Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders positioned himself ever more as the candidate of the progressive protest movement #Fightfor15 on Saturday night, defending at length his position that the minimum wage should be $15 nationally.
As he often does, Sanders emphasized the urgency for a wage increase Saturday:
Real inflation accounted for wages has declined precipitously over the years. So I believe that, in fact, this country needs to move towards a living wage.
It is not a radical idea to say that if somebody works 40 hours a week, that person should not be living in poverty. It is not a radical idea to say that a single mom should be earning enough money to take care of her kids.
So I believe that over the next few years, not tomorrow, but over the next few years, we have got to move the minimum wage to a living wage, 15 bucks an hour. And I apologize to nobody for that.
But he also on Saturday conceded that there might be jobs lost in raising the minimum wage.
"No public policy doesn't have, in some cases, negative consequences," he said when challenged on the effects of a dramatic increase to the federal minimum. "But at the end of the day, what you have right now are millions of Americans working two or three jobs because their wages that they are earning are just too low."
When the CBS moderators followed up on the point, Sanders argued that increased disposable income would decrease unemployment nationally:
"This is what I think. This is what many economists believe that one of the reasons that real unemployment in this country is 10%, one of the reasons that African-American youth unemployment and underemployment is 51% is the average worker in America doesn't have any disposable income.You have no disposable income when you are make 10, 12 bucks an hour. When we put money into the hands of working people, they're going to go out and buy goods, they're going to buy services and they're going to create jobs in doing that. Kathie, that is the kind of economy I believe, put money in the hands of working people, raise the minimum wage to 15 buck an hour.
In recent weeks, Sanders has fallen behind rival Hillary Clinton in the polls, which show her ahead in key states, including Iowa and New Hampshire, which neighbors Sanders' home state of Vermont.
Clinton reiterated on Saturday night her support for a $12 federal minimum wage, arguing local governments could go higher. "That is why I support a $12 national federal minimum wage. That is what the Democrats in the Senate have put forward as a proposal. But I do believe that is a minimum. And places like Seattle, like Los Angeles, like New York City, they can go higher. It's what happened in Gov. O'Malley's state. There was a minimum wage at the state level, and some places went higher."
Darren Sands is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Darren Sands at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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