CD15 Congressman Dennis Ross doesn't often make national news, but his negative take on the idea of raising the federal minimum wage went national last night on MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes.
It comes via footage taken by the progressive blog Think Progress, which filmed an encounter the Polk/Eastern Hillsborough County GOP Representative had with a young man named Shaneeka Rainer during a town hall meeting in New Tampa on Tuesday night. Watch:
RAINER: Would you support the Obama act of raising the federal minimum wage?
ROSS: No. [...] I think it would do more harm to our economy than anything. You work at Arby’s, the cost of products, the cost of services are going to go up. [...] If we are going to make it a living wage, who’s going to pay for it? Who’s going to pay for it?
AUDIENCEMEMBER: I will. I’ll pay 20 cents extra for a hamburger. [Applause]
RAINER: He said he’ll pay. So if he’ll pay, I’m going to work every day busting my butt. I want to know, would you take a walk in my shoes? Lay your tie and your suit down, just for a day, 24 hours, and take a walk in my shoes. The people that I work with, we’re keeping the economy floating and going in the cycle. But the people that hire, they’re just paying money, just throwing money. But I’m actually working every day. So why wouldn’t you support it?
ROSS: Because it’s not right. Economically, it’s not right. It does more harm to our economy. [...] If the government’s going to tell me how much I can get paid and when I can work and when I can’t work, then we have a serious problem in this country.
Ross' likely Democratic challenger this fall, former television news reporter Alan Cohn, seized on the spotlight Ross created for himself, saying in a statement that, "Congressman Ross showed exactly why he's part of the problem in Washington when he told a constituent working at Arbys that there was no way for him to earn a living wage. Washington doesn't get it and Congressman Ross never will because he doesn't think he has to listen to the people he serves. Congressman Ross should learn a thing or two from the minimum wage employees he mocks because he works for them, and it's clear he's forgotten that."
That was followed up by a press release from the Washington-based Faith in Public Life group, who supplied quotes from a couple of faith leaders who live in CD15, like the Rev. Richard Huggins, pastor at McLeod Memorial Presbyterian Church, who said, "It is morally bankrupt for Congressman Ross to fight against making the minimum wage a family wage. Someone who makes a six-figure salary paid for by tax dollars has no business making the lives of his working poor constituents even harder. It is a failure of both judgment and conscience."
"Rep. Ross, stated that the minimum wage is 'not right.' What's not right is that today's minimum wage doesn’t sustain a family," added Rev. Larry Rankin, former pastor with The Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church."Scripture tells us: 'You shall not withhold the wages of poor and needy laborers…You shall pay them their wages daily before sunset, because they are poor and their livelihood depends on them.'"
The proposal pushed by President Obama and most congressional Democrats to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour from the current $7.25 has not gone nowhere in Congress this year.