Labor Secretary Tom Perez blamed former President George W. Bush Wednesday for the Great Recession, arguing that the minimum wage, labor unions and Obama are vital to recovery.
“I come here with a sense of optimism because I remember where we were, we all remember where we were, the three months before this president took office,” Perez declared, speaking to a crowd at the AFL-CIO National Summit on Raising Wages.
“The economy shedded two million jobs,” Perez said. “The housing crisis, the bubble had burst, the American dream had been transformed, the American nightmare through the corrosive power of fine print.”
“This president was a community organizer,” Perez said. “He continues to be a community organizer. He understands change comes from the bottom up.”
Throughout his speech Perez focused primarily on the minimum wage, arguing that it won’t just help the poor, it will help aide in the country’s economic recovery.
“It starts by making every effort we can to lift wages,” Perez argued.
“We’re moving in the right direction but today is about the unfinished business,” Perez said. “And it starts with the minimum wage.”
The minimum wage debate has been a driving force for many protests in the past year. Fight for 15, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union, has advocated for higher wages by organizing fast food worker protests. While supporters say raising the minimum wage will help raise many out of poverty, opponents argue it will actually hurt the lower-income earners by reducing jobs.
“This has been a consumption deprived recovery,” Perez noted. “Why? Because of the reason we are here today, because wages have been flat, prosperity has not been shared.”
“Low wages are a choice, not a necessity,” Perez argued. “We can have an economy of shared prosperity. You led the economy into shared prosperity; the labor movement was about leading the economy for decades into a nation of shared prosperity, where everyone who worked hard and played by the rules can realize the American dream.”
Not everyone agree however, with some experts noting that raising the minimum wage can actually hurt lower-income earner.
The National Bureau of Economic Research recently released a report which found that the 40 percent federal minimum wage increase between 2007 and 2009 caused a steep drop in employment. The study also showed that those employees that were supposed to be helped because of the wage increase saw their average income fall by roughly $100 in the year after the wage increase took effect. The researchers identified the lower income as a direct consequence of lost job opportunities.
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