COVID-19 Relief and Minimum Wage in the Spotlight

The Flag Staff Contributor
COVID-19 Relief and Minimum Wage in the Spotlight
Read Time: approx. 3:18

COVID-19 Relief and Minimum Wage: Currently, it looks like Democrats will not be pushing to include any minimum wage provisions in their $1.9 trillion stimulus bill. Here is the reaction from both sides. To have stories like this and more delivered directly to your inbox, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.

Top Story: COVID-19 Relief and Minimum Wage

Thomas Franck of CNBC reports: “Senate Democrats will abandon backup plans to help raise workers’ pay through tax penalties against corporations in their $1.9 trillion stimulus bill. Lawmakers last week floated a “plan B” in President Biden’s COVID relief bill that would have punished corporations that paid workers below a certain threshold. Sens. Ron Wyden and Bernie Sanders offered that plan after the Senate parliamentarian ruled a proposed $15 per hour minimum wage could not be included in a bill passed under the budget reconciliation process.” Here’s what both sides are saying and why the topic of minimum wage matters:

On The Right

Republicans support the Senate parliamentarian’s decision. They call out perceived hypocrisy as it relates to progressives’ reaction to the ruling and minimum wage in general. With that said, Conservatives are paying closer attention to public opinion surrounding minimum wage, highlighting its increased importance in light of the economic fallout from the pandemic.

Let’s begin with Bill Scher, who voices his support for the Senate parliamentarian in a piece for RealClear Politics. Scher says in the past, “House progressives — including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Pramila Jayapal, and Ro Khanna… have defended unelected bureaucrats from conservative attack,” yet this time they “all sung from the same song sheet.” These progressives said: “… an ‘unelected parliamentarian’ should not be allowed to block a minimum wage increase” and pushed for her to be “overruled or fired.” Scher believes these calls are hypocritical. Scher says “It’s not the parliamentarian’s fault that … Democrats are not united in support for a $15 national minimum wage.” In regards to the parliamentarian’s ruling and other procedures in the upper house of Congress, like the Byrd Rule and filibuster, he says, “The rules stay on the books because a majority of the Senate wants to keep them on the books.” Scher concludes by saying “If the minimum wage is to be increased, it will be because enough members of Congress who hold different views negotiate with one another and reach a compromise. Progressives should work toward that end, and leave the parliamentarian alone.”

Emily Jacobs also hints at hypocrisy by calling out Democrat lawmakers for paying their employees less than the same minimum wage they promote. In The New York Post, she writes that “Lawmakers including Reps. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), Susan Wild (D-PA), Chris Pappas (D-NH) and Sharice Davids (D-KS)…have offered positions that paid below the minimum wage they claimed to be fighting for.” Pappas, in particular, “was outed for continuing to offer jobs at a $12.50 hourly wage when the congressman had changed his position to support $15.” In a similar piece from the Daily Wire, Ashe Schow writes that Bernie Sanders’ salaried staffers saw “their hours cut in order to ensure they’re paid $15 per hour.” In general, Conservatives’ argument against minimum wage increases is that they will lead to shorter hours and layoffs. By complaining about press coverage of this matter, Sanders “shows he hasn’t truly thought through the consequences of his policies.”

In terms of suggesting a way forward, Senators Tom Cotton and Mitt Romney outlined an alternative wage-increase proposal in a piece for Fox News. Cotton and Romney’s views are that “America has a responsibility to protect its citizens, but for years Congress has allowed the pay of our poorest workers to be eroded by competition from illegal immigrants and skyrocketing cost of living.” As a result, they are introducing a bill that would “correct both these failures” called “the Higher Wages for American Workers Act, [which] would raise the federal minimum wage to $10 an hour over time and make sure all the gains go to legal workers, not illegal immigrants.” The bill “would protect jobs for American workers by requiring employers to use the E-Verify system to ensure that businesses cannot hire illegal immigrants.” It would “also gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $10 an hour, starting one year after the official end of the pandemic.” Cotton and Romney believe “This careful approach to the minimum wage would boost the paychecks of approximately 3.5 million workers while having ‘virtually no effect’ on the number of available jobs, according to the CBO.” 

Republicans believe Democrat’s calls for a higher minimum wage are hypocritical because some haven’t practiced what they preach. However, there is a noticeable shift in terms of how some Conservatives are thinking about the issue in light of the pandemic.

On The Left

Progressive and establishment Democrats alike want President Biden to fight harder to pass an increased minimum wage. Whether they replace the parliamentarian or lean harder on moderate Democrats, progressives insist on a change.  

