White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow ripped Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden for pledging to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, even as small businesses struggle to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
"You can't socialize health care, and you can't mandate wages around the country," Kudlow said during an interview on Friday with FOX Business' Maria Bartiromo. "President Trump has a good vision here."
During the second and final presidential debate in Nashville on Thursday night, Biden said he supported raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, and said the government would have to bail out small businesses still reeling from the virus-induced crisis.
Asked by moderator Kristen Welker whether he still supported hiking the minimum wage despite the challenges small businesses face, Biden said: “I do, because I think one of the things we're going to have to do, we're going to have to bail them out, too. We should be bailing them out now, those small businesses. You've got one in six of them going under. They're not going to be able to make it back.”
Trump, however, countered that raising the minimum wage could hurt business owners and their employees.
“How are you helping your small businesses when you’re forcing wages?” he asked. "What’s going to happen, and what’s been proven to happen, is when you do that, these small businesses fire many of their employees."
Kudlow, a longtime opponent of a federal wage increase, applauded Trump for putting the onus of increasing wages on states, rather than the federal government.
"One of the things I liked last night, President Trump boldly and honestly said: 'Look, you want a $15 minimum wage, that will close down small businesses that cannot afford to pay right now, let the states do it,'" Kudlow said. "Not another federal mandate."
A record number of states, cities and counties boosted their minimum wage in 2020, according to a report published by the National Employment Law Project, a worker advocacy group based in New York.
By the end of the year, 24 states — including California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Washington — and 48 cities and counties will raise their minimum wage. (Some of those hikes are fairly small adjustments to account for inflation, like in Florida and Ohio.)
Across the country, the number of cities and counties with a minimum pay rate of at least $15 has nearly doubled, with the number rising to 32 in 2020.
The federal minimum wage rate has remained at $7.25 per hour for the past decade.