Romney Waffles On Minimum Wage


WASHINGTON -- Back in January, GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney was asked at a campaign event in New Hampshire whether he supported the idea of raising the minimum wage.

"My view has been to allow the minimum wage to rise with the [Consumer Price Index] or with another index so that it adjusts automatically over time," Romney responded, according to a video shot by a staffer at the National Employment Law Project Action Fund, which advocates for a higher minimum wage. "I already indicated that when I was governor of Massachusetts, and that’s my view."

Romney tried to temper that statement while talking with Larry Kudlow on CNBC this week. On Monday the business show host pressed Romney on the minimum wage issue, saying that "a lot of conservatives, led by the Wall Street Journal editorial page, were horrified when you said you want to index the minimum wage for inflation ... Why do you want to raise the minimum wage?"

First Romney responded by saying that he had vetoed a proposed boost to the minimum wage while governor of Massachusetts. Explaining his comments about pegging the minimum wage to inflation, Romney said, "The level of inflation is something you should look at, and you should identify what's the right way to keep America competitive."

"So that would tell you that right now there's probably not a need to raise the minimum wage," he added.

But as Kudlow suggested, if the federal minimum wage were tied to the Consumer Price Index, it would rise incrementally nearly every year. Despite the extremely low inflation rate at the moment, eight states that have "cost-of-living adjustments" raised their minimum wages on Jan. 1. Washington State became the first state to crack the $9-an-hour ceiling.

The federal minimum wage remains $7.25, and it can't be raised without action from Congress. President Barack Obama had hoped to raise the minimum wage to $9.50 by the end of 2011.

When asked to clarify the candidate's position, Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul suggested a more complicated formula for the minimum wage. She wrote in an email, "Gov. Romney believes that adjustments in the minimum wage should be in line with inflation and take into account such economic factors as unemployment. Given the high rate of joblessness, this is not the time for anyone to be proposing an increase in the minimum wage."

Romney might be trying to appease the many conservatives who have lambasted him for his remarks on indexing, among them Rush Limbaugh, without having to completely renounce his earlier statement on the issue. If that's his course, he may end up pleasing no one when it comes to the minimum wage.

The National Employment Law Project Action Fund produced a video critical of Romney and issued a press release calling his remarks to Kudlow a "flip-flop." The group said that Romney "reversed his previous position" -- a position that the group had applauded in January.

Yet at the same time, Romney's remarks failed to satisfy Michael Saltsman, a research fellow at the conservative Employment Policies Institute who strongly advocates against raising the minimum wage.

"Either adjusting the minimum wage for inflation is a good thing or it isn’t, and conservatives are right to try and nail the Governor down on an answer," Saltsman wrote in an email to HuffPost. "Politically, I understand why Romney wants to avoid engaging on the topic. But by equivocating like he’s done, he’s just giving advocates for an indexed minimum wage more support for their faulty arguments."

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this item attributed the January interview of Romney to the National Employment Law Project. In fact, it was the National Employment Law Project Action Fund.

The National Employment Law Project Action Fund released another video, below, about Romney's position on the minimum wage this week.

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