POLITICS

Rick Santorum Explains Everything That's Wrong With The GOP's Worship Of Job Creators

"Ninety percent of American workers don't own a bar. They don't own a business. They work for a living."

WASHINGTON -- GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum proposed a novel concept Wednesday night to his fellow candidates in CNN's Republican undercard debate: Instead of catering rhetorically to the nation's business owners, perhaps the party should try to appeal to the masses who work for those business owners. 

Santorum put forth his proposal during an exchange with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). Graham had been asked by moderator Jake Tapper where he stands on the minimum wage debate. Graham, in a stock free-market conservative answer, said the wage floor should not be raised by the government. He alluded to his parents, who owned a restaurant and bar.

"If you're a waitress out there wanting more money," Graham said, "I'm not going to increase the minimum wage. I'm going to try to create an environment where somebody else will open up a restaurant across the street to hire you away at a higher rate, or they'll have to pay you more to keep you."

Former Sen. Rick Santorum is one of the rare GOP presidential candidates who has been open to raising the minimum wage.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum is one of the rare GOP presidential candidates who has been open to raising the minimum wage.

Santorum seemed to think that answer provided little solace for the minimum wage waitress. He's the only Republican candidate, other than Ohio Gov. John Kasich, to express openness to hiking the minimum wage. A raise of 50 cents per year, over three years, would be reasonable, he argued. He said he isn't going to toe the party line on this particular issue.

"Republicans don't believe in a floor wage in America," Santorum said. "Fine, you go ahead and make that case to the American public. I'm not going to."

But Santorum went a step further, arguing that the minimum wage illuminates a larger problem with the way Republican candidates talk about work. The typical American, he noted, is the waitress, not the restaurant owner.

"To me, if you're going to talk to 90 percent of American workers -- by the way, 90 percent of American workers don't own a bar. They don't own a business. They work for a living. They're wage -- most of them are wage earners," he said. "And Republicans are losing elections because we're not talking about them. All we want to talk about is, what happened to our business? There are people who work in that business."

Santorum then told a story about what seemed to be the 2012 Republican National Convention.

"I was at the convention four years ago, and on the signs -- on all of the seats the night I spoke was a sign that said, 'We built that,' because Barack Obama had talked about how businesses didn't build their own businesses," he said. "Then we trotted out one small-business person after another for almost an hour that night talking about how they built their businesses. And that's wonderful. But you know what we didn't do? We didn't bring one worker on that stage."

"How are you going to win, ladies and gentlemen?" Santorum said to the crowd. "How are we going to win if 90 percent of Americans don't think we care at all?"

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