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Should U.S. Raise Minimum Wage?

Aired February 20, 2014 - 18:28   ET



ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CROSSFIRE, is it time millions of Americans got a raise? All the president's men say yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the right thing to do for our economy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really good economic benefits for companies, I think they should support this.

ANNOUNCER: But will your boss say, "I can't afford it. You're fired"?

On the left, Van Jones. On the right, Newt Gingrich. In the CROSSFIRE, Ralph Nader, a longtime consumer advocate, and Stephen Moore, a conservative economist. Will raising the minimum wage help the economy or cost jobs? Tonight on CROSSFIRE.


NEWT GINGRICH, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. I'm Newt Gingrich on the right.

VAN JONES, CO-HOST: And I'm Van Jones on the left. In the CROSSFIRE tonight, we have a consumer advocate and a conservative economist.

Now you would thing that everybody would be happy about 25 million Americans potentially getting a raise, especially if you're one of them. That's why President Obama wants to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. Now look, that's just keeping up with inflation, folks. But that plan would also lift about a million people out of poverty.

So what's stopping us from doing this? The Republicans. They never liked the minimum wage in the first place. And now they are happy they can hide behind this report that came out this week. The report said the minimum wage might -- might -- cost 500,000 jobs. Might. Maybe. But then again the same report also said that it might cost zero jobs.

Now, the Republicans won't tell you that part because, as usual, they'd rather scare you than help you. Now, Newt, America deserves a raise.

GINGRICH: Look, America does deserve a raise, and if America had a president who was committed to a good economy, America would be getting a raise. But this is going to be a very interesting and very bold CROSSFIRE, because I'm going to start with something you thought I wouldn't do.


GINGRICH: If you take all the countries of Europe, the ones that have a minimum wage, on average, have twice the unemployment level of the ones that don't. And when the ones that don't have minimum wage, by the way, include Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Austria.

JONES: They've got -- they've got a lot of other stuff going for them, too.

GINGRICH: This is going to be a great half hour.

JONES: All right.

GINGRICH: Because we're going to stick right at the basics. And I can't imagine anybody better than these two with us for this conversation.

JONES: Well, I agree with that. So, look, in the CROSSFIRE tonight, we do have consumer advocate Ralph Nader. And I believe you get the chance to go with the first question to him.

GINGRICH: Let me say, Ralph's latest book is called "Told You So." And Stephen Moore is also with us, an old friend of mine and a guy who understands an immense amount about creating jobs. He's the chief economist at the Heritage Foundation. We're glad to have both of them here.

Now Ralph, I just want to ask you for a second, because even the latest report that says there will be 500,000 jobs killed, that ranged from zero to a million. What do you say to the folks who will lose the jobs so that others can get a raise?

RALPH NADER, CONSUMER ADVOCATE/AUTHOR: Well, it also says that 16 million Americans will get a raise, the CBO report. So economic stimulus, No. 1, is when people have enough money to provide for the bare necessities of life, which is the philosophy behind the minimum wage. It's a moral philosophy behind the minimum wage.

We have a situation here where 30 million workers are making less today than workers made in 1968 adjusted for inflation, even though economists say that worker productivity has doubled since the '60s. So this is ridiculous.

If we had an adequate minimum wage, we'd have tens of billions of dollars in economic stimulus creating consumer demand, which economists think will get us out of the recession. More than that, we've got the lowest minimum wage in the western world. Across the river in Canada, Wal-Mart makes nice profits, and they have to pay 10 dollars and a quarter minimum wage. Australia has $16 minimum wage. They have a lower unemployment rate. GINGRICH: It's not the lowest in the industrial world, because the fact is there are about a dozen counties in -- countries in Europe that have no minimum wage, starting with Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden. So -- and let's just be accurate factually. Go ahead.

JONES: But it is also the case that those countries have stuff that you hate like really strong labor policies, really strong social policies. So if you don't have those things, you don't want to have those things, you've got to have a minimum wage. Which brings me to you.

NADER: Universal health.

JONES: Universal health.

STEPHEN MOORE, ECONOMIST: They also have double-digit unemployment rates. That's the one thing we do know about Europe.

