Obama enlists companies in minimum wage campaign

The White House is using its influence over companies to portray GOP legislators as hostile to the millions of November voters who would gain from an increased minimum wage of $10.10 per hour.

President Barack Obama praised a Wednesday decision by Gap Inc. to raise tends of thousands of employees’ minimum wages to $10 per hour. He’s already made prominent and friendly visits to Costco and other employers that pay their workers above minimum wage.

Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest retailer, has announced it remains neutral on the issue. “We’re looking at the impact of some of the proposals that exist out there,” Wal-Mart’s spokeswoman, Brooke Buchanan, told The Daily Caller.

That announcement spiked Democrats’ hope of getting Wal-Mart on their side. But the company has not asked its trade associations, such as the National Retail Federation, to stop lobbying against the popular proposal, said Buchanan, a former staffer for Republican Arizona Sen. John McCain.

It’s a very popular idea.

A March 2013 Gallup poll reported 71 percent support for a $9 wage.

The support rose to 76 percent in November, said Gallup.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll showed 66 percent support, with 31 percent opposition.

The GOP’s opposition to a higher minimum wage was greatly aided by a Tuesday report from the Congressional Budget Office, which said that a minimum wage of $10.10 per hour could benefit 16.5 million people, but also eliminate 500,000 mostly low-wage jobs by 2016.

The possible loss of 500,000 gives many GOP legislators a decent and rational reason to reject emotional demands on the campaign trail for wage increases.

But the GOP’s control of Congress didn’t stop the 1996 minimum-wage increase from $4.25 to $5.15 an hour, outgoing White House economic chief Gene Sperling said Thursday.

In 1996, the GOP’s majority leader was Texas libertarian Rep. Dick Armey, an economist who opposed a minimum wage.

“There is such a strong value in the American culture, the American values system, that [says] someone who works full time should have a degree of dignity … should not have to raise their children in poverty, that [pressure for an increase] cuts across the entire political spectrum,” Sperling said at an event organized by Politico.

Legislators “will have to think very, very hard before they say no to a raise for 24 and half million people in 2014,” he warned.

The pressure also includes a group of wealthy investors and business leaders, organized by a liberal activist group, the Agenda Project.

“It is past time for the minimum wage to rise to the level that approaches the poverty level,” said Leo Hindery, the managing partner of InterMedia Partners, and a member of the group, dubbed Smart Capitalists for American Prosperity.

“Ten times it has been on the ballot [in states], 10 times it has won,” said Tal Zlotnitsky, another member of the group. He runs a high-tech company, iControl Universal Collaboration Solutions.

“The support for those who are against this will melt” before the election, predicted Woody Kaplan, an investor and Democratic donor from Boston. “This will be less of a partisan issue,” he said.