David Sirota calls out President Biden in The Guardian for not going to bat for progressives on minimum wage and other matters as well. He writes, “There has been a lot of dishonesty and deception floating around Democratic Washington these days. There was the lie two months ago that $2,000 checks would be coming ‘immediately’ to a desperate nation struggling through a pandemic. There is the lie about the parliamentarian supposedly being the reason the $15 minimum wage is stalled. There is once again the lie of a forthcoming ‘public option,’ which Democrats promised but which is barely being discussed at all, and is not part of the COVID relief legislation.” Sirota, a former Bernie Sanders campaign staffer, can only conclude that “Biden seems unwilling to push as hard as possible for a minimum wage increase that would boost the pay of millions of Americans during an economic emergency.” He ends by urging Biden to reconsider, writing that “He has the power to at least try – he just seems unwilling to.”

In Salon, Jon Queally quotes The New Republic’s Osita Nwanevu, who “argued that Democrats have no one but themselves to blame for the failure to include the $15 minimum wage increase in the Senate’s COVID-19 relief package.” He points out that “a progressive coalition” has “sent a letter to Biden and Harris and are circulating a petition demanding that the parliamentarian’s guidance be disregarded so that the increase can be included in the Senate bill.” Queally notes that one of those progressives,  Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash. addressed the issue Saturday morning on MSNBC. Jayapal said, “Democrats have no choice but to ‘muscle it through’ the Senate given the campaign promises made to voters leading up to last year’s elections.” … “It’s been 12 years since we’ve raised the minimum wage and 30 since we’ve raised the federal tipped wage,” added Jayapal. “We can’t keep kicking the can down the road as millions are pushed into poverty. In a crisis like this, working people need all the help we can provide. Let’s deliver.”

James Downie makes the same case in The Washington Post, citing a case from “twenty years ago when a parliamentarian ruled against Republican efforts to pass tax cuts by reconciliation in an evenly divided Senate.” Downie notes that “the GOP replaced him.” Downie believes that “One way or the other, [Democrats] need to get this done. Failure risks sending a dangerous message that they simply don’t prioritize a living wage for all Americans the way Republicans do tax cuts for the wealthiest.”

Democrats of all stripes seem to view the minimum wage increase as critical to their base and urge swift passage by any means necessary.

Flag This: COVID-19 Relief and Minimum Wage

Reuters/Ipsos poll showed on Thursday that “A majority of Americans support the idea of more than doubling the minimum wage to $15 per hour.” Meanwhile, a poll by Yahoo Finance and Harris of more than 1,000 US adults found that “83% of Americans agreed that a person working a full-time job at the current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour isn’t making enough money to live.” However, 83% also agreed that “Congress should consider the wage hike separately from a COVID relief package.”

Flag Poll

Do you think the Federal minimum wage should be increased to $15 per hour? Why or why not? Use the comment section below to share your thoughts.

Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
1 month ago

I do not support $15 an hour but I think an increase to $10 0r $11 an hour makes perfect sense. It is a fact that $7.25 an hour is too low. Just to be clear though how many employers actually pay just minimum wage? I have never heard of any one around where I live not making at least $10 an hour and that includes high school kids working part time.

Reply to  Jeff
1 month ago

I agree with Jeff. I do not support raising the minimum wage to $15/hr, an increase to $10 seems reasonable. Many states have already raised the minimum wage to the level the state deems doable.

1 month ago

The market should determine the wage based upon supply and demand. However, if we had taken care of the illegal alien problem we wouldn’t have them impeding on some of our lowest wage earners which are generally high school and college students.

Susan R Swanson
1 month ago

I do not agree with the $15 an hour minimum wage increase. Firstly, if people want to make more money they should get more education or training to earn a higher wage. It’s what I did. Secondly, for those of us who make $15 an hour now, will our pay go up by the same percentage as minimum wage workers? Why should I work in a high-stress job for $16 an hour if I can work flipping burgers for $15 an hour? Also, costs of living vary wildly across the country. A 3 bedroom house in Connecticut is going to cost double or more than a house in the deep south or desert. Each State should set its wages, not the national government. We are creating a nation of people who have their hand out for more but are unwilling to take action themselves to earn more. The buzz word these days that seems to garner attention is “offended”. Well, I’m offended at this wage increase nonsense. Small businesses like the one my family operated will go under, it will be the end of many mom & pop shops. If my father was alive today he would not recognize the country he served

1 month ago

I do not support raising minimum wage to $15.00 Everyone needs to realize you do this than everything else we buy goes up also This is a known fact Too many people are use to hand outs and do not want to work because they get more if they don’t work The systems need to change

1 month ago

I do not support a $15 an hour minimum wage simply because of how the economy works. Is it not obvious that it would hurt more than it would help? Why would we rather pull some people up to lower middle class status and push a much large group to unemployment? As much as I dislike MDs minimum wage laws ours is $11 and seems to be working fairly efficiently, but raising to $15 makes very little sense to me.

