Here’s some advice for Senator Ted Cruz: When the presidential election heats up next year, keep your dad away from the media. In fact, keep him away from your campaign altogether. He’s bound to make impolitic comments that force you to you either denounce his position or stand by him and watch your poll numbers tank.
On Tuesday, Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczynski provided the latest episode of “Ted Cruz’s Dad Says the Craziest Things” show when he dug up a video of the elder Cruz—his first name is Rafael—talking to the Western Williamson Republican Club in Texas. Rafael Cruz touted a book by Jason Reilly, called Please Stop Helping Us, but he saved his most inelegant comments for the minimum wage
“Jason Reilly said in an interview, ‘Did you know before we had minimum wage laws black unemployment and white unemployment were the same?’” Cruz said. “If we increase the minimum wage, black unemployment will skyrocket. See, he (Reilly) understands it, but the average black does not.”
Obviously, saying that the “average black” doesn’t understand a topic is not the best way to articulate a position. But Cruz’s comments aren’t just insensitive. They’re wrong. First, increasing the minimum wage will not cause unemployment to “skyrocket” for anyone. In February, the Congressional Budget Office surveyed the academic evidence and surmised that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 would lead to a reduction in 500,000 jobs. Even if CBO is correct—and liberals pushed back on its findings—that is just 0.3 percent of the 144 million workers in the United States. A minimum wage hike would not send unemployment “skyrocketing.”
But Cruz’ argument fails an even more basic point: Raising the minimum wage would disproportionately help black Americans. A report from the Economic Policy Institute found that 14.1 percent of workers who benefit from raising the minimum wage to $10.10 are black—more than four million in total. That’s larger than their share of the overall workforce (11 percent). A different report from the Center for American Progress found that raising the minimum wage would increase the wages of black Americans by $5.2 billion. Or consider that in 2013, 4.9 percent of black workers were paid at or below the minimum wage, compared with 4.3 percent for white ones.
I’m sure Ted Cruz will be reluctant to hide his dad away when primary season picks up. The elder Cruz has long been one a leading advocate for his son’s political career. But Rafael has a knack for saying crazy things. (You can see a roundup of some of the craziest things he’s said here.) So far, that hasn’t put Ted in that tough of a situation. That’s going to change. If he runs for president and Rafael Cruz continues to stump for his son, the younger Cruz will have to answer for his dad comments. Does he really want to explain why the “average black” doesn’t understand the minimum wage?
Danny Vinik is a staff writer at The New Republic.