Senator Ted Cruz’s dad has a plan to reduce black unemployment: repeal the minimum wage. Yes. Really. (More)
I wish I were making this up, but Rafael Cruz – the firebrand father of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) – wants to educate black Americans about Democrats:
I said, as a matter of fact, ‘Did you know that Civil Rights legislation was passed by Republicans? It was passed by a Republican Senate under the threat of a filibuster by the Democrats.’ ‘Oh, I didn’t know that.’ And then I said, ‘Did you know that every member of the Ku Klux Klan were Democrats from the South?’ ‘Oh I didn’t know that.’ You know, they need to be educated.
He claimed to be relating a conversation he’d had with someone. Perhaps one of the voices in his head. Also, Democrats controlled the Senate by 66-34 in 1964, and the segregationist Dixiecrats soon switched to the Republican Party. But anyway:
Jason Riley said in an interview, Did you know before we had minimum wage laws black unemployment and white unemployment were the same? If we increase the minimum wage, black unemployment will skyrocket. See, he understands it, but the average black does not.
Well, the minimum wage was enacted in 1938, and a Labor Department report that year did estimate that 30,000-50,000 people, mostly southern blacks, lost their jobs soon after the minimum wage was enacted.
This, it seems, is the Republican plan to reach out to people of color. They claim black unemployment is higher than the national average because the minimum wage displaces “the least-skilled, least-experienced subset of the workforce.” Never mind that they assume young blacks are “the least-skilled, least-experienced subset of the workforce.” Their point is, young blacks could be working if only employers didn’t have to pay a minimum wage.
I couldn’t find data on unemployment by race for 1938, so I can’t say whether blacks and whites had the same unemployment rate before the minimum wage was enacted. But the Higher Minimum Wage Equals Higher Black Unemployment hypothesis can be tested with recent data.
For example, the Department of Labor has a handy-dandy map of state minimum wage laws, and a table of state-by-state historical data. In 2012, the DOL released a state-by-state map of black unemployment in 2011. (The DOL have data on black unemployment for 2012 and 2013, but only in tabular form.)
A first quick glance at the 2011 data kinda-sorta seems to fit the Republicans’ point. Each of the five states with the highest black unemployment rates – Nevada (22.1%), Oregon (21.3%), New Mexico (20.8%), Michigan (20.1%), and California (19.6%) – also had higher-than-the-federal-standard minimum wages ($7.25-$8.25 for Nevada, $8.50, $7.50, $7.40, $8.00, and $8.25 for the others, respectively).
At the other end of the scale, of the four of the five states with the lowest black unemployment rates in 2011 – Utah (2.5%), New Hampshire (8.7%), Maryland (10.3%), Massachusetts (11.0%), and Delaware (11.6%) – only Massachusetts had a higher-than-the-federal-standard minimum wage, at $8.00.
But that was just one year. If you look at data for 2013, the correlation weakens. The five worst states for black unemployment in 2013 were California (18.0%), Michigan (17.7%), Arkansas (16.4%), the District of Columbia (16.3%), and Minnesota (16.0%). Of those, both Arkansas and Minnesota had lower-than-the-federal-standard minimum wages. And of the five best states for 2013 – Connecticut (11.6%), Texas (11.2%), Maryland (10.7%), Virginia (9.6%), and Delaware (9.3%) – Connecticut had one of the nation’s highest minimum wages ($8.25).
Washington isn’t in that 2013 list, but you can find its data in the Department of Labor tables cited above. Despite its highest-in-the-nation minimum wage ($9.19), the Evergreen State had a black unemployment rate of 14.2% – right below Tennessee and North Carolina (both 15.1%), Mississippi (14.5%), and Pennsylvania (14.3%) – each of which had only the federal-standard minimum wage ($7.25).
In short, there’s not much support for the Higher Minimum Wage Equals Higher Black Unemployment hypothesis. To get there, Republicans have to cherry pick data from particular years to make it fit the story they want to tell …
… and their story, simply told, is that the federal minimum wage – already below the poverty line – is more than black workers are worth.
“Vote for us,” Republicans tell black Americans in this story, “and we’ll end the minimum wage so you can work for even-farther-below-poverty-level wages. Oh, and we won’t let you have health insurance either, because freedom.”
That’s how Rafael Cruz tells Republicans to reach out to black voters. He thinks black voters “need to be educated” about why they deserve to live in poverty. I’m sure that message gets applause from Republicans. I’m equally sure they wonder why it doesn’t work with black voters….
Good day and good nuts.