California Democratic congresswoman Barbara Lee expressed support for a $26 minimum wage in her state — a move Republican congressman Andy Harris encouraged, assuming jobs would rapidly flee California to his state of Maryland.
Lee and Harris appeared Friday on CNN’s “Crossfire,” hosted by former Obama advisor Van Jones and former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. The panel discussed the proposed increase in the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour.
“Let me ask you this question, you’re a good advocate for this,” Gingrich asked Lee. “The mayor of Seattle is proposing that the minimum wage ought to go up to $15 an hour.”
“Good for him,” Lee responded. “In California — more than likely, from what I remembered — a living wage where people could live and take care of their families and move toward achieving the American dream was about $25, $26 an hour.”
“So would you support that as a minimum wage for California?” Gingrich asked.
“Absolutely I would support it for California. I think the regional factors –”
“And you don’t think that’d have an effect on unemployment?” Gingrich interrupted.
“No, Newt, trust me, believe you me,” Lee replied, “you’d have a more productive workforce, you’d have people who could afford to live in areas now where they cannot afford to live. You would increase diversity in certain communities where you don’t have diversity anymore. You would have economic parity and the income gap would begin to close.”
Gingrich pointed out that many countries in Europe — including economic powerhouse Germany — has no minimum wage, yet has tremendously-high economic productivity and relatively low unemployment. He pointed out the average European country with minimum wage laws had 13.8 percent unemployment. No wage law? Just 6.3 percent.
Lee tried to dismiss the comparison, claiming Europe “has a safety net” that America doesn’t possess. But Van Jones quickly moved to change the subject.
If a $26-an-hour minimum wage was instituted in California, employees working 40 hours per week and taking no vacations would earn over $54,000 each year.
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