and the Democrats walk away from it.  Imagine the reaction from working class voters of all races and ethnicities who will have to reconcile the fact that the Democrats refused this increase in order to essentially protect the rights of those who would enter our country illegally--thereby continuing to exert downward wage pressure in the first place.

4.  Because it would show that with Republicans in charge, big important things CAN happen, and we can achieve things that are very important to our voters.  Yes, the cost of this is giving in on another issue, but it is one that is far less important to Republican voters.

5.  This entire “swap” cannot be held hostage to the “must be revenue neutral” crap.  Building a fence is going to cost some money.  We have to recognize that.

6.  This is a "take it or leave it" negotiation.

What then, to do about those who are already here illegally?  What about paths to legitimacy and citizenship?  These are important questions, questions that should be considered and discussed.  But for the time being--they are simply not subject to political solutions and the discussions surrounding them do not work to GOP advantage.  Skip them and move on.


TigerHawk said...

OK, as an exercise in political strategy I like it. I happen to believe that the best minimum wage is a local one, but the benefit of this proposal is that it positions the GOP as the party that can best respond to middle-class anxiety. Even better, it ties immigration to stagnant wages, which exposes the giant fraud in the game the Democrats are playing with American living standards.

"The Hammer" said...

Well apart from the fact raising the minimum wage would cost jobs, sure I'd go for it. But the Democrats wouldn't and unfortunately neither would Boner and McConnell. Hell they love the present system, otherwise they would have done something about it long ago. The only thing that will get these guys off the dime is to replace them with our guys. That's it! They're not the decision makers here.

JB said...

I can see 2 reasons (off the top of my head) why this won't work (or will blow up in the faces of the Speaker & Leader):
1) The branch of Gov't in charge of executing any Congressional law on securing the border is the Executive Branch, and they just won't do it, or will slow roll & kick the can down the road . . . if not Executive Order it away. In this way, they get what they want (raise in minimum wage), and don't do what they don't want to (secure the border) - just like they did w/ Reagan in '82. Remember Lucy, Charlie Brown & the football? Or . . .
2) . . . the Democrats will counter-offer w/ an unrealistically high minimum wage that they know Republicans will balk at. When the Republicans back down, the Democrats get an election year "win" by pointing to the Republicans failure to "help out the middle class." Republicans will once again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

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