by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Republicans sympathetic to the populism of former President Donald Trump are trying to come up with policies that can compete with Democratic proposals to aid workers, sometimes running afoul of small-government conservatives and their party’s business wing in the process.
Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican, dropped his “Blue Collar Bonus” plan on Wednesday morning. His bill would offer a refundable tax credit to workers making less than $16.50 an hour, paid out in quarterly installments. Under the plan, an employee earning $12 an hour would qualify for a $2.25 tax credit. A valid Social Security number would be required for eligibility.
“Wages for blue-collar workers have been stagnant for decades,” Hawley said in a statement. “And government made the problem worse by shutting down the economy a year ago. It’s time we give blue-collar workers some respect and a pay raise. This plan would deliver meaningful relief for families and working Americans through higher pay while incentivizing and promoting work.”
This follows a Tuesday proposal by a pair of Republican senators to increase the federal minimum wage to $10 an hour by 2025 while mandating the use of an immigration mechanism called E-Verify. One of the sponsors, Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, is, like Hawley, a Trump ally who has advocated for a more populist GOP. But the other, Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, is a “Never Trumper” whose failure to win white working-class voters was among the reasons he lost the 2012 presidential election.
But Romney did campaign as a supporter of immigration enforcement, including E-Verify, that year. And one of his top domestic policy advisers, Oren Cass, is today one of the leading conservative policy wonks encouraging Republicans to pursue new ways to boost wages that go beyond tax cuts and deregulation. He praised the Romney-Cotton plan as “very well done.”