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PBS’s Smiley Attacks ‘Milquetoast,’ ‘Spineless’ Democrats for Not Raising Minimum Wage

Tavis Smiley, PBS’s resident liberal activist, unleashed his anger against the Democratic Party on his talk show Tuesday night. In a conversation with California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), Smiley bemoaned the lack of increase in the federal minimum wage in recent years, attacking Democrats from the left: “Why has your party, the Democrats in Washington, the Democrat as president in the White House, why in the first term are they not more aggressive about that?” [Video below. MP3 audio here.]

The taxpayer-subsidized left-wing host was furious that President Obama has lowered his minimum wage demand from $9.50 to $9.00 an hour: “I love the guy, but I keep saying he’s negotiating against himself. He started at $9.50, now he’s down to $9.00, and the debate hasn’t started.” He finished his rant by slamming the entire party once again:

 "Now at least, to my mind at least, the president has raised the issue now so the Democrats don’t have to be mum about raising it anymore, but why have the Democrats been so milquetoast and so spineless – my words, not yours – about pushing for an increase in this wage?"

Of course had Democrats actually jacked up the minimum wage, as Smiley wants them to do, it would have harmed the country economically. An increase in the price of labor would cause employers to buy less of it – in other words, to hire fewer workers. The unemployment rate would increase, but only for those who are paid at or near the minimum wage – mostly low-skilled workers. And there's plenty of evidence that minimum wage hikes hurt  voting demographics that heavily went to Mr. Obama such as teenage workers and African-Americans. (Walter Williams wrote an excellent column on this topic recently.)

Surely, Tavis Smiley does not want to increase poverty; after all, he embarked on a “Poverty Tour” last year with leftist Princeton professor Cornel West to call attention to the plight of America’s poor.  Nevertheless, history shows that Smiley's policy prescription is bound to have negative unintended consequences for those he wishes to help most.

Raising the minimum wage is throwing other people's money at a problem in the hopes of making life better. It's kind of the same conceit behind public television when you think about it.

Here is Smiley's entire February 26 rant:

TAVIS SMILEY: But to your point about the minimum wage, why – and I hate that term minimum wage. It ought to be a living wage, not a minimum wage, but that’s exactly what it is. Why has your party, the Democrats in Washington, the Democrat as president in the White House, why in the first term are they not more aggressive about that? The last time the president talked about minimum wage, increasing the federal minimum wage, he talked about $9.50. In his State of the Union address, he’s dropped down to $9 now. So once again, I love the guy, but I keep saying he’s negotiating against himself. He started at $9.50, now he’s down to $9, and the debate hasn’t started. Now at least, to my mind at least, the president has raised the issue now so the Democrats don’t have to be mum about raising it anymore, but why have the Democrats been so milquetoast and so spineless – my words, not yours – about pushing for an increase in this wage?

-- Paul Bremmer is an MRC intern.