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Sanders and O'Malley: Raise minimum wage to $15. Is it feasible?

Two out of three Democratic Presidential candidates support the increase, which critics call extreme.

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Democratic 2016 presidential candidates, Hillary Rodham Clinton, left, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, center, and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, right, looks to the crowd after a democratic presidential candidate forum at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., Friday, Nov. 6, 2015.

(AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

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During Saturday night’s Democratic Presidential debate, candidate Bernie Sanders said he will “apologize to nobody” for his intent to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 dollars an hour. Sanders dismissed concerns that requiring employers to pay higher salaries could result in businesses creating fewer jobs.

According to the debate transcript posted online by the Washington Post, Sanders said, “It is not a radical idea to say that if somebody works 40 hours a week, that person should not be living in poverty.”

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Moderators had challenged Sanders on the viability of the hike, which would be more than double the current federal minimum of $7.25. The Independent senator from Vermont said he thinks such a raise would stimulate the economy, yielding more benefits than potential harm.

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“The average worker in America doesn’t have any disposable income,” said Sanders, who thinks this is “one of the reasons” real-unemployment in the United States has risen to "10 percent," and unemployment among African American youth has soared to "51 percent." 

The fact-checking website Politifact rated Sanders's statistic as "half true." While black youth are indeed unemployed at a higher rate than other groups, Sanders's was using a nonstandard measurement.

“You have no disposable income when you’re making ten, twelve bucks and hour,” said Sanders. “When we put money into the hands of working people, they are going to go out and buy goods, they are going to go out and buy services and they are going to create jobs in doing that.”

Democratic contender and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley agrees with Sanders. O’Malley pointed to his own success in raising the state’s minimum while he was in office – although the increase was nowhere close to the $15/hour O'Malley is now advocating. Maryland's minimum wage will rise from $7.25 to $10.10 by 2017. O'Mallley said, “The more our people earn, the more they spend, and the more our economy grows.”

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, disagrees with them both. Clinton argued that raising the minimum wage to $12 would be more sensible, citing the research of Alan Krueger, the former chairman of President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers. Clinton said she takes Krueger’s advice “seriously.”

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O’Malley said we should should “stop taking our advice from economists on Wall Street.”

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"He’s not on Wall Street,” said Clinton. “He is the foremost expert in our country on the minimum wage and what its effects are, and the overall message is that it doesn't result in job loss,” said Mrs. Clinton, who attributed her hesitancy to the lack of international comparisons, heeding the advice of Mr. Kreuger.

“That is why I support a $12 national official minimum wage,” Clinton said, adding, “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."

On the other side of the political aisle, all of the Republican candidates for President stand opposed to raising the minimum wage.


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