Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) took to MSNBC on Sunday to push for a $15 minimum hourly wage.
"Any person who thinks that a $15 minimum wage is a crazy socialist agenda is living in a dystopian capitalist nightmare," Ocasio-Cortez proclaimed. "People are sleeping in their cars, they can't afford baby formula... it is deeply, deeply shameful that we are even having this conversation."
Raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour has been a staple policy position of American progressives in recent years. Progressives have argued that it is necessary in order for workers to afford to pay for basic necessities such as rent and food.
Conservatives have argued, on the other hand, that such a wage increase will lead to layoffs, primarily among small businesses which cannot afford to pay such wages. They have also asserted that the primary beneficiaries of a minimum wage hike would be big businesses which benefit from economies of scale, as increasing the cost of labour would drive their small business competitors out of the market, , The Hill reports.
The Congressional Budget Office released a report on the proposed minimum wage hike last month, concluding that such a proposal would lift 900,000 Americans out of poverty, put 1.4 million Americans out of work, and would increase the budget deficit by $54 billion.
The report came after the Raise the Wage Act was reintroduced in the House of Representatives. The bill had previously passed the House in 2019, but died before coming to a vote in the Senate.
The Democrats have opted to include the minimum wage hike in their $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus package, which was passed by the House of Representatives last week. However, Senate parliamentarians have ruled that the inclusion of a minimum wage hike in the bill violates budget rules, and that it must be removed before the stimulus package can come to a vote in the Senate.
Such a proposal may continue to face trouble in the Senate despite a narrow Democratic majority, as the bill is opposed by Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), who has argued that an $11 per hour minimum wage would be more appropriate.
"His own constituents believe in a $15 minimum wage," Ocasio-Cortez said of Manchin's concerns. "In almost every pocket of this country you cannot afford rent if you are making minimum wage. And in America, if you are working a full-time job, you should be able to afford to live."
West Virginia is among the least expensive states to live in in the United States. It also has a minimum wage of $8.75 per hour, which is higher than federal law requires.
"I think it's important to recognize that in the states Republicans have won, a $15 minimum wage has also passed," Ocasio-Cortez insisted. "It's extremely important to understand this isn't a partisan issue."
Minimum wage in the United States has sat at $7.25 per hour since 2009, when an increase from $5.15 was passed and signed into law under President Barack Obama.
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