December 9, 2013

Senator Bernie Sanders discusses the minimum wage and extending long-term unemployment benefits with MSNBC's Ed Schultz.

Sanders destroyed every GOP claims against raising the minimum wage, while calling their position as 'just factually wrong."

"I say they’re just factually wrong. In my state of Vermont, our minimum wage is $8.60 compared to the national minimum wage of $7.25. We have one of the lowest unemployment rates in America. You have states where there is virtually no minimum wage at all, and their unemployment rate is much higher. The facts just don’t bear it out. The reality is that if we raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour about 30 million Americans would get a pay raise, and 88% of them are adults. These are not kids. These are working families struggling to keep their heads above water. They need a pay raise. We’ve gotta pass it."

Asked by Ed Schultz if McDonalds can afford to pay its employees $15 an hour, Sanders responds:

"Ed, here is the real outrage. Not only can they afford to pay a decent minimum wage, but here is the point. Right now the taxpayers of this country are subsidizing the McDonalds people, Burger King and Walmart. In Walmart in particular, you have the wealthiest family in the world. They’re worth $100 billion, but the wages and the benefits they provide to their workers are so low that many of these workers go on Medicaid. They go on food stamps. They have to get government help for their housing, so the taxpayers of America end up subsidizing Walmarts, McDonalds, and Burger King. If we raise the minimum wage the workers would actually have enough living, enough income to get off of some of these programs."

These wild claims of lost jobs and economic destruction resulting from a minimum wage hike are not new, and are the very same sorts of scare tactics used to oppose the 2007 minimum wage hike that most Republicans also opposed. Here’s what Republicans and leading right-wing pundits said at the time:

  • Right-wing pundit John Stossell: A wage hike would be “sticking it to low-skilled workers” and lead to higher unemployment. [January 2007]
  • Republican Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY): Raising the wage will “put mom and pop businesses and their employees out of business” if not accompanied with another huge tax cut for the rich. [January 2007]
  • Republican President George W. Bush: Simply raising the wage would “punish the millions of small businesses that are creating most of the new jobs in our country.” [January 2007]
  • The Heritage Foundation: This leading right-wing think tank claimed “raising the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour would cost at least 8 percent of affected workers their jobs.” [January 2007]
  • Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA): Kingston said the minimum wage is just an “arbitrary number” but that raising it would “decrease the number of jobs, thus hurting those whom we are supposed to be helping.” [January 2007]
  • Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE): Terry said that raising the wage would be “nothing more than a Band-Aid on a broken little toe. While their intentions may be good, and I believe they are, their philosophical approach is economically and socially flawed. In reality, this plan will create an economic hardship for the employers who provide millions of Americans the opportunity to participate in our economy.” [January 2007]
  • Republican Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK): Coburn said his vote against the minimum wage bill was to “protect the salaries of low-income families” who would be laid off as a result of the wage hike. [February 2007]
  • Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH): Gregg — who now works for Goldman Sachs — had this take: “If you start losing jobs because you raise minimum wage too quickly, too fast that small employers can’t afford it, that’s going to have an effect on peoples’ opportunity to work.” [June 2006]

At the time, 28 Republican Senators, many of them still serving today, voted in favor of eliminating the federal minimum wage altogether.

Despite these scare tactics from congressional Republicans, the 2007 minimum wage hike did not harm the economy. Study after study has shown that raising the minimum wage has not, on net, cost workers their jobs.

If the GOP is opposed to raising the minimum wage, what is their plan to ensure people who work full time don't live in poverty?

Republicans may keep pushing against the minimum wage, but their arguments are wrong and should be disregarded. Taxpayers shouldn't have to subsidize the work force of big wealthy corporations.

The financial crisis heightened American's awareness of income inequality. If Republicans oppose a minimum wage hike again, it will be at their own peril at the polls come next November.

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