The growing calls for a $15 minimum wage have infiltrated not just the Democratic primary campaign, but now the Republican one as well. But while Democrats are debating how high it should be raised, Republicans are explaining why they think it should remain where it's been since 2009.
In the first question of Tuesday night's GOP debate, moderator Neil Cavuto asked Donald Trump if he was sympathetic to workers around the country who were demanding that the federal wage floor be more than doubled.
"I can't be, Neil," Trump responded. "The reason I can't be is we are a country that's being beaten on every front, economically, militarily. There is nothing we do now to win."
Those lines are consistent with Trump's running stump speech on American demise, but then the front-runner took a curious turn. In explaining his aversion to a minimum wage hike, Trump asserted that "our wages are too high."
Not many Americans would agree with the billionaire business mogul on that front. The problem of stagnating wages isn't just a Democratic trope anymore -- even Republican candidates have been eager to point out that the wages of average Americans are falling behind, relative to the growth in productivity.
"We cannot do this if we are going to compete with the rest of the world," Trump said to lackluster applause.
Asked for his own take on the issue, Ben Carson said it would be misguided to raise the minimum wage, which remains $7.25 per hour. In particular, Carson said he would be concerned that such a raise might keep young African-Americans out of the job market. The neurosurgeon alluded to his own first job in a lab, which "gave me what I needed to ascend the ladder of opportunity."
"I would not raise it," Carson declared.
This appears to be a reversal from Carson's position on the minimum wage earlier this year. In an interview with CNBC's John Harwood in May, Carson said the minimum wage deserved a raise.
"I think, probably, it should be higher than now," Carson said.
The last candidate to chime in on the minimum wage was Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who wasn't asked specifically about the issue, but volunteered his views. Rubio was asked about Americans receiving giveaways, and he pivoted in such a way that seemed to compare a higher minimum wage to something unearned.
"In the 21st century, it's a disaster," Rubio said of increasing the minimum wage, drawing applause for his answer. "If you raise the minimum wage you're going to make people more expensive than a machine."
The idea of raising the minimum wage tends to poll extremely well, drawing reasonable support even from Republican voters, and support for a minimum wage hike isn't unheard-of in GOP primaries. In 2012, Mitt Romney advocated pegging the wage floor to the inflation index, and former Sen. Rick Santorum has advocated for a modest raise to the minimum wage this year.
See the latest updates on the GOP debate here.
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