GOP senators slam $15 minimum wage in op-ed full of lies

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They claim that $10 an hour is a livable wage. It's not.

Sens. Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) slammed Democratic efforts to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour on Monday in a Fox News op-ed full of falsehoods.

Romney and Cotton are slamming Democratic efforts to raise the minimum wage as "destructive," while promoting their own bill — one which ultimately hurts low-income workers, undocumented immigrants, and those with disabilities.

In it, the Republican senators argued in defense of their proposal, which would only raise the minimum wage to $10 an hour, presented last week to counter Democratic efforts.

"Thankfully, Americans do not need to choose between the Democrats' destructive proposal and the status quo," the GOP senators wrote in the op-ed. "Our bill, the Higher Wages for American Workers Act, would raise the federal minimum wage to $10 an hour over time and make sure all the gains go to legal workers, not illegal immigrants."

They falsely state immigrants are stealing jobs.

"First, Americans have to compete for jobs against millions of illegal immigrants," Romney and Cotton claim. "This competition lowers wages for some and shuts others out of work altogether."

But experts have noted that this argument relies on the "lump of labor fallacy," the inaccurate claim that there is a finite amount of work available in any given society. And the so-called "displacement effect" — jobs being taken away from American workers by undocumented immigrants — is rarely observed in real life.

Top specialist in immigration economics Giovanni Peri wrote in a 2010 paper that "there is no evidence that these effects take place at the expense of jobs for workers born in the United States." And Pew Research has found that 3 out of 4 American adults believe immigrants generally work in jobs American citizens don't want.

Studies have also shown that immigrants create more jobs than they "take," with immigrants more likely than American citizens born in the United States to start new businesses.

They tout a citizenship verification database that doesn't work.

Romney and Cotton also tout the E-Verify database system, which is used in multiple states to verify the U.S. citizenship of job applicants, and say they would make it "mandatory," while raising penalties on employers who hire undocumented applicants.

"Mandatory E-Verify would boost the job prospects and wages of American citizens by drying up the black market for illegal laborers," the senators claim.

But E-Verify has faced repeated complaints that it simply does not work.

When the database was first implemented in Arizona to weed out applicants, 17% of the undocumented population of the state moved elsewhere. Employment fell 11 percentage points for undocumented workers throughout the state, leaving a dearth of more than 50,000 wage workers.

However, over time, in states where use of the database was mandated, there's been almost no long-term effect on the number of undocumented immigrants hired. According to a 2009 audit of the program for the federal government, only 46% of undocumented immigrants are accurately flagged by E-Verify through this method.

"E-verify, as currently formulated, does not detect most identity fraud cases for workers who use information about real employment-authorized persons," the audit noted.

They ignore half of the CBO's findings.

Romney and Cotton mention the findings of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office report, which indicated that raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour could get rid of 1.3 million jobs.

However, the Republican senators don't mention the CBO's accompanying findings: that it would boost pay for at least 17 million American workers by $333 billion and raise more than a million people out of poverty.

A different study from 2018 found that raising the minimum wage did not cause significant job losses.

They claim $10 an hour will improve the lives of Americans.

"America has a responsibility to protect its citizens, but for years Congress has allowed the pay of our poorest workers to be eroded by competition from illegal immigrants and skyrocketing cost of living. With this bill, we have a chance to correct both these failures," Romney and Cotton say in their op-ed.

But $10 an hour, working 40 hours a week, amounts to a yearly salary of $20,800 — below the federal poverty line for a family of three.

They brag about backing unfair wages for people with disabilities.

Romney and Cotton also tout their bill saying, "Our bill ... would preserve the special minimum wages for people with disabilities employed by sheltered workshops."

It's true that a Fair Labor Standards Act rule allows businesses to pay disabled employees less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Both President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) pledged to eliminate the subminimum wage in the 2020 Democratic primaries, and states have fought an ongoing battle to end the abusive practice.

Julie Christensen, policy and advocacy director at the Association of People Supporting Employment First, has pointed out to Vox that today, "Disability is the only exemption [to minimum wage law] based on class of citizen," and disability rights activist groups have been fighting against this regulation — enabling employers to pay workers with disabilities pennies an hour — for more than 50 years.

Democrats are currently in limbo after the Senate parliamentarian issued a ruling Friday that budget reconciliation could not be used to raise the federal minimum wage raise. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that President Joe Biden did not wish to overrule the parliamentarian. Instead, Senate Democrats will strip the minimum wage provision from the COVID-19 relief bill.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.