Chris Christie Is In The Minority On Minimum Wage

chris christie minimum wage

Yesterday, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie did two things that surprised no one: He went to a Springsteen concert and he shot down the NJ legislature’s attempt to raise the statewide minimum wage to $15.

What do these two things have in common? Both Springsteen and raising the minimum wage are very popular with The Common Person. And while Governor Christie appears to be on the right side of history with his love of the Boss (he claims to have seen the man in concert over 100 times), he’s swimming upstream in his opposition to an increased minimum wage.

Chris Christie knows all the words

A video posted by Luc Cohen (@luccohen92) on

In his statement about the decision, Christie cited speed of the increase—to $15 over five years— as his reason for vetoing the bill, stating that it “fails to consider the capacity of businesses, especially small businesses, to absorb the substantially increased labor costs it will impose” adding that it would be responsible for “killing jobs and erasing gains of more than 275,000 private sector jobs since 2010.”

Aside: He said “killing jobs”! Do a shot!

The New Jersey business community immediately rushed to express support for the decision; the New Jersey Business & Industry Association agreed with Christie, calling the proposed increase “too much, too fast.”

Which is basically exactly what business leaders always say—whatever you propose, regardless of the phase-in period or any other considerations, it’s too much and it’s too fast.

How much of a minimum increase would be just right? That’s a little harder to pinpoint (since, you know, trickle-downers are pretty slippery) but thanks to leaked polling from this spring, we know that the support—even in the business community!—is definitely there80% of respondents to a survey for business owners said they supported an increase to their state’s wage.

If business owners are anything like regular people—and let’s assume they are, since that’s what they always tell us—they probably support a minimum wage of at least $12 or more, depending on which polling you look at.

For literal decades, a majority of Americans have stated that they support raising the minimum wage—and the degree of the increase has been going up and up over time.

A 2013 Gallup poll found that over 70% of Americans supported an increase to $9 per hour.

“Raising the federal minimum wage is typically a crowd pleaser when it comes to policy prescriptions, and Obama’s proposal to push the rate from the current $7.25 to $9 is no exception,” wrote Gallup at the time. “The 71% vs. 27% balance of U.S. public opinion in favor of passing it is convincing, particularly when considering that even half of Republicans are in favor.”

Just one year later, a Pew poll reported that 73% of respondents said they’d support $10.10 per hour (which is just slightly more than findings from a Rutgers poll which looked just at New Jersey voters).

A Rasmussen poll from this year found that 71% supported an increase of over $9.50, and 59% want at least $12.50. That poll also found just 12% support for a full $15—but in the same month, a HuffPo/YouGov survey was released which reported that 48% of respondents supported $15.

Which is to say: Public support for increasing the minimum wage has been strong for years, and as income inequality increases and the poor get pushed further to the margins, the voting public is looking for something more sweeping than just $9 or $10.10. Within a few more years—like, around the time that California, New York, and Oregon’s wages hit their full peak—it’s not unlikely that the majority of supporters will get behind wages of $13.50 or more.

Hell, even Christie’s #MCM political ally, Donald Trump, recently switched his position ever so slightly to propose a slight increase to the minimum wage. Why? Because Trump knows how to please people, and this is what the people want.

And while most the people may not be quite on board with a federal $15 yet, that’s kind of what state and local lawmakers are for—to do things that are future-thinking and will go down in the history books as good things that helped people right at home.

Christie may think he’s pleasing the business community with this vote, but when voters in New Jersey head to the ballot with an increase (which they’ve pledged to do, much like Maine, Washington, Colorado, and Arizona), it seems like he may realize just how wrong he is on this issue.

Comments

comments

Hanna Brooks Olsen
Hanna Brooks Olsen is a reporter in Seattle. Her writing about the economy and politics has appeared in the Atlantic, the Nation, Salon, Fast Company, and elsewhere.