JONES: Here's -- I want you to explain something to me. I think I'm the conservative in this conversation, and I think you're the radical. I'm the conservative. Our grandparents said -- and they're smarter than I am -- that we need to have a minimum wage in this country. And all we're saying is 10.10 an hour. We're not saying a billion dollars an hour or a million dollars. We're saying 10.10 an hour. It's just adjusting for inflation.

If you are going to sit here and say we shouldn't even adjust for inflation, isn't your actual argument -- we're all friends here, we shouldn't have a minimum wage? Isn't that your view?

MOORE: Look, here's my view on this. First of all, the debate was pretty much settled this week when the Congressional Budget Office -- Newt you'll agree this is hardly a big friend with conservatives, right? They don't generally agree with our ideas. They're basically saying about a half a million, perhaps a million. I think it's going to be more than that.

Here's the -- I would throw this right back at you. You know, you talk about a minimum wage? You know what the minimum wage is going to be for those people who lose their job? It's going to be zero. Their wage is going to go from 7.50 to zero.

I want -- look, I want higher wages in this country, but we've got to have policies that put America back to work. The reason America -- let me finish. The reason Americans aren't getting a raise right now is because there's 20 million Americans that are unemployed. The Obama administration policies...

JONES: We're going to get to that. But I think -- you're not running for office. I'm not running for office. We're all friends here. Be honest.


JONES: You don't think we should have a minimum wage. MOORE: I don't think the government should set prices, and I don't think it should set wages. But let me...

JONES: Doesn't that make you the radical? You're the radical.

MOORE: Let me say this, Van. This is important. If we had a 4 percent or 5 percent unemployment rate right now, and the president said, "Let's raise the minimum wage," you know, I probably wouldn't have a big problem with that. But we have 10 percent unemployment in this country right now. You're going to put more Americans -- you're going to put a half a million Americans out of work.

JONES: I'm going to let -- I'm going to get to this -- I just want to say for the record, I appreciate your honesty and your candor. You don't think we should have a minimum wage. That makes you the radical.

MOORE: Under Reagan we never raised the minimum wage. And, Ralph, wages for workers went up in the 1980s.

NADER: Wait a minute. Don't deny this. Thirty million American workers, two-thirds of them women, many of them minorities, 80 percent of Southerners, by the way, favor a 10.10 minimum wage in the latest Park (ph) poll. Thirty million American workers. Keep that in mind. They're the ones who clean up after us...

MOORE: I don't know where you get that number 30 million. That's not...

NADER: Between 7 and a quarter and 10.75, which is the inflation adjusted since 1968. And economists like you have said worker productivity has doubled, automation and all. So you've got two Wal- Mart workers in 1968 making the work of one Wal-Mart worker today, and they're making less. So this...

MOORE: This isn't true.

NADER: This is a restoration -- wait a minute. This is a restoration of the minimum wage to 46 years ago. Like going backwards into the future.

MOORE: Ralph, you're forgetting something.

NADER: What?

MOORE: We have something called the earned income tax credit which provides...

NADER: You want the government to fund the lower wages?

MOORE: I would rather -- I would rather have an earned income credit rather than put this cost on the back of businesses, because that's what destroys jobs.

NADER: You want the taxpayer to fund Wal-Mart, whose chief guys makes $11,000 an hour, Newt? Let me put it right down here. What do you say to this man? He moves -- this is "Business Week." Wait, wait, give me a chance. He moves a thousand bags a day. He makes $7.25. Inclement weather, airports, maybe your bags. You know, pulling in and out of things. OK, wait. Wait. If he doesn't hustle, if he doesn't hustle, he's in trouble.

Now, you've got bosses in swank offices who, even if they don't hustle, why lean away at 800 to $8,000 an hour. Wait, wait, wait. I'm almost done. They're making $8,000 an hour or $800 an hour. They can be whiling away at their desk. Wait, wait, wait.

MOORE: Let me respond to this.

NADER: OK. Breaking wind and worrying about a pending bowel movement, and they still get 800 to $,000 an hour.

MOORE: The vast majority of workers who start at the minimum wage -- and by the way, Ralph, my first job, working in a warehouse, was for the minimum wage. And you know what? That was one of the most important jobs I ever had. That first job you get is one of the jobs that puts you on the road to economic -- economic growth and higher wages.

