The minimum wage was ushered into existence by a Republican Supreme Court Justice switching sides on a constitutional test before the Court, much as the Affordable Care Act has been. Justice Owen Roberts was a solid vote on Republican Supreme Court that in 1932–34 had dismantled most of FDR’s New Deal legislation.
In response, Roosevelt went to the Congress with a Court-packing plan that would have allowed him to make an additional appointment to the Court for every justice over 70 years and six months of age. Then Roberts, a Herbert Hoover appointee, voted with the liberal wing in 1937 to support Washington’s minimum wage. Soon after Roberts switched his vote—“the switch in time that saved nine”—Roosevelt abandoned the Court-packing plan and Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act. That act established the federal minimum wage, initially at 25 cents an hour, with increases to 30 cents the following year and 40 cents in 1945. The minimum wage has been increased three times in the past 30 years, each increase introduced by a Democratic member of Congress.
Consider the current Court. If President Obama is defeated, Mitt Romney will have the opportunity to appoint a conservative majority that will obstruct progressive legislation for at least 20 years. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is in poor health and 79, so the Court’s only genuine liberal would probably retire before the end of a Romney term. Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy, both 76, could retire, allowing Romney to appoint young right-wing justices who will shape American jurisprudence until the Kardashian sisters reach middle age.