The four panelists of MSNBC’s The Cycle each weighed in on yesterday's nationwide fast food workers’ strike on Thursday’s show. All four of them voiced their support for the strikers, including the supposedly conservative member of the panel, Abby Huntsman.
Huntsman claimed the strike was “bigger than the minimum wage. This is about making enough to live.” She groused that the average minimum wage employee in Missouri was only bringing home about $10,000 a year. “I mean, people deserve higher-paying jobs,” she complained. “I think this speaks to a much bigger problem. It's jobs across the board where people aren't getting paid enough to live.” [Video below. MP3 audio here.]
Huntsman did not take exactly the same angle as her three fellow panelists, but her analysis was just as liberal as theirs. It makes you wonder what the point is of calling her the conservative on the panel. A real conservative would have questioned the wisdom of raising the minimum wage, let alone doubling it like the strikers want to do. Employers could not afford to swallow such a massive pay hike without either raising prices or laying off workers, the former harming consumers and the latter costing some lower-income workers their jobs.
Huntsman also praised the strikers as quintessentially democratic: “[I]t reminds me having spent time just recently living in Beijing, this is what a democracy is all about. It's these demonstrations, it’s these protests that in many cases encourage corporations to change.”
Huntsman, you may recall, replaced conservative columnist S.E. Cupp, who is socially liberal on issues like gay marriage, but generally strongly conservative on economic issues and a strong defender of Second Amendment rights. Cupp frequently sparred with her liberal co-hosts, including some tense scraps with the very liberal Toure.
If Huntsman is only going to agree with her liberal colleagues, The Cycle is going to devolve from a spirited debate show to yet another left-wing propagandafest on MSNBC.
Below is a transcript of the discussion:
KRYSTAL BALL: And the news cycle leads us to the spin. And I have to say, I am so heartened by the actions of these fast food workers across the country, and I really think the timing could not be any more perfect, both because I really have this sense that there is a growing movement in the country where people are feeling powerful, they're recognizing that they are the masters of their own destiny, but also in the wake of the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s “I Have a Dream” speech, people forget that Dr. King was not only a civil rights activist, he also was a labor leader and one of the purposes, one of the stated goals of the March on Washington was to increase the minimum wage from $1.15 to $2 an hour which is the modern day equivalent of the $15 an hour that these fast food workers are actually demanding. And one other thing I want to underscore here, they're not just asking for an increase in the minimum wage, they're also asking for the right to unionize which I think is even more critical here. Asking for the minimum wage, very important, but that's like asking for the fish. Being a union member gives you the ability to learn how to fish so you can advocate for yourself for the safety and the wages that you need in your job.
TOURE: Yeah, Krystal. I'm totally with you. I fully support this movement of the least fortunate among us to make a little bit more. Over the last 40 years workers' income vis-a-vis their boss's income has gone from a differential of 20-1 to 267-1, and before the recession it was about 360-1. And part of that inequality is because the power of unions has been beaten back by the conservatives over the last 40 years and they're not able to provide the balance that they used to be able to. And the idea that raising the minimum wage will cost jobs is not borne out by the data.
ABBY HUNTSMAN: I think it's, to your point, bigger than the minimum wage. This is about making enough to live. And it reminds me having spent time just recently living in Beijing, this is what a democracy is all about. It's these demonstrations, it’s these protests that in many cases encourage corporations to change. Just to put this in perspective, if you're paying $7.35, which is what they pay in the state of Missouri, and if they work let’s say 20, 25 hours a week, which is the average in that state, they are bringing home about $10,000 a year. I mean, people deserve higher-paying jobs. I think this speaks to a much bigger problem. It's jobs across the board where people aren't getting paid enough to live.
STEVE KORNACKI: Right. Yeah, I think part of this is, you know, with the focus on what's McDonald’s paying, what’s Wendy's paying, but what this is really a function of is where is the minimum wage now? Where is the federal minimum wage? Where are the state minimum wages? President Obama called in the State of the Union address this year for an increase in the minimum wage. Nobody thinks that's going anywhere. What I wonder is if these protests start to gain steam, if these strikes start to gain steam and become a lot bigger than they are, if they exert the kind of pressure that forces some of these companies to rethink their own practices, their own wages that they pay, will it also change the political posture that these companies have? Because right now any time a minimum wage increase comes on the political agenda, you can count on corporate America to be opposed to it. But if corporate America’s going to be facing protests much bigger than this, does corporate America say, well listen, if it’s going to happen to my company like this, maybe it would be better if we just did this across the board. So I wonder if that changes the political calculation at all.