Bernie Sanders: Time For A Federal Living Wage

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Democratic presidential hopeful and self-described socialist Bernie Sanders introduced a bill Wednesday to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour — the so-called living wage.

“It is a national disgrace that millions of full-time workers are living in poverty and millions more are forced to work two or three jobs just to pay their bills,” Sanders said during a rally near the U.S. Capitol.

Sanders was joined by Democratic Reps. Keith Ellison, Raul Grijalva, Sheila Jackson-Lee and other members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

“A job must lift workers out of poverty, not keep them in it,” Sanders said. “The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is a starvation wage and must be raised to a living wage.”

Sanders has made worker issues a primary focus on his campaign. He has even been able to pull significant support from unions who have been hesitant to back the Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) argued the wage increase will help many Americans.

“In America today, too many people struggle to make ends meet, even though they work full time,” SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry said in a statement. “Raising the minimum wage to $15 would boost our economy and ensure that no one who works full-time lives in poverty.”

Some experts, however, have warned that raising the minimum wage will cause unintended consequences. Alejandro Chafuen, president of Atlas Network, noted it’s those people the increase is supposed to help that will suffer the most.

“We will see a spike in unemployment,” Chafuen told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “The people that this is meant to help will be hurt the most.”

Chafuen argued that the higher cost of labor will make companies far less likely to hire low skilled or entry level workers. Employers will instead hire experienced workers who can produce enough to be worth the higher wages.

“This has happened each time,” Chafuen added. “People will tend to hire the more productive workers.”

Carrie Sheffield, a fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, agreed.

“The fact it’s coming from Bernie Sanders says a lot,” Sheffield told The DCNF. “The thing about the minimum wage is it polls well.”

As well as making employers less likely to hire low skilled workers, Sheffield argued it will make them more likely to seek other alternatives as well.

“It increases the incentives to automate,” Sheffield noted. “It’s one of these laws of unintended consequences.”

So far the $15 minimum wage has only been passed in a few cities. Seattle led the way in 2014 by gradually increasing its minimum wage to $15 an hour. The city was followed by Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland. These cities, however, have already been seeing some problems. For instance, some businesses have had to close and nonprofits in Los Angeles are reporting problems as well.

Nevertheless, Americans for the most part overwhelmingly support raising the minimum wage. According to Gallup, upward of 76 percent of people favor raising it to $9 an hour while 22 percent opposed the idea. Studies on the subject have shown varying results.

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