Published On: Wed, Mar 7th, 2012

Romney Flip-Flops on Minimum Wage: Now Opposes Automatic Increases in the Minimum Wage

By The National Employment Law Project Action Fund

Washington, DC – Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told CNBC host Larry Kudlow yesterday that he was against increasing the federal minimum wage, after pledging support for automatic increases in the federal minimum wage earlier this year.

When Larry Kudlow confronted Romney with opposition from the Wall Street Journal and other business groups to his support for automatically increasing the minimum wage to keep pace with inflation, Romney reversed his previous position, saying, “There’s probably not a need to raise the minimum wage.”

However, when asked his position on the minimum wage on video on January 7th by a NELP Action Fund staffer, Romney responded, “My view has been to allow the minimum wage to rise with the CPI [Consumer Price Index] or with another index so that it adjusts automatically over time.” When asked if he would support that policy as president, he responded, “I already indicated that when I was governor of Massachusetts and that’s my view.”

Yesterday Romney also mischaracterized the position he took on the minimum wage as governor, when he supported automatic increases in the minimum wage tied to inflation. In the interview with Kudlow, he said that as Governor  “the proposal I made, every two years, we should look at the minimum wage, we should see what’s happened to inflation, we should also look at the jobs level throughout the country, unemployment rate, competitive rates in other states or, in this case, other nations.” In fact, Romney’s expressed proposal as Governor and when he ran for the Senate in 1994 would have created automatic increases in the minimum wage based solely on inflation.

As reported by the Boston Globe in 2006, “As a candidate for governor in 2002, Romney proposed indexing the minimum wage to inflation and boosting the hourly pay for the state’s lowest-paid workers to $6.96 an hour starting January 2004. In March 2005, he was quoted as saying he supported raising the minimum wage to keep up with inflation.”

Romney’s recent endorsement of automatic annual increases in the federal minimum wage was met with intense criticism from conservatives, prompting attacks from Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Rush Limbaugh, Dick Armey, Sen. Jim DeMint, Steve Forbes, Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, The Club for Growth and more.

“As recently as last month, Governor Romney’s stated position on the minimum wage was quite clear.  But with his latest flip flop, where he actually stands on this critical issue is as clear as mud,” said Chris Owens of the National Employment Law Project Action Fund.  “With this new-found opposition to a minimum wage increase, Gov. Romney has made perfectly clear he is out of touch with the economic reality of low-wage workers and out of step with the large majority of Americans who support a fair increase in the minimum wage.”

Raising the minimum wage draws support from all income groups and political parties, including majorities of independent voters and Republicans. Recent polling found that two-thirds of Americans – a bipartisan majority – support raising the minimum wage to $10 and then indexing it to inflation to keep up with the rising cost of living.  If it had been indexed based on the Consumer Price Index since 1968, it would be approximately $10.40 today.

Ten states have adopted the practice previously endorsed by Romney of raising the minimum wage each year based on the Consumer Price Index so that it automatically increases to keep pace with the cost of living.  And while Romney indicated that he thinks the current minimum wage of $7.25 – or $15,000 a year – is adequate, eighteen states plus the District of Columbia have raised their minimum wage standards above that level.

Efforts to raise and index the minimum wage in additional states have been gaining momentum.  Minimum wage legislation has moved forward in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware in recent weeks, with similar proposals already pending in Illinois, Massachusetts, Hawaii and California. Community members in Missouri and San Jose, California are gathering signatures to put measures to increase the minimum wage on the ballot in November.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, President Obama endorsed first raising the federal minimum wage to $9.50 by 2011 and then indexing it based on the Consumer Price Index so that it automatically rises each year to keep pace with inflation.

More background on the minimum wage can be found at www.raisetheminimumwage.org.

The National Employment Law Project Action Fund, a project of The Advocacy Fund, is a non-profit organization under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue code.  

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