Jeb Bush Breaks With Mitt Romney on Federal Minimum Wage

March 18th 2015

Sarah Gray

On Tuesday, while speaking to an audience in South Carolina, former governor of Florida Jeb Bush said there should be no federal minimum wage. Bush would rather let individual states handle minimum wage or "leave it to the private sector." Bush, son of President George H.W. Bush and brother of President George W. Bush, announced in December that he is "actively" exploring a possible 2016 presidential run. The former governor's minimum wage comments are printed in full below:

“We need to leave it to the private sector. I think state minimum wages are fine. The federal government shouldn’t be doing this. This is one of those poll-driven deals. It polls well, I’m sure – I haven’t looked at the polling, but I’m sure on the surface without any conversation, without any digging into it people say, ‘Yea, everybody’s wages should be up.’ And in the case of Wal-Mart they have raised wages because of supply and demand and that’s good.

“But the federal government doing this will make it harder and harder for the first rung of the ladder to be reached, particularly for young people, particularly for people that have less education.”

Bush's position is a strong departure from Mitt Romney's, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee. Romney did not advocate eliminating the federal minimum wage during the 2012 campaign and even recently said Republicans should embrace a minimum wage hike.

"I part company with many of the conservatives in my party on the issue of the minimum wage," Romney stated on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "I think we ought to raise it. Because frankly, our party is all about more jobs and better pay. And I think communicating that is important to us."

MSNBC points out that former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, two more 2016 presidential hopefuls, also believe the federal minimum wage should stand at $0.

The minimum wage debate gained new life following President Obama's call for Congress to raise in the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 during his 2013 State of The Union Address. Other organizations, like the Fight for $15, have been working tirelessly for a $15 minimum wage for fast food workers.

This week there has also been speculation that Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Congressman Bobby Scott (D-Va.) are poised to introduce legislation to raise the minimum wage to $12 per hour, higher than the President's proposal.

Despite the fact that 70 percent of Americans support the President's plan, according to a September 2014 CBS-New York Times Poll, and regardless of the fact that 10 states recently voted to raise their minimum wage -- including the red-leaning states Nebraska, Alaska, Arkansas, and North Dakota -- an increase in the federal minimum wage is unlikely while Republicans control Congress.

In terms of Bush's suggestions on who should regulate the minimum wage, states' minimum wages vary wildly, and some states do not have a base minimum wage. In terms of trusting the private sector to pay livable wages, there is no guarantee that employers will raise wages the way that Walmart and Target recently have. Also, ThinkProgress points out that during the month of February, there was only a 3 cent raise in hourly wages, and hourly wages only grew 2 percent in the last year.

Beyond lifting the wages of millions of Americans -- an estimated 27.8 million people, regardless of party line -- raising the federal minimum wage to (at least) $10.10 has added benefits for the economy, according to many economists. The Economic Policy Institute stated in a 2013 report: "Economists generally agree that low-wage workers are more likely than any other income group to spend any additional earnings they receive, largely because they must in order to meet their basic needs."