E.J. Dionne's latest column, which The Journal Gazette ran this morning, has one of the most unintentionally hilarious opening paragraphs I've seen in awhile:
The 2010 election is turning into a class war. The wealthy and the powerful started it.
As the piece develops, he goes on and on about the "radicalism" of the "current brand of conservatism," which includes, among other things, Republican candidates "grappling with the impact of their bad-mouthing minimum-wage laws." Funny. I haven't heard of the minimum wage in ages, and here it was for the second time in less than 12 hours. The first was on Chris Matthews' "Hardball" last night, which has to get the prize for biggest reach to score political points with the Chilean mine rescue. He had the AFL-CIO president on, who suggested, after Matthews said this "was a story about how people can work together," that it's just "another example of how radical the Republican Party is becoming, do away with the minimum wage."
How did E.J. and Chris get on the same page so quickly? Oh, that's easy:
With the midterm elections looming like a dark cloud, Democrats are scrambling around for an issue or issues with which to stem the coming GOP tide. Some of the GOP's more radically conservative candidates might have given the Democrats such an issue with their pronouncements questioning the federal minimum wage.
These tools aside, it's not exactly a new or radical idea that federal minimum wage laws might hurt some of the low-income people they are supposed to help. Even The New York Times once said so in a rare moment of lucidity for editors there:
Congress has increasingly been putting more burden on employers, like higher minimum wages or particular health and welfare benefits, as the Federal deficit has made Government financing harder. These requirements amount to a hidden tax. In the case of the minimum wage, the tax is on the jobs of those at the lowest rung.