Plenty of tough questions were asked at Green Valley High School last Wednesday. That required Rep. Joe Heck (R-Henderson) to come up with real answers. Constituents had questions on topics ranging from gun safety to marriage equality, but those weren't all. There was one other issue that was raised... And that put Rep. Heck in a very uncomfortable position (for him).
Nevada's minimum wage now stands (for the most part) at $8.25 per hour, while the federal minimum wage remains $7.25 per hour. The minimum wage hasn't kept up with inflation for some time, and that's meant millions of working families have had to work for poverty level earnings. And this is why most Americans (and even some conservatives) support raising the minimum wage.
Yet last Wednesday, Rep. Heck was pulling out every available "TEA" flavored scare tactic in an attempt to spin his opposition to raising the minimum wage into a more "complimentary light". Unfortunately for him, NV-03 constituents Wendy Starkweather, Esther Sass, & Lisa Muntean weren't letting him.
Rep. Heck cited the recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report as evidence that a minimum wage increase would harm the economy, but he failed to mention what was actually in the CBO report. He also failed to mention how it would barely budge prices for consumers. And he failed to mention how it would lift at least 900,000 Americans out of poverty.
When Rep. Heck declared that raising the minimum wage would be "bad for business", he likely wasn't expecting a rebuttal from a local business owner. Unfortunately for him, that's what happened when NV-03 constituent & business owner Cassie Rice had a chance to speak. She explained to him and the audience what motivates her hiring decisions. (Hint: It's not the minimum wage.)
Actually, what affects hiring decisions the most is the simplest of economic rules: supply & demand. Is there demand for a company's products? And is that company demanding more workers? Those influence corporate hiring decisions far greater than the where the minimum wage stands.
Yet in another way, the minimum wage can affect the overall economic climate. Think about this: What determines consumers' purchasing decisions the most? It ultimately comes down to how much money they have to spend. The more they can spend, the more they will buy.
This is what policy makers like Rep. Heck should take into serious consideration. By lifting at least 900,000 American workers out of poverty, that can lead to a real "bubbling up" effect of more consumers buying more products, which would mean more economic growth. And let's face it, what we need right now is more economic growth.
We know Rep. Heck's "TEA" drinking base either dismisses economic inequality as a serious problem or claims it can be solved by "right-wing social engineering". However, we also know neither of those claims is true. Economic inequality does pose a serious challenge, and it can't be solved with "right-wing social engineering".
Last Wednesday, Rep. Joe Heck was confronted by real constituents who had a real case to make for raising the minimum wage. He can deny their stories and their facts all he wants, but he can't change reality. What we seriously need right now is a raise... In the minimum wage.