Calif. Rep Barbara Lee manages to perplex fellow Dems in argument for $50/hr min wage: ‘Do the math!’


Democrats vying to fill the California Senate seat held by the late Dianne Feinstein seemed perplexed by one candidate’s $50-an-hour minimum wage plan.

Rep. Barbara Lee touted her proposal and sought to make it more understandable during a debate with fellow California Democrats, Reps. Adam Schiff and Katie Porter as well as Republican Steve Garvey.

While Schiff and Porter have proposed an increase in the minimum wage, which is $16 in California, to $20 to $25 an hour, Garvey has so far been against any increase in the hourly rate.

During a debate on Monday, Lee explained how some areas would see a higher wage increase because of the higher cost of living. Currently, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.

“In the Bay Area, I believe it was the United Way that came out with a report that very recently $127,000 for a family of four is just barely enough to get by,” she said, after citing her experience running a small business.

“Another survey very recently: $104,000, for a family of one, barely enough to get by low income because of the affordability crisis,” she continued.

Lee encouraged everyone to “just do the math!”

“Just do the math! Of course we have national minimum wages that we need to raise to a living raise,” Lee said. “You’re talking about 20, 25 dollars, fine, but I have got to be focused on what California needs and what the affordability factor is when we calculate this wage.”

That $ 50-an-hour wage would total $104,000 annually.

Lee did not get any nods of approval from her rivals.

“Again, minimum wage is where it is and should be,” Garvey said. “If you look at what California has done to fast food franchises right now, increasing the minimum wage to $20. Then what’s going to happen? That’s going to increase costs for hard-working Californians to go to a franchise.”

Schiff responded with his own take after Garvey’s remarks.

“You can say the minimum wage is fine where it is, but you want to know why people are living on the street. It’s because we’re paying them poverty wages,” the Democrat said.

One thing the candidates all seemed to agree on is the need for more housing production to help boost the economy. Porter discussed the need to “harness the power of the federal government to unleash that capital that we need to build more housing at a price point where our workers can afford it.”

Lee believed the best way is for the government to step in and help residents afford houses.

“One of the issues around homelessness is that people in California don’t have the resources for first and last month’s rent and for a security deposit, so why can’t HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) invest in a revolving fund to help people,” she said.

A new California law that goes into effect in April will see a minimum wage increase to $20 an hour for fast-food employees.

“Higher minimum wages may have many downstream effects on consumers, businesses, and the overall economy,” Justin Rush, a North Carolina-based financial planner, told KTLA 5 News. “To offset higher labor costs, businesses may increase the prices of their products or services accordingly. However … some businesses may invest in automation to reduce the reliance on low-wage workers altogether. So, a business may pay more for the workers they have but end up employing fewer workers altogether.”


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Frieda Powers
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