Linda McMahon, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Connecticut, suggested Thursday that the U.S. ought to take a second look at the federal minimum wage.
"The minimum wage now in our country, I think we've set that, so there are a lot of people have benefited from it in our country, but I think we ought to review how much it ought to be, and whether or not we ought to have increases in the minimum wage," McMahon said at a press conference.
After the event, "McMahon admitted she didn't know what the current minimum wage is or if any of her employees at World Wrestling Entertainment are paid it," CTNewsJunkie.com reported. McMahon was CEO of the WWE before launching her Senate campaign.
The minimum wage rose in 2009 to $7.25 per hour from $6.55 per hour, the first increase in a decade. Among workers paid an hourly wage, 980,000 earned the minimum wage in 2009, and 2.6 million earned less, according to the Department of Labor. Those groups together comprise 4.9 percent of all hourly workers.
With a lower minimum wage, "You'd have even more people who were poor even though they were working than you already do," said Elizabeth Lower-Basch, a policy analyst with the Center for Law and Social Policy in Washington, D.C. "In this economy, you'd have some people who were desperate enough to take the jobs -- at least in the short run. Others wouldn't be able to take them because they can't afford to -- after paying for child care and transportation, they'd be losing money. Overall, it probably wouldn't have much of an effect on the economy as a whole. The minimum wage in the US is still sufficiently low that it only affects a small portion of the labor market."
McMahon's opponent jumped on the remarks: "Linda McMahon laid off ten percent of her workers and takes home $46 million a year so it's no surprise she's thinking about lowering the minimum wage," said a spokeswoman for Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (D).
John Olsen, president of the AFL-CIO in Connecticut, also jumped on the remarks: "It is outrageous that multi-millionaire McMahon is open to reducing the minimum wage, and mind boggling that she doesn't even know how much it is."
UPDATE 4:20 PM: The McMahon campaign says reporters are wrong to suggest McMahon favors lowering the minimum wage. From a spokesman: "I think a good deal of creative interpretation is needed for anybody to take away from these quotes that she is in favor of reducing the minimum wage. She is clearly saying that we ought to review whether this is in fact the time to raise the rate. It's impossible to accept the spin that a handful of reporters are putting on this without changing the definition of the word 'review.' That word is not one and the same with 'cut'. Noah Webster, I'm certain, is turning over in his grave today."