Today We Have Bipartisan Support for Raising the Minimum Wage!

| Fri Feb. 15, 2013 2:31 PM EST

Over at NRO, Kevin Williamson says that he likes the idea of indexing the minimum wage to inflation and being done with it for good, but Democrats are simply too treacherous to negotiate with:

The problem is that in the current political climate, a deal is never a deal. Republicans might agree to a small increase in the minimum wage in return for indexing it to CPI and then leaving it alone — if not forever, then at least for some meaningful period of time. Once the long-term rule is established, markets can adjust, and investments can be made. In theory, that would be a pretty good deal, but there is nothing to stop Democrats from advocating further increases to the indexed minimum wage every time they feel the need to trot out a little class-warfare artillery, which is about once a week, apparently.

Well, I guess there's never any guarantee that some Democrat or another won't "trot out" a proposal to increase the minimum wage whenever the mood hits them, but will "Democrats" do this? Let's take a look at an analogous situation. For the first three decades of its existence, Social Security benefits were increased sporadically, whenever Congress had a collective mind to do so. Then, in 1975, benefits were indexed to inflation.

So what happened after that? Have Democrats been pressing for benefit hikes every week or so? I'm not an expert on the legislative history of Social Security over the past 38 years, but I'm pretty sure the answer is no. In 1983, Dems agreed to a small benefit cut as part of the Greenspan Commission deal. In 1993, Bill Clinton effectively cut benefits again by approving a measure that raised taxes on Social Security payouts for higher income beneficiaries. In 2012, Barack Obama expressed a willingness to cut benefits yet again by changing the way CPI is calculated.

But higher benefits? That's never really been on the table. What has been on the table, of course, are relentless efforts from Republicans to slash benefits in various ways, which Democrats have almost uniformly opposed. If Republicans do the same for a minimum wage indexed to inflation, they can probably expect the same.

But my guess is that an increase to nine bucks, along with indexing the minimum wage to CPI, would satisfy most Democrats for quite a while. It wouldn't satisfy all lefties, but that's a rather different thing. It's congressional Democrats who have to stick to the deal, and there's really no good reason to think they wouldn't.

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