The federal minimum wage rose 70 cents today, to $5.85 an hour -- the first step in a two-year march to $7.25 an hour. Government figures cited by the Associated Press indicate that just 1.7 million people -- out of a total non-farm labor force of some 136 million workers -- earned the minimum wage or less in 2006; still the increase was a big political victory for the Democrats, one that came at the expense of lobbyists from the National Federation of Independent Businesses and the Chamber of Commerce, among others. To appreciate how big a victory, consider that the last time the federal minimum wage and last minimum wage increase occurred in 1997.
Naturally, the Democrats are celebrating. But what of the Republicans? It turns out Mitt Romney, campaigning for governor of Massachusetts in 2002, supported increasing the minimum wage. Not just increasing it, either -- but actually indexing it to inflation. Of course, things change, and in 2006, when the state legislature made good on his pledge, Romney, who has of late extensively revised the positions he took in the Bay State, vetoed the bill. A Romney aide explained that legislators were being too generous.
So where does Romney stand now? On Sunday, he told ABC news, "You know I haven't looked at the federal minimum wage process. I'll look at that. I don't have a —- I haven't taken a position on that at this stage." He may have to develop one: Ted Kennedy told NPR this morning he plans to offer legislation to make the minimum wage a "living wage" -- which would come out to some $9.50 an hour.