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May 1, 2014   |   Michael Bennet

PETITION: Raise the Minimum Wage

Let's put aside partisanship for a few minutes and try to establish a shared understanding of the facts about the minimum wage.

Right now, if you work 40 hours a week year-round at $7.25 per hour – the federal minimum wage -- you make barely over $15,000 a year. If you have a family that depends on you to keep a roof over their heads and put food on the table, you're making just two-thirds of the federal poverty level. That means in the greatest country in the world, a family living with a full-time breadwinner is impoverished.

Think about what that family's life is like. The U.S.D.A says that even under the cheapest plan possible, it costs more than $7,000 a year to feed a family of four with two growing kids. So at least half of that family's paycheck goes to groceries.

After payroll taxes, that leaves the family with less than $7,000 to cover rent, utilities, medicine, clothes, transportation, school supplies, and childcare -- which costs more in Colorado than most states. By the way, if your rent is $583 or more, that would leave you with $0 for any of those other necessities I just mentioned or the countless other things that life throws at us.

It can't be done. It's simple arithmetic.

But we can help change that math by raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10, which would put more than $7,000 in the pockets of working families every year. Please join us and sign this petition calling on Congress to raise the Federal Minimum Wage.

Families like the one I just described often end up having to rely on safety net programs like SNAP, or food stamps, to make up the difference. By raising the minimum wage, workers would be much closer to being able to provide for their families with their paychecks, through their own hard work. If we passed this minimum wage bill, it would reduce SNAP enrollments by over 7.5 percent, and we'd save $46 billion in SNAP payments over the next decade.

There are many compelling reasons to raise the minimum wage. The American people overwhelmingly support it. But a minority of senators voted to block our ability to even so much as consider this bill. These senators don't even want to let us have a debate about this bill, much less pass it.

I have to ask: what's so radical about this bill? Is it unprecedented? Actually, it isn't.

Since Congress first enacted the minimum wage in the 1930s, both Democrats and Republicans managed to raise the minimum wage on ten different occasions in the past 70 years. But to hear some people talk, you'd think this bill is an unprecedented assault on American capitalism.

Well, maybe they should talk to President Eisenhower, both President Bushes, and all the Republican and Democratic members of Congress who have voted repeatedly to increase the minimum wage before.

Maybe they should take it up with President Nixon, who issued this statement when he signed a minimum wage increase almost exactly four decades ago, on April 8th, 1974: "The federally legislated minimum wage for most American workers has remained static for 6 years despite a number of increases in the cost of living. Raising the minimum wage is now a matter of justice that can no longer be fairly delayed. This bill would raise the minimum wage for most workers... a total increase of more than 40 percent... over the past several years, I have consistently supported responsible increases in minimum wage rates."

It's safe to say I don't agree with everything Nixon did, but this is one time I think he got it right. It's curious that the leaders of his party today won't even allow us to bring this bill to the floor for a debate.

For the sake of families trying to make it on a minimum wage salary, in Colorado and all over the country, I hope they reconsider. Please join our effort to raise the minimum wage by signing this petition.

All the best,

Michael Bennet

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