It’s become clear over the last week that Mary Burke will build a platform on raising the minimum wage. From this talking pont, she can springboard into a discussion about job creation, or the state economy, or even social issues, insofar as it’s a liberal’s moral obligation to be responsible for everyone’s checking accounts. To the uninitiated, it will sound something like, “Listen up, poors, Republicans want you to not have money and I want you to have money! Vote for me!” Whoever’s writing Jimmy Fallon’s Capital One commercials should ghost Ms. Burke’s stump speeches for the next month.
A minimum wage hike in Wisconsin was not on anyone’s radar until after the State of the Union, when the president promised a $10.10 rate to all federal employees by executive order. The Burke campaign latched onto this, and rolled out a plan to increase the state’s minimum wage to be on par with President Obama’s over the coming years.
The lack of creativity is astounding. This is the first real policy measure she’s suggested and it originated on the national stage, coming from a man she took pains to disassociate herself from while he visited Wisconsin, to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.
For Wisconsin, $10.10 is arbitrary, other than being “good for hard-working families,” or whatever other buzzwords the Burke campaign ties into her messaging. The “good for the economy” canard spills out of the mouth of any good party-toeing Democrat when talking about a minimum wage increase. Their argument is always that more people with more money to spend will impel growth. On Monday I hashed through some of the numbers related to this argument: The economists who live in reality and not the world of theoretical consumption models agree that the above Democrat argument fails to hold water. Go read it to get enlightened.
Unfortunately, the voting public will be easily duped by the grandeur of the Land of Theoretical Consumption Models. That increasing the minimum wage does no one any favors is not a great talking point, and would certainly not be entertained by most voters.
Here is an opportunity for Republicans to simplify the argument and connect with voters meaningfully. The tricky part will be finessing them to look beyond an immediate reward, at least some time past November.
When Joe The Plumber was a hot ticket item during the 2008 Presidential Campaign, the Obama Machine aggressively sought to demolish the pedestal on which the RNC had placed him. To a blue collar group, Joe Biden famously quipped, “How many plumbers you know making $200,000 a year,” seeming to suggest that Mr. Plumber was, if nothing else, a successful outlier you should either resent or harbor jealousy for.
The correct question would’ve been, “How many plumbers do you know who’d like to make $200,000 a year?”
It’s a fundamental assumption for Democrats that prosperity is impossible without government.
William F. Buckley once adeptly summarized the right’s view: “The role of government is to make possible the avenues of progress in a cluttered situation, but not to make that progress itself.”
Scott Walker, with the state Republican Party’s communications behind him, should begin telling the story of prosperity and economic freedom. The message should be that Democrats think you’re no better than the minimum wage, that you’re not better than low-paying unskilled labor. Mr. Walker and his party are for the opportunities to get out of those circumstances.
Today on Facebook, Mary Burke celebrated Deb Carey, owner of the New Glarus Brewing Company, who pays her employees a living wage and covers their health insurance expenses. (Ironically, Ms. Carey was a vocal advocate of the Affordable Care Act — perhaps because it may have alleviated what is certainly a tremendous expense to her company every year. It would be interesting to see if New Glarus Brewing Company employees put on an exchange would be likely to stay).
Here, Mr. Walker has the opportunity to laud the likes of Ms. Carey. When companies take extra steps to reward workers and build cultures that keep happy employees, that’s a great thing that should be emulated and publicly recognized. But it’s up to whoever’s writing the checks to determine the extent of that culture, not the government. A business owner has the complicated burden of maintaining a staff and meeting all expenses and delivering a great product, and sometimes that means paying employees as little as possible to execute that mission.
When the issue of Scott Walker’s 250,000 jobs promise inevitably arises, there is a great opportunity to demonstrate how a higher minimum wage would make that number unattainable. Plus, he would have the opportunity to ask why Ms. Burke didn’t push for a higher minimum wage as Secretary of Commerce, when it increased only 60 cents from 2005-2007.
The trouble comes when having to fit this mantra on a bumper sticker. If there must be one, it should center on Democrats being against prosperity and their belief that low-income voters are doomed to a life of similar circumstances. Something about “playing politics at the expense of hard-working Wisconsinites” could play well.
As Mary Burke’s scripted campaign unfolds, her greatest credential will be her business experience. Balancing real business acumen and support of bizarre progressive initiatives will be a delicate political maneuver. Ms. Burke is certainly well-handled and is in the hands of skilled managers. But as a novice politician, committing to a party line song-and-dance may prove too difficult to handle.
Mr. Walker certainly has her beat with experience in that category. The State of the State was a preview of the policy platform that use to be re-re-elected in November. As that solidifies and after he formally declares his candidacy, the political games will officially begin. Surrounded by focus groups and analyzed data, Mary Burke will prove to be perfect on every mainstream Democrat stance, perhaps at the expense of fringe progressives who demand harder lines. Everything out of her mouth will be to placate the mainstream Democrat voter and to remind the kooks that she’s not Scott Walker.
But Scott Walker is a man who wins elections.