Tom Coburn: Abolish the Minimum Wage, Let the “Free Market” Set Wages

I have to remind myself not to fall asleep with my TV on MSNBC. Every time that I do, it never fails, I wake to Morning Joe and I hear something blatantly ignorant enough to have me angry for the rest of the morning. Not that as a black man I don’t already have my share of things to be angry about daily. But, add in the comments by Joe Scarborough or anyone of his GOP groupie hanger-ons who make no bones about their dislike for President Obama and my day is just shot. This morning, however, it wasn’t the stupid smirk of Scarborough that set me off — for some reason I tuned him out. Instead, it was the comments of Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK).

In yet another round table discussion that made me feel like the lone black waiter or shoe shine boy at a country club, the Morning Joe crew discussed the latest move by the Senate to advance an increase to the federal minimum wage. Their special guest and person of authority for the segment was none other than Sen. Coburn who didn’t hesitate to beat his chest for being the lone Republican to vote against the minimum wage increase in 2007. This was the last time the minimum wage was increased, as like then, Coburn voted against even bringing the legislative measure up for a vote. During the interview, Willie Geist asked the Oklahoma Republican if he “turned his back” on his own state by voting against raising the minimum wage to $10.10 on Wednesday. In his response, Coburn argued that the “benefit is small, the cost of lost jobs is great, it goes against free market principles.”

tom-coburn-morning-joe-minimum-wage (1)Now I’m not going to bore you with yet another argument that proves that Coburn and for the most part all opponents of raising the minimum wage is wrong. Heck, I’ve written about it time and time again on this very website — and no, raising the minimum wage will not kill jobs. However, what really made my ass chafe was Coburn’s justification for voting against helping to lift 28 million Americans out of poverty. Hey, might as well given that those austerity cuts have made things harder for working stiffs, right?

“How did they pick $10.10?” he said. “Why not $22? Why not $100? That makes everybody make $200,000 a year. The fact is, what we have is an economic system on its butt right now because we have poor leadership and poor policy.”

Yeah, he didn’t miss an opportunity to take a shot at the president. According to Coburn, the real problem in America has nothing to do with income inequality, a shrinking middle class, or wages being stagnant for, like, ever. Geist pointed out that people working full-time for $7.25 an hour — the current minimum wage — could only make $15,000 a year, which is well below the poverty line.

His response?

“I don’t believe you ought to interfere in the market!” Coburn insisted. “If Oklahomans want a minimum wage, we ought to have it. I don’t believe there ought to be a national minimum wage. That’s my position. I’m the only member of the Republican Party that’s still here that voted ‘no’ on the last one.”

“And I believe that markets work better than bureaucrats, and I think there’s lots of downsides, and there’s lots written in the economics field on raising the minimum wage,” he continued. “So if you want to prove the point, let’s raise them all to $20 or $25. If you want to give somebody a livable wage.”

“Because at $25 you put them at median family income, which has not increased since 1989 in this country.”

Great! At least he admits that living om $7.25 per hour is pretty shitty, hence the reason for raising the minimum wage which as is isn’t even tied to inflation. And I say that because the last time I made $10 per hour was some time back in the early nineties. It was a different time then and the national hourly wage rate was somewhere around 412.50 per hour. But, as much as an increase in the minimum wage is needed, and as nice as $10.10 sounds, the truth is while giving low-wage workers more breathing room from week to week, it isn’t enough.

But don’t tell that to Coburn, folks. If it were up to him, the “free market” would decide the worth of one’s labor. Well, there’s one problem with that: The last time the market was left up to men like Coburn, black people were working for free in America. And I’m sorry, as oppressed as workers are today, do we really want to leave the wealthy to their own devices when it comes to paying workers for their labor? Sorry, Senator Coburn, but that “free market” stuff hasn’t worked out well for many of us.