Governor of Maine Claims an Increased Minimum Wage Will Kill Senior Citizens, Somehow

If you think this is a dumb thing for the governor of Maine to say, history indicates that you should just wait a couple days; he's sure to say something even dumber pretty soon.

If you think this is a dumb thing for the governor of Maine to say, history indicates that you should just wait a couple days; he’s sure to say something even dumber pretty soon.

And here I thought we’d heard it all before.

Every time a community considers raising the minimum wage, business owners and conservative politicians love to toss out threats. They’ll never open new restaurants again. They’ll have to close their existing restaurants. No new businesses will want to move in. When the minimum wage is adopted, of course, those threats prove to be empty. Businesses keep opening and existing businesses keep hiring.

As Civic Ventures co-founder Nick Hanauer notes, a National Employment Law Project study found that when you measure all of “the nearly two dozen federal minimum wage hikes since 1938, total year-over-year employment actually increased 68 percent of the time.” The few times when employment stayed flat or decreased? They generally unfolded during recessions, when employment always decreases or stays flat.

The American people have finally figured out that these threats are baseless. Minimum wage increases are polling incredibly well around the country, because people understand that raising the minimum wage doesn’t kill business — in fact, when more people make more money, businesses have more customers. So I’ve figured for a while that conservative minimum-wage opponents were going to try to figure out a new tack; after all, they need to figure out a way that will allow their base—the top one percent—to keep their money.

I just didn’t figure that new tack would be quite this crazy:

[Maine] Gov. Paul LePage affirmed his statement Friday that two advocates of a state ballot question to increase the minimum wage should be jailed, saying they are guilty of the “attempted murder” of senior citizens because of the alleged impact of a wage increase.

So raising the minimum wage is killing people now? LePage’s rationale is that an increased minimum wage is “attempted murder in my mind because it is pushing people to the brink of survival.” He says it will increase costs, which means senior citizens on a fixed income won’t be able to afford goods and services and so they’ll starve to death.

Of course, studies in Seattle show that an increased minimum wage has resulted in “little or no” increase to costs. And if there has been an increase in senior citizen deaths in Seattle due to these nonexistent cost hikes, I sure haven’t heard about it. (Seems like it would be tough to measure a response to something that hasn’t happened, but I’m not a genius like Governor LePage, so what do I know?)

Look: I can’t believe I’m saying this, but there is no correlation between senior citizen deaths and the minimum wage. Governor LePage is spinning bullshit out of thin air. And it should go without saying that it is highly irresponsible for a sitting governor to accuse two private citizens of attempted murder. Of course, LePage is the same hopelessly racist brain donor who said that Donald Trump needs to be in charge so he can show “authoritarian power.” He’s about the furthest thing from an expert on any legitimate topic that you can imagine.

LePage’s claims aren’t going to catch on, because they’re completely insane. But LePage does prove that the conservative anti-minimum wage crowd is on the hunt for a new message (lord knows their old message isn’t working anymore.) Let’s hope their next attempts to find plausible claims are a little more believable—and responsible—than these.

 

 

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Paul Constant
Paul Constant has written about politics, books, and film for Newsweek, The Progressive, the Utne Reader, and alternative weeklies around the country.