1 month ago

A higher minimum wage sounds great, but who will pay for it? Some businesses will close, unable to pay for the increase. All will have to increase their prices, making their products or services more expensive for all. This will decrease the customer base since not everyone can afford the expense. Will this lead to inflation? More closures? Increased prices will lead to more sales tax being collected- more money for the government. Increased pay will also lead to more income tax being collected- still more money for the government. Will there be any jobs for the young, the part-timers, the retired- those who are starting, just need a little extra, or those who just want to keep busy? Who does the minimum wage have to be more than doubled- it seems like an extreme jump! Why can’t it be a gradual increase that would be more easily absorbed by businesses?

1 month ago

I do not believe that the minimum wage was ever intended to make a living wage. Rather it is intended as a starter wage. Kids in high school working at a burger joint do not need to make $15.00 an hour. However, I do think the compromise the Republicans suggested at $10 an hour is feasible. Anyone in business knows that if the minimum wage goes to $15 the price of that cheeseburger combo will not cost $7.00 anymore. It will go up to help cover the cost of the minimum wage increase. If businesses can’t maintain a profit because of the wage increase, they will lay off people. That is just the way it is. You are in business to make a profit, not lose money or just get by.

Selena Vinson
1 month ago

I do not support $15 min wage. Increasing min wage will increases prices for businesses to cover the cost. It won’t make any difference. While people will make more money, it will cost more to live. Effectively making it a wash. Then there’s the problem with everyone getting paid that now. What happens to their pay? It would be difficult at best for small businesses to stay open. And would make no difference in poverty.

1 month ago

Yes i think that minimum wage should be increased to $15 an hour but not at the expense of the Covid relief bill which will extend unemployment benefits past the middle of March. $15 means nothing if there is no job to go to. Pass the relief bill and then go duke it out about the minimum wage. Some Republicans are beginning to see the value of a $15 minimum wage and that coupled with an infrastructure bill just might get us back towards cooperation instead of confrontation.

1 month ago

What happened to Bernie’s staffers would happen more often. It’s just economics + human behavior. For reference, look what happened under the so-called Affordable Care Act to a lot of low-income workers (minimum wage / entry level). When employers were mandated to offer health care to those working more than 30 hours a week (or pay a penalty), a whole lot of folks suddenly saw their hours magically reduced to just below that number, and overnight “full-time” employment went from 40 hours to 30. A similar response will occur every time because balance sheets, except of course in D.C., have to find equilibrium somehow.

1 month ago

Have proponents of raising the minimum wage considered what it would do to senior citizens? If wages double, so do prices of everything including food and other necessities. How many retired people will get their income doubled? I hear no talk of doubling Social Security payments. Will the elderly have to find a job in order to survive? Or are they “disposable?”

Reply to  Deb
1 month ago

Social security recipients unlike those earning $7.50 an hour have had cost of living increases over the years. Not a lot but better than nothing.

1 month ago

I support the Federal minimum wage be increased to $15 per hour, but not included in the Covid bill. Should be addressed separately.

1 month ago

I think raising the minimum wage to $15/hour at the start of 2026 would be acceptable. I would support a jump to $10/hour starting 7/1/21, and increasing it by $1/hour in each subsequent year ($11.00 in 2022, $12.00 in 2023, $13.00 in 2024, and $14 in 2025). This way it is gradual and will have little impact employment. Most employers in the South (where I live) current pay a minimum of $12/hour even for entry level fast food workers. Most manufacturers pay +$16/hour even for entry level jobs. It is criminal that some employers would pay such a low wage that does not provide a living wage for anyone!

1 month ago

I don’t agree with the current minimum wage but non-skilled positions should not earn as much where the employee has taken steps to increase their educational level. $15 to flip burgers? I don’t think so! In the end all that will happen is the vendor will have to raise their prices even more to be able to pay that hamburger flipper that amount of money. Small businesses will close because they can not afford those salaries.

Reply to  Joyce
1 month ago

Where I live business owners l know live in beautiful mansions that us professional cannot afford. I don’t resent them, they work long hours, but let us stop hearing that we will drive small business owners into poverty.

1 month ago

I believe we should allow the market to determine what the minimum wages should be. I also think that we should have long ago dealt with the influx of illegal immigrants; if so, we would not be in the situation we are today. We should have heeded Congresswoman Barbara Jordon’s word back in 1995 when she commented on the immigration problem.