Arkansans agree: It's time to raise minimum wage 

The idea of raising the minimum wage gets traction, critics like to say, only in election years. So, because it is a vote-getter, President Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress are pushing a wage bill this year, that is doomed to failure in a Congress controlled by Republicans.

An Arkansas group led by a Methodist minister is trying to get an initiative on the ballot to raise the state minimum wage in annual steps to $8.50 an hour, eight years after driving the state's political leaders, including Gov. Mike Huckabee, to raise it to $6.25 an hour. So Arkansas politicians facing the electorate this year are running to endorse it (Democrats) or running for cover (Republicans typically).

So is the minimum-wage debate just more cynical politics, Democrats trying to collect the votes of the 4 percent of the U.S. workforce that earns below the proposed new federal wage floor? If so, it's wasted, minimalist strategy. That quotient of the workforce, unless they are minorities, tends not to vote at all or to base its votes on anything but self-interest: guns, gays, race — well, you know the list.

But the politics of minimum wage is transparent, even if it does not track the paranoia of the right, that it's all about getting votes for politicians.

Here is the real politics. The minimum wage is universally popular in America, even far outside the disciples of organized labor. More than Europe or the rest of the developed world, the United States is a nation of workers, where toil is revered as the first value of citizenship. Whatever the chamber of commerce says or conservative economists aver, the vast majority of people believe that honest toil, no matter how menial or unskilled, is honorable and should be respected and rewarded with pay that will afford them a decent life.

The spiritually inclined take their guidance on the matter from Jesus: "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." Most minimum-wage workers, by the way, are women.

So when Rev. Steve Copley's outfit ran a poll in 2006 about raising the minimum wage and linking it permanently to the cost-of-living index, 73 percent of people in this conservative state said yes. He was starting a petition drive to get it on the ballot as an initiated act.

No one doubted the poll so the business community ran to their antilabor Republican governor, Mike Huckabee, and begged him to summon the legislature to Little Rock and enact a wage raise, something a little less than the modest increase Copley was proposing and without indexing to the cost of living. Huckabee happily obliged and the legislature enacted the wage hike. In the regular legislative session a year earlier, Huckabee had opposed a modest increase in the minimum wage and, knowing that most people were paying no attention, Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike squashed the bill.

They are apt to approve it this year, if Copley's group can overcome the campaign to stifle the signature gathering and get it on the ballot. Unlike Huckabee, Gov. Beebe won't summon the legislature to a special session to pass a weaker bill because Republicans control the legislature and Republicans nowadays march to a different drummer than the people, mainly to Americans for Prosperity and the Club for Growth. It bears repeating here that a Republican governor enabled the Arkansas minimum-wage law. Winthrop Rockefeller, facing a conservative legislature made up of 132 Democrats and three Republicans, called a special session in the summer of 1968, before the election, and proposed a state wage floor. Shamed like their ally, the Arkansas State AFL-CIO, which had opposed Rockefeller, Democratic legislators meekly passed it.

These minimum-wage battles are always fought with battalions of economists — those on one side whose theories and studies suggest that many employers would cut their workforce and those on the other side who say the reduction would be small if any and the economic stimulus enormous.

But the pronouncements of academics and business economists don't weigh an ounce with that 73 percent, or whatever percentage that favors it this year. They know the drudges who do this toil and know that it will improve their lives and that their spending will recirculate in the community and redound to nearly everyone's benefit.

Copley's act will directly raise the pay of perhaps 50,000 to 100,000 Arkansans when its last stage kicks in, but opponents will cite business economists' projections that many others will be lopped off the payroll at a time when we are struggling with unemployment.

Forget the projections and go with history. From 1938 forward, minimum-wage increases have been followed by good job-growth years.

President Clinton's wage increase in 1996 was followed by some of the biggest job years in history.

Speaking of...

  • Hillary Bus to join Democratic events today

    August 23, 2014
    The Arkansas Democratic Party will hold it state convention today at Philander Smith College and gather for the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner tonight at the Statehouse Convention Center, with remarks planned by Gov. Mike Beebe and Mike Ross, the candidate for governor, and Mark Pryor, the incumbent senator. A flavor of national politics will be added by the presence of the Hillary Bus. /more/
  • What is it with Arkansas Republicans and the homestead tax exemption?

