Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

December 1, 2013

George Weeks: Wages, Obamacare loom in campaigns

Wages are an escalating economic and political issue across the country. Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, has had worker protests on the issue. Democratic politicians are beating the drums for increases in the minimum wage.

In Michigan, Mark Schauer, the former state representative, Senate Democratic floor leader and congressman from Battle Creek who is the 2014 nominee-in-waiting against Gov. Rick Snyder, last month called for raising Michigan’s minimum wage of $7.40 per hour to $9.25.

“After years without an increase, it’s time to raise Michigan’s minimum wage," he said. "This would jump-start our economy by lifting the incomes of more than 1 million Michigan workers.

“It’s simple economics. When working families have more to spend on everyday necessities like gas, groceries and clothes for their kids, it creates immediate demand in the marketplace. And when demand increases, small businesses grow and hire more workers.”

Compared to some bigger initiatives elsewhere, Schauer’s seems reasonable. In California, a Democrat gubernatorial hopeful called for a $12 minimum wage. President Barack Obama last month embraced a Senate bill to boost the national wage from $7.25 to $10.10.

Also reasonable is Snyder’s position that the issue of a mandatory new wage level needs evaluation before implementation. Snyder spokesman David Murray noted Friday that Michigan is already above the national minimum wage, and that raising it further may have unintended consequences, such as potential job loss.

“Gov. Snyder is focused on improving the business environment to create more and better jobs and raising wages for all Michiganders," Murray said. "That includes improving education so students graduate with college- and career-ready skills, and improving science, technology, engineering and math education so students can enter fields where the demand is the greatest.”

Murray cited several projects for state and public-private partnership efforts that aim to train workers, provide employment opportunities and thus reduce poverty.

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