Rick Scott's minimum wage nonsense: Watch the Republican humiliate himself with stumbling debate response

Florida's guv asserts that he's OK with a government minimum wage -- but that the private sector sets it. Huh?

Published October 22, 2014 5:21PM (EDT)

Florida Gov. Rick Scott                  (AP/J Pat Carter)
Florida Gov. Rick Scott (AP/J Pat Carter)

Florida's gubernatorial contest may well be this year's most depressing election. The race pits the rabidly right-wing incumbent Gov. Rick Scott -- whose healthcare company paid $1.7 billion in fines for Medicare fraud that occurred while Scott was CEO -- against Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democratic  former Gov. Charlie Crist, whose shameless shape-shifting makes one long for the authenticity and ideological consistency of Willard Mitt Romney. Floridians face a choice between a man who seems to believe absolutely nothing and another who has made abundantly clear that he harbors some vary scary beliefs.

Scott's frightening worldview was on display last night, as the two candidates faced off in a (fan-free) debate moderated by CNN's Jake Tapper. For much of the debate, the two wealthy, white male candidates engaged in what can only be described as a poor-off, tussling over who had struggled the most over the course of their hard-knock lives. But Tapper nevertheless proved an excellent moderator, asking substantive and considered questions of the candidates on issues like climate change, capital punishment and race. When the discussion turned toward the minimum wage -- an issue that has tripped up some of Scott's fellow GOP governors lately -- Scott, never a deft communicator to begin with, absolutely humiliated himself.

"Governor Scott, you have said that you oppose raising the minimum wage because you think it would be a job killer," Tapper noted. "Clarify something for Florida voters, do you support the principle of a minimum wage? Do you support the concept of a minimum wage?"

"Sure," Scott replied.

Tapper asked what the minimum wage should be.

"How would I know? I mean, the private sector decides wages," Scott shot back.

So the government should set a minimum wage, but it's not Scott's place as a government official to say what that wage should be, because "the private sector decides wages"?

Pressed on the issue later, Scott said, “Just because they set a minimum wage doesn’t mean you get a job.”

Scott's response was patently ridiculous and nonsensical, of course, but it's worth noting that the minimum wage hasn't kept up with key market measures like inflation and worker productivity. As ThinkProgress' Bryce Covert points out, the minimum wage would now be more than $10 an hour if it had kept pace with inflation since the 1960s, while it would be more than $20 an hour if it had kept up with worker productivity. Instead, the wage has been $7.25 an hour since 2009.

Watching Scott stumble, one couldn't help marveling that this guy still has a real shot at winning reelection. It's amazing what running against Charlie Crist will do for even an uber-conservative Tea Party plutocrat.

Watch Scott's response below, via ThinkProgress:

By Luke Brinker

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2014 Elections Charlie Crist Florida Gop Jake Tapper Midterm Elections Minimum Wage Republicans Rick Scott Video