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No Agenda, No Problem: The GOP May Win in November Without a Plan to Raise Wages

Getty Images/Alex Wong

On Thursday, the Federal Reserve released new income data that was very worrisome. For the bottom 50 percent of Americans, wages fell by 5 percent between 2010 and 2013. So much for the “recovery.” Given that we have an election in less than two months, both parties should explain how they are going to increase pay for American workers.

We know the Democrats’ strategy: raise the minimum wage, invest in infrastructure, and keep monetary policy loose. Senate Democrats intend to reinforce this agenda in the next few weeks as well. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has set up votes on bills to raise the minimum wage, offer greater student debt relief and reduce pay discrimination. Republicans will undoubtedly block all of that legislation, leading to a logical question that Senator Patty Murray asked Tuesday: How do Republicans intend to combat problems of declining wages and a reduced standard of living?

“Democrats have put solutions on the table: a higher minimum wage, student debt relief, giving women more tools to fight pay discrimination, and more,” she said. “And if Republicans have more to say than ‘no,’ it’s time for them to do the same. If Republicans are going to reject our ideas, I think our constituents deserve to hear what else they have to offer.”

That seems fair. And the Republicans have an answer: They want to increase economic growth by cutting taxes, repealing regulations and reducing government spending. But that agenda makes sense only when the economy is at full employment. We aren’t at full employment right now. The economy still suffers from a shortfall in demand—people aren’t buying enough “stuff.” Until then, the GOP’s supply-side agenda does not qualify as an actual jobs plan.

What else does the Republican Party have to offer? Not much. There is growing support for an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit. That’s a smart idea but it still is a minority view within the party. And…that’s it.

Of course, the GOP’s lack of an economic agenda may not make a difference in November. The party has a number of structural advantages in the election and President Obama is deeply unpopular in key states. That’s the ultimate problem for Democrats: No matter what Harry Reid and Patty Murray say—and no matter how correct they are—it might not be enough.

Danny Vinik

News from Tuesday:

RACE: Ferguson isn’t alone in having a police department that doesn’t reflect the racial makeup of its residents. The same is true for departments around the country. But correcting that problem isn’t as easy. (Shaila Dewan, New York Times)

TECHNOLOGY: It was Apple’s big day yesterday as the company unveiled two new iPhones, the Apple Watch and a new payment system. Jacob Silverman is not impressed by the long-awaited watch—and worries about all the data Apple is collecting on its users. (The New Republic)

CLIMATE I: A report from the World Meteorological Organization shows that greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere are climbing at the fastest rate in 30 years. It's not just because emissions are rising; ocean and plants are also holding less carbon. (Matt McGrath, BBC News). 

CLIMATE II: A longtime argument against clean energy is that wind turbines and solar panels can harm birds. Compare that risk to how many birds are at risk in climate change. A new report finds climate change could cause the extinction of half of North America's birds. (Rachel Hartigan Shea, National Geographic)

HOUSING: A new study finds that 20 percent of Americans don’t refinance their mortgage even when they can save tens of thousands of dollars—that’s billions of dollars in foregone savings. (Cass Sunstein, Bloomberg View)

Stories worth reading:

Don't ask why Janay stayed with Ray Rice: Asking why the victim doesn't leave the abuser places all the responsibility on the wrong person, writes Tara Culp-Ressler (ThinkProgress). Jessica Valenti describes the origins and meaning of the hashtag #WhyIStayed. (Guardian)

It’s true: Getting pulled over for “driving while black” is a real thing. Christopher Ingraham digs through some depressing, although not surprising, government statistics. (Wonkblog)

The best satire you’ll read today: NFL Announces New Zero-Tolerance Policy on Video-Taped Domestic Violence (The Onion—who else)

Stories we’re watching:

More from the Ray Rice situation. And House Republicans are close to finalizing a continuing resolution to keep the government open past the midterms. A vote is expected Thursday.


Oops, a Republican accidentally reveals his party’s true strategy against Obama. And here’s a chart that shows just how low the U.S. minimum wage really is.