The minimum wage in the crosshairs

During the 2010 midterms, several far-right U.S. Senate candidates said they either wanted to slash the minimum wage or eliminate it altogether. Each of these candidates, incidentally, lost.

The Republicans’ hostility towards the minimum wage, of course, hasn’t gone away. Michele Bachmann, for example, has argued that eliminating the minimum wage would eliminate unemployment entirely. Asked this morning to defend this claim, Bachmann refused, but conceded she’s consider eliminating the policy as president as part of her efforts to crush “expansion of government.”

Campaigning in Iowa, Herman Cain was reminded of his efforts to combat minimum wage in the 1990s, and was asked for his position on the issue today.

FANG: Do you think the current minimum wage is too high or even necessary?

CAIN: I don’t think the current minimum wage is necessary because most companies are paying higher than the minimum wage. Now you can’t say everybody’s paying higher than the minimum wage but a lot of companies [inaudible].

Remember when the Republican Party used to champion a “living wage“? Its candidates don’t. (As recently as the 1970s, GOP support for wage controls, at least on a temporary basis, was not uncommon.)

I should note, in case this isn’t already clear, that going after the very existence of the minimum wage is pretty out there. I’d like to say such a radical change would be unpopular, but the idea is so far from the American mainstream, I can’t find any polls even asking the question. (Usually, polls ask whether the minimum wage should go up, not whether it should be abolished.)

So, at this point, it looks like two of the leading Republican presidential candidates are willing to do away with the minimum wage. Maybe we can get the rest of the GOP field to go on the record on this, too?

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.