    August 21, 2014
    Plus, few Arkansas bartenders, confident private option predictions from Gov. Mike Beebe, Arkansas Democrats weak stance on curbing carbon emissions and Bonnie Montgomery and Martin O'Malley. /more/
  • Southern governors discuss efforts to contain health care costs

    August 17, 2014
    In addition to coverage expansion, there was much talk at the Southern Governors Conference on health care payment reform — Gov. Mike Beebe argued that while it has gotten less attention, the state's Payment Improvement Initiative is an equally important development in health care reform in the state. Beebe said he was "more convinced than ever that fee for service was an unsustainable model for the payment of health care in this country." /more/
  • Southern Governors Association talks private option

    August 16, 2014
    Gov. Mike Beebe, as well as governors from Maryland and Kentucky, discussed health care reform and the private option – the unique Arkansas version of Medicaid expansion – at a panel this morning at the Southern Governors Association meeting. Here are a few highlights, including the unique status of Arkansas and Kentucky, the possibility that the private option helped cut disability applications, and why Beebe thinks Arkansas got it right and Louisiana got it wrong. /more/
  • Bill Clinton on private option and Sunni tribal leaders and genomics and Mike Beebe

    August 15, 2014
    Bill Clinton delivered the keynote address at the Southern Governors' Association this afternoon at the Little Rock Marriott. The theme of this year's conference is "Accelerating the American South's R&D Network", which of course Clinton interpreted as free license to riff on everything from welfare reform to the crisis in Ukraine. /more/
  • Tim Griffin is all wet

    August 15, 2014
    Rep. Tim Griffin challenges Max Brantley to get soaked. /more/
  • Beebe touts another broadband study

    August 11, 2014
    Gov. Mike Beebe touts a new study of school broadband. He says Arkansas could use existing expenditures and federal money to create nation-leading high-speed Internet for school kids. /more/
  • Arkansas polling: Beebe could beat Boozman; Hillary falls to all Republicans

    August 6, 2014
    New polling shows Hillary Clinton trailing Republican presidential contenders in Arkansas and continuing popularity of Gov. Mike Beebe, who outscores Sen. John Boozman in a speculative matchup. /more/
  • No special election for Johnny Key's Senate seat

    July 31, 2014
    As expected, Gov. Mike Beebe will not call a special election to fill any of the time remaining on the term of Sen. Johnny Key, who's leaving office today to take a lobbying job with the University of Arkansas System. /more/
  • The Mystery of Tom Cotton Edition

    July 25, 2014
    Arkansas Times Senior Editor Max Brantley and Editor Lindsey Millar talk about Tom Cotton and the latest in election news, the fight over public schools and broadband, talk of toll roads along I-40, a legal claim that could keep votes on alcohol and the minimum wage off the ballot and the state Republican Party embracing D.C. politics — all covered on this week's edition. /more/
  • More »


Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

More by Ernest Dumas

  • Bombing our friends

    U.S., Islam and the circle of death.
    • Aug 28, 2014
  • Voter fraud numbers: 31 faked IDs among 1 billion votes

    Fans of Arkansas's voter-identification law and similar laws in other states should pay homage to a Tulane University professor who rounded up all the evidence of why such laws are needed, which has been lacking in legislative debates and in courts where the laws are challenged.
    • Aug 21, 2014
  • More »

Most Shared

Latest in Ernest Dumas

  • Bombing our friends

    U.S., Islam and the circle of death.
    • Aug 28, 2014
  • Voter fraud numbers: 31 faked IDs among 1 billion votes

    Fans of Arkansas's voter-identification law and similar laws in other states should pay homage to a Tulane University professor who rounded up all the evidence of why such laws are needed, which has been lacking in legislative debates and in courts where the laws are challenged.
    • Aug 21, 2014
  • Cotton's 'some folks': Obamacare helps 230,000 Arkansans

    A year ago, 22.5 percent of adults were uninsured, one of the highest rates in the country, but the share of uninsured had fallen to 12.4 percent early this summer.
    • Aug 14, 2014
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »


  1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Most Viewed

  • Racial bias in police shootings

    Once again, an African-American male has been killed in Ferguson, Mo., by a white police officer. The killing of Michael Brown, who was unarmed, and attempting to get away from a police officer, is just another casualty in a long line of such tragedies. Brown's killing has raised many questions. But the real question, which everyone seems to avoid, is why do white police officers shoot and/or kill so many unarmed African-American males? When is the last time that a white police officer killed an unarmed white male in the United States?
  • Second District key for Arkansas Democrats

    Voters in the 2nd Congressional District exhausted by the 2014 election season should get ready: They are target No. 1 for the stretch run of the campaign.
  • Political lowlights (lifes?)

    News you read first, or exclusively, in the last few days on our Arkansas Blog.
  • Bombing our friends

    U.S., Islam and the circle of death.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Enter the loan sharks

    • Good day to everyone today I can’t hide this great testimony that take place in…

    • on August 28, 2014
  • Re: Racial bias in police shootings

    • There are white people killed all the time by police officers. Those stories are the…

    • on August 28, 2014
  • Re: Enter the loan sharks

    • Good day, Are you in any form of financial difficulties? or are you looking for…

    • on August 27, 2014

© 2014 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation