John Boehner Should Travel More. To Australia.

Yesterday, both sides drew their battle lines in the coming war over the minimum wage. After Obama called for a minimum wage hike in his State of the Union speech, House Republicans dug in against it, casting their opposition as grounded in concern for the plight of low wage workers. John Boehner asked: “Why would we want to make it harder for small employers to hire people?”

Dems to use minimum wage against GOP in 2014, Greg Sargent, Washington Post, this morning

To me, one of the great frustrations in Obama’s failure during most of his first term to communicate, effectively or at all, the basic premises of Keynesian and other liberal economics-related arguments (including on healthcare) was his apparent resistance to mentioning–early, often, or ever–specific other countries’ successes or failures that illustrate the point.

But there’s no time like the present for him and the congressional Dems to start to do do this, by maybe mentioning these facts: that Australia’s minimum wage is $15 U.S. and that its unemployment rate is 5.4%, and that the United States has (surprise!) the largest gap between the minimum wage and the median wage of any advanced economy in the world.

I learned those facts yesterday when I read Washington Post columnist Matthew Miller’s Feb. 6 column.  He mentioned it and linked to it in his column yesterday about Obama’s State of the Union address.  In yesterday’s column, he suggested seemingly, facetiously, that it was his February 6 column that had persuaded Obama to include a minimum-wage-hike proposal in his address.  But after reading the earlier column, I suspect that it was not only what convinced Obama to make the call but also was what caused Obama to even think of it.  

Both of Miller’s columns say that the $9/hr. figure that Obama proposed in his speech would still leave the minimum wage at $1.68 below what the value of the minimum wage was in 1968.  The first column, Miller also mentions that several CEOs of large corporations support a rise in the minimum wage and that a prominent conservative, the editor of American Conservative magazine, suggests raising the minimum wage to $12/hr.  Of course, the Republicans will showcase their own CEOs, and some small-business owners, to support their own position.

Which is where Australia comes in.  Or at least where invoking it should come in. The special beauty of using Australia as an example–whether in support of an increase in the minimum wage or in refuting the Obamacare-is-socialism/makers-vs.-takers mantra–is that few Americans associate Australia with, um, socialism.  They associate it instead with free-enterprise economics and a high standard of living.  And soon, hopefully, also with a higher minimum wage that corresponds to a low unemployment rate.  

Maybe Marco Rubio and John Boehner could get a travel discount if they booked their reservations together.