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Ben Carson just proposed a radical minimum wage idea

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Dr. Ben CarsonPhotograph by Bill Clark — CQ-Roll Call,Inc./Getty Images

First off, let’s be fair: the minimum wage proposal that Ben Carson mentioned on Wednesday night during CNN’s Republican debate is radical mainly in that sense that it came from a Republican.

The first question about minimum wage in any televised debate this election cycle came Wednesday night when moderator Jake Tapper asked Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to share his thoughts on raising the federal minimum wage of $7.25 that was set in 2009.

Walker said that he would concentrate on giving Americans the education and skills they need to land jobs that paid more than the minimum wage.

Carson then interjected that he was—in fact—”probably” or “possibly” in favor of raising the federal rate. “I think we need to get both sides of this issue to sit down and talk … and negotiate a reasonable minimum wage.”

With that statement, Carson put some space between himself and the rest of the GOP presidential field. Supporting an increase of the wage floor, in and of itself, is out of character for a Republican. The party loyal typically take the stance that market forces—not the federal government—should dictate how much employers pay their workers.


But Carson wasn’t done. He dropped an even bigger bombshell: “And we should index [the new federal minimum wage] so that we never have to have this conversation again in the history of America.”

So not only would Carson be in favor of setting a new minimum wage, he would support an increase of that wage automatically every year by tying it—presumably—to inflation. He also mentioned having two tiers of the federal minimum wage, one normal rate and a lower one for younger workers.

The idea behind indexing the minimum wage is to link the hourly rate of the nation’s lowest paid workers to fluctuations in the cost of living to keep such pay from eroding in value in the midst of legislative haggling. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia currently or plan to adjust their state minimum wages every year based on the cost of living, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Since the federal minimum wage was established in 1938, it’s been raised more than 20 times, but hikes have always required Congressional action. A 2013 bill introduced by Congressional Democrats to raise the country’s minimum wage to $10.10 proposed indexing the federal rate, but the practice has never been implemented at the national level.

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