Opportunistic Republicans run for cover on minimum wage issue | Arkansas Blog

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Opportunistic Republicans run for cover on minimum wage issue

Posted By on Sat, Sep 6, 2014 at 7:21 AM

click to enlarge CONVERT: Afer months of opposition congressional candidate J. French Hill suddenly is warm to a pay increase for Arkansas's lowest paid workers. - KUAR
  • KUAR
  • CONVERT: Afer months of opposition congressional candidate J. French Hill suddenly is warm to a pay increase for Arkansas's lowest paid workers.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette advanced the story about the near-universal retreat of Republican candidates on the minimum wage issue. Opponents of government regulation all, they suddenly converted to supporters of the proposal to raise the Arkansas minimum wage this week.

This followed, not coincidentally and despite their fervent hopes to the contrary, the measure's qualification for the ballot.

Asa Hutchinson, a repeated opponent, was first to cave. Then came Tom Cotton, once a principled and consistent foe, who offered a squeaky "as a citizen" endorsement in the friendly embrace of Alice Stewart's Republican-themed radio show. He moved along quickly, maybe hoping no one would notice. And, when asked by the D-G, Congressman and lt. gov. hopeful Tim Griffin, Rep. Rick Crawford and congressional hopeful J. French Hill also expressed support in varying degrees for the hugely popular measure after being either on the sidelines or in stark opposition for months.

Two points worthy of emphasis:

* PRINCIPLE: I happen to think 4th District congressional candidate Bruce Westerman is a nice guy who often follows his principled extreme positions over the edge of the cliff. But among the top-of-the-ticket candidates, Westerman alone stood firm on the principles that brought him to opposition to the measure.

"Nothing has changed my position on the ballot initiative or President [Barack] Obama's $10.10 minimum wage proposal," Westerman said in a written statement. "Neither does anything to reduce the 9.4 [percent] unemployment in the Fourth District."

* CRAVEN POLITICIAN OF THE YEAR: This would have to be ninth-generation Arkansan J. French Hill. He's the millionaire banker, who pretends to be a man of the people by  driving an old Volvo up to play rounds of golf at the exclusive and expensive Country Club of Little Rock. Quoted the Democrat-Gazette:

Republican 2nd Congressional District nominee and banker French Hill of Little Rock said through a spokesman that he "will vote for the Arkansas minimum-wage increase if he can ensure it doesn't negatively impact Arkansas jobs."

The article was silent on just how J. French will make this determination by Nov. 4. I'd ask him to make a cellphone snapshot of his ballot when he votes. What do you bet he casts a "No" vote on raising the minimum wage next year from $6.25 to $7.50 an hour. That higher pay is worth $15,000 a year for a full-time job. It takes better than three times that much — $46,000 — to pay the initiation fee at CCLR, if you don't get blackballed first. And you'll need another $6,600 a year for dues, not counting golf cart fees, meals, drinks and tips for the locker room attendant. Don't you bet J. French is a big tipper?

Hill, in a tough race against populist former mayor Pat Hays, knows a losing issue when he sees one. But if he'll cave this easily on principle, you have to wonder what else he'll cave on. Here's what J. French Hill said previously at Political Animals Club, to name one, about the minimum wage, one of many of his comments expressing a general resistance to a minimum wage at any level:

I’m not in favor of increasing the minimum wage because I don’t want to see any barriers to creating early employment and creating more jobs, and the Congressional Budget Office – even in their most conservative assessment – says it’ll cost about a half million jobs nationwide.

That was then. Today, he has an election to win. Tomorrow ….. 

PS — Interesting UPDATE on Sunday. The Democrat-Gazette reported HIll's answer, as I read it, as a conditional response. The Stephens Media interpretation of Hill's remarks keeps him in the opposing camp. He and Bruce Westerman, the article said:

Both said Friday they continue to oppose the measure.

“I would support an Arkansas minimum wage increase if it didn’t negatively impact Arkansas jobs,” Hill said in an email. “However, the Obama economy is squeezing the middle class, and we need to move beyond minimum wage jobs and start building careers, opportunities and real choices for all Arkansans.”

So where does French Hill stand? Maybe that's the point.

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