In Missouri – a state where Donald Trump garnered more than a half-million more votes than Hillary Clinton two years ago – a Republican challenger to U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) who already has won a statewide election should stand a very good chance of picking up a Senate seat for the party of Trump this fall. But, fortunately for Democrats – and anyone who values affordable health care and a living wage – McCaskill’s challenger, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, is completely on the wrong side of at least two major campaign issues. And one of them – a more livable minimum wage – will be on the ballot with McCaskill and Hawley on November 6.
Proposition B on the ballot statewide on November 6 would raise the state’s minimum wage incrementally to $12 by 2023. The initiative would increase Missouri’s minimum wage from its current rate of $7.85 an hour to $8.60 next year, and then increase it gradually each year until it reaches $12 an hour in 2023. “The increase to $12 phases in gradually, giving low-paying businesses time to adjust and experience the benefits of a rising minimum wage – such as increased consumer spending, cost savings from lower employee turnover, increased productivity, and happier customers,” said Pam Hausner, owner of Big Vision Design in Kansas City and business campaign manager for Missouri Business for a Fair Minimum Wage.
Advocates claim that raising wages for low-income workers would cut government spending and save taxpayers money. A recent study by the Labor Center at the University of California Berkeley, “The High Public Cost of Low Wages,” showed that poverty wages for working families in Missouri alone are costing federal taxpayers more than $2.4 billion annually, and Missouri state taxpayers more than $335 million each year.
St. Louis Public Radio reported that Hawley opposed Proposition B when asked about it on the campaign trail, saying it was “out of the mainstream.” That is a nonsense response, devoid of evidence or argument, intended to brand the minimum-wage hike – and his opponent, McCaskill, who supports Proposition B – as something on the fringe, not part of “good Missouri values,” etc. We suspect that it is McCaskill, not Hawley, who is swimming with the mainstream of Missouri voters on this staggered hike to what is currently an unlivable minimum wage.
How Proposition A – the repudiation of the Missouri’s Legislature’s passage of so-called “Right to Work” legislation – fared on the August 7 ballot statewide is an indicator of how Proposition B will fare on November 6. Missouri voters rejected Proposition A by the same gigantic margin by which they elected Trump over Clinton – by nearly a half-million votes. Hawley supports “Right to Work” laws and opposed Proposition A; McCaskill opposes “Right to Work” and endorsed Proposition A. Clearly, McCaskill voted in the mainstream of Missouri workers on August 7, while Hawley was left on the anti-worker, corporatist fringe. “Josh Hawley is on the wrong side of the table,” McCaskill has said on the campaign trail. “He is not fighting for the workers. He’s fighting for the folks in the boardroom.” This is inarguably true, given Hawley’s support of “Right to Work” and his attempt to brand a gradual minimum-wage increase as something kooky.
McCaskill survived her last Republican challenge when her opponent, Todd Akin, told Charles Jaco some genuinely kooky stuff about women’s bodies having an innate ability to prevent pregnancy in cases of “legitimate rape.” Supporting “Right to Work,” opposing a gradual minimum-wage increase and litigating to allow health insurers to deny people coverage due to pre-existing conditions (as Hawley also is doing) may not be Todd-Akin crazy, but clearly these stances of Hawley’s are far “outside the mainstream” of Missouri voters. If people use their common sense and vote for the common good, as well as in their own interest, on November 6, then Proposition B should pass and McCaskill should beat Hawley as soundly as Hawley and other opponents of Proposition A were trounced on August 7.