Opinion: GOP senator has world’s lamest excuse for blocking minimum-wage hike

Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) speaks to supporters this month at an open house marking the official opening of his campaign headquarters in Cheyenne.
(Ryan Dorgan / Associated Press)

When it comes to the minimum wage, I’ve accepted that all that the politicians in Washington are going to do for now is play politics with it. But does that mean they have to be stupid about it too?

And I’m talking about you, Mike Enzi, Republican senator from Wyoming.

First, a little scene setting: On Wednesday, the Senate turned aside yet another Democrat-backed bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10. You already know the familiar arguments.

Pro: “It’s time for Republicans in Congress to listen to the majority of Americans who say it’s time to give America a raise.” — President Obama. (Oh, and not that anyone on Capitol Hill listens to us, but he has most Americans on his side; a recent poll by Bloomberg put support for the increase at 69%.)


Con: “We all want to see hardworking American families work their way toward the American dream, but we’re not going to be able to do that by the federal government setting wages for restaurants, small business and other people across the country.” — Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas. (Oh, and not that I hold a grudge, but that’s the state that just stole Toyota from us, so I’m really in no mood to agree with him.)

Anyway, there was plenty of the familiar debate about the benefits of raising the minimum wage versus the costs of losing jobs, blah, blah.

But then up stepped Enzi, who took us on a little trip down memory lane — and then fell on his face.

Enzi said the minimum-wage jobs he worked as young man — window washer and “stock boy” — helped prepare him for owning his own business: “These are jobs where we learn to be dependable, to work with other employees and to learn that work ethic.”

Yes, Mike, work is good. Jobs are good. Hear! Hear! It’s not Churchill, but keep going …

“[Today’s workers often] don’t know how to interrupt their texting to wait on a customer.”

Say what?

So, we can’t raise the minimum wage because — today’s workers are lazy, rude, texting louts?

Let ’em earn peanuts, it’s all they’re worth!

Now, Mike is 70. He may not text much. He apparently shops a lot, although seemingly not in good places. Or else he just had a bad experience.

Trouble is, he is now using that to stiff millions of workers working one, or more, minimum-wage jobs as they pursue the American dream.


Oh, and you know those jobs he had as a young man? If you can believe his Wikipedia page (always somewhat iffy), he worked in his old man’s shoe store. Hmm. Wonder how he got hired? After going off to college, he expanded his dad’s business. Kind of pulled himself up by his tasseled loafers, you might say. Although I guess it was tough love, Dad paying him minimum wage and all.

Look, Mike’s a Republican. His party has calculated that blocking an increase in the minimum wage is a good political move. So fine.

But he should stick to that instead of insulting America’s minimum-wage workers.

Or perhaps he should just go back to selling shoes.


Why the rich are rattled

Why celebrate ‘The Grapes of Wrath’? It’s bad fiction and bad history.

The notion that America was ‘wild’ when Europeans found it is more than a little racist


Follow Paul Whitefield on Twitter @PaulWhitefield1 and Google +