Days after Chris Christie moaned that he's "tired of hearing about the minimum wage" -- a remark that prompted U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez to chide Christie for having his "head in the sand" -- the New Jersey governor wants you to know he's just been misunderstood.
Speaking before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, the potential 2016 presidential candidate said, “I’m tired of hearing about the minimum wage. I really am. I don’t think there’s a mother or a father sitting around the kitchen table tonight in America saying, ‘You know, honey, if our son or daughter could just make a higher minimum wage, my God, all of our dreams would be realized.’”
On Thursday -- the same day that Perez suggested Christie should "talk to his economists, who will tell him that 70 percent of GDP growth is consumption” -- Christie tried to clarify his comments.
“My comments are never almost universally interpreted the way I mean them,” Christie complained at a New Jersey diner on Thursday. “But that’s OK. I’ll be very clear. I’ll say it again.”
Christie proceeded to rip President Obama over the minimum wage, which Obama wants to raise from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour.
“The President wants to focus [on the minimum wage] because he’s a class warrior,” Christie charged. “What he wants to focus on is the minimum wage. I don’t believe that that’s what our focus should be. Our focus should be on creating better paying jobs for everyone in our country.”
That Obama -- always scheming to prevent people from acquiring "better paying jobs."
Given Christie's professed concern for workers' pay, it seems somewhat befuddling that the governor vetoed a proposed increase in New Jersey's minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25 an hour last year. Recognizing that the increase would mean "better paying jobs," to borrow a phrase, New Jersey voters then approved the increase via referendum last November, voting 61 to 39 percent in favor.
Moreover, as the Washington Post's Philip Bump points out, Christie's stereotype about who earns the minimum wage is woefully outdated. Half of minimum wage earners are older than 25. Contrary to what Christie and Iowa Senate candidate Joni Ernst seem to think, the minimum wage isn't a nice little "starter wage" for teenagers. The New York Daily News notes that for many New Jersey workers, low-wage jobs are the only available options. In the year that ended this August, the state added an average of just 558 jobs a month.
But pointing out such facts makes you a sinister "class warrior," as Christie puts it. It's not low-wage workers who deserve to take home more pay, you see; it's Christie's well-heeled political benefactors, for whom Christie vetoed a proposed millionaire's tax. They're the ones who count, whose checks Christie's Republican Governor's Association collects in record numbers and whose firms receive millions in subsidies from Christie's administration. They're the ones for whom Christie -- a class warrior if ever one existed -- has consistently gone to bat.