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This is circulating on Facebook:

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Here's a list of every president in American history who has wanted a raise in the minimum wage but been denied by the opposing party:

  1. President Obama

That's not a typo. He's really the only one. Gee... I wonder why?[sic]

I'm not sure if any further explanation or clarification is needed on my part... Is this claim true?

  • 2
    What is "denied by the opposing party" supposed to even mean? All bills go through the same gauntlet in the House and the Senate. Perhaps they mean an opposing party controlled House and/or Senate rejected a minimum wage increase bill. Seems kind of like a strict set of requirements. – fredsbend Dec 8 '16 at 21:00
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The claim is false.

I'm going to quibble with the phrasing and be really strict since the framing is manipulative/dishonest.

Has any president wanted a raise in the minimum wage but been denied it by the opposing party?

The minimum wage goes back to 1938 but I can't find good records online of things proposed to the house/senate before the late 1980's.

I'm not excluding when they wanted a raise at some point, were denied and later got some kind of a minimum wage increase during their term. If there was any kind of "no" to any minimum wage increase during their term I'm counting it.

During most of Clintons term 1993-2001 the republicans controlled the house and the senate from 1994 until the end of his term. So we can accept any proposed minimum wage increases that didn't happen in that term.

Clinton was pro-increase. So proposals during his term count.

http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=58221

Here are the increases that did happen:

http://www.dol.gov/whd/minwage/chart.htm

Table of min wage history

Note that what actually happened was that in 1995 the minimum wage was $4.25 , in 1996 the minimum wage was $4.75 and in 1997 the minimum was $5.15.

January 11 (legislative day, JANUARY 10), 1995 the American Family Fair Minimum Wage Act of 1995 was Introduced in Senate.

It proposed that in 1995 the minimum wage would be set at $4.75 and $5.25 in 1996 and $5.75 in 1997.

http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/D?c104:1:./temp/~c104l7Tt1h::

http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-104s203is/pdf/BILLS-104s203is.pdf

This did not happen.

SEC. 2. MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE.

Paragraph (1) of section 6(a) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (29 U.S.C. 206(a)(1)) is amended to read as follows:

    `(1) except as otherwise provided in this section not less than--

        `(A) $4.25 an hour during the period ending on August 31, 1995;

        `(B) $4.75 an hour during the year beginning on September 1, 1995;

        `(C) $5.25 an hour during the year beginning September 1, 1996; and

        `(D) $5.75 an hour during the year beginning September 1, 1997;'.

Note that this is not listed as passed in the senate.

Thus a president, Bill Clinton wanted a raise in the minimum wage but the proposed raise was denied by the opposing party at the time, the republicans who controlled the house and the senate.

Later a different raise for a different amount in a different year did go through.

The claim is false.

8

@Murphy covered why the claim is false. But it's also worth understanding why the claim is misleading. Note the wording: "Here's a list of every president in American history who has wanted a raise in the minimum wage but been denied by the opposing party:". This ignores two things:

  1. Generally Democrats support and Republicans oppose the minimum wage. So if a Republican president had wanted a minimum wage increase, it is extremely unlikely that a Democratic Congress would have said no. This is not a nonpartisan issue which any president might face.

  2. The Democrats have controlled Congress for most of the years since 1938 (when the first minimum wage was instituted). Fifty-eight out of seventy-eight years.

From Wikipedia:

  • 1947-1949 House and Senate controlled by Republicans; Democratic president (Harry Truman).
  • 1995-2001 House and Senate controlled by Republicans; Democratic president (Bill Clinton).
  • 2011-now House and Senate controlled by Republicans; Democratic president (Barack Obama).

So there have been three Democratic presidents since 1938 who could have been denied something by a Congress held by the opposing party. Obama was. Clinton was (although he later got an increase through). Was Truman? The minimum wage increased twice under Truman, in 1945 and 1950. The first time was a 60% increase from $.25 to $.40. The second time was an 87.5% increase from $.40 to $.75. Did Truman want an increase from $.40 to $.50 or $.60 during the 1947-1949 period? Yes.

From State of the Union History:

In each of his state of the union addresses, President Truman repeatedly urged congress to raise the minimum wage.

So Truman too was prevented from the minimum wage increase that he wanted by the opposing party. He was prevented by the opposing party in 1947 and 1948. Apparently he was prevented by his own party in 1949, but they gave him what he wanted in 1950.

  • There's a really good point buried in here, which is that when you talk about presidencies or presidential elections, you are automatically setting your sample size really low. If you throw other narrowers on there as well (eg: since minimum wage, opposite party controls Congress), you quickly get to a point where your sample size is far to small to say anything statistically significant. – T.E.D. Apr 19 '18 at 22:08
2

Per a Washington Post article from 2006 (the first search result I found), "The Senate has rejected 11 attempts to raise the minimum wage since 1998, according to a legislative history compiled by Democrats." Since Obama wasn't elected until 2008, that raises a certain doubt about the claim, though of course it doesn't provide information on whether the President at the time wanted each increase. (Under the US Constitution, what a President wants doesn't count until a bill is passed by both houses of Congress.)

Link to article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/21/AR2006062101069.html

  • @Flimzy but then the second part of the claim is completely useless, if he was the only president to ever WANT a raise, am I wrong? – Theolodis Aug 6 '15 at 5:27
  • @Theolodis yep, it's true but dishonest. It's like saying "no left handed president has been re-elected" in 1983. Anything can be framed like that. – Murphy Aug 6 '15 at 14:05
  • Actually researching this some more it isn't even technically true. – Murphy Aug 6 '15 at 14:39
  • @Flimzy: Bill Clinton, a Democrat, was President from 1998 to 2001. I'm assuming that the count started in 1998 because some proposed increase was voted down then, though I don't know how to check other than wading through the Congressional Record for those years, a task I'll leave up to you :-) More important, I think, is the absolute ignorance of the US legislative process displayed in the claim. – jamesqf Aug 6 '15 at 18:18
  • @jamesqf: Indeed... my bad. (do'h). And yes, I agree that there is a lot of ignorance displayed in the claim. Which is why I was skeptical enough to ask here :) – Flimzy Aug 6 '15 at 18:21

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