But you know what? Within six months, the average worker earning minimum wage gets a pay raise. So -- and the other thing is, the statistics are very clear on this. Most of the people who earn the minimum wage are teenagers or young adults. They're not heads of households.

JONES: No, no. Twelve percent. Your CBO -- I'm sorry, but your CBO report says 12 percent. Go ahead.

GINGRICH: This will be an interesting fight, which we'll get to in the next block. But I just want to ask Ralph one quick thing.

You had the report, I think, two weeks ago that the Obama care system will probably lead to 2 and a half million fewer jobs. You have the report this week that minimum wage could lead to a half million fewer jobs. You're already in the longest, slowest period of employment since the Great Depression. Shouldn't we be doing things to increase the number of jobs, not decrease them?

NADER: Well, I think full Medicare for all, everybody and free choice of doctor and hospital will increase jobs. That's quite clear. It will save -- it will save lives.

GINGRICH: That's not Obama care.

NADER: No, that's right. I'm not for Obama care.

It will save 45,000 lives a year, because people who delay diagnosis or treatment because they can't afford health insurance are more likely to die.

In terms of this -- this is what really shocks me, Steve. Put yourself in the mind of these people. Many of them have kids. They're trying to meet the necessities of life, and they can't make what they made in 1968?

GINGRICH: Hold on. We're going to come back and deal with Ralph's great concern. But if we're serious about growing middle class jobs, the minimum wage, I think, is the last thing we should be talking about. In a moment I'll tell you what I think we should be debating.


GINGRICH: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

This would be a great moment to be debating how to create more jobs. Instead, we're debating another Obama administration idea that we have been told will kill jobs.

This week we learned the president's plan to raise the minimum wage could kill up to a half million jobs. That comes on top of the two and a half million jobs we're told will be eliminated by Obama care.

By the way, a fourth hospital in Georgia closed this week because of Obama care.

Raising the minimum wage is an entirely artificial fight designed to draw attention away from the growing economic disaster this administration's policies are causing. We should be fighting over how to get this economy growing. I'm happy to be so passionately dedicated to job creation I'm actually willing to let people work.

In the CROSSFIRE tonight, Ralph Nader and Steve Moore.

Ralph, let me ask you this. The greatest success story in the U.S. -- we're not going to go off on German, Swiss, I understand all these other countries that have no minimum wage that are successful, but the greatest success story in the United States in the last decade is North Dakota.

North Dakota today has an economy that's so powerful it is drawing workers in from across the whole country. They don't worry about the minimum wage, because nobody gets paid it in North Dakota.

McDonald's has paid up to $500 bonus to get people to come to work, and it's been done by the private sector, most of that on private land developing oil and gas.

Now, from your perspective, is this a success story for America or is there something profoundly wrong with North Dakota being so prosperous?

RALPH NADER, AUTHOR, "TOLD YOU SO": First of all, the geological lottery, where they happen to be on a place on Earth, where there's fossil fuels that will create more global warming. Whereas (ph) in North Dakota has the highest rent, higher than Manhattan. The inflation is going up. The people who have been in North Dakota for many years are seeing an influx of all kinds of people who, you know, like gold mining, right? So, it's disrupting their way of life. And what they're making in wages is now being eaten up with higher prices.

STEPHEN MOORE, CHIEF ECONOMIST, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Ralph, there's a state that has almost as much oils as North Dakota does.


MOORE: California.

And yet California has decided they don't want to do the drilling, so they have a very high unemployment rate. I mean, it's craziness.

VAN JONES, CO-HOST: Poor California has Silicon Valley. Poor California with strong education. Poor California with Hollywood. We actually have a knowledge-based economy in California.

And I think you would actually be applauding that.

Most states do not have --

MOORE: And why it is -- is it in the last five years, Texas has created one million more jobs than California. California has a bigger population.

JONES: Texas is trying to catch up to us and we appreciate it.

MOORE: We don't want to follow the lead of California. It has a 30 percent higher poverty rate than Texas does.

JONES: Let me ask you a question --

NADER: By the way, North Dakota has a very successful state bank.


JONES: That is true.

MOORE: People are getting rich in North Dakota.

JONES: Listen, I am shocked to hear now the Republican Party going so far to the right that now minimum wage, raising the minimum wage is some crazy outside the box socialism incredible idea. Conservatives like yourself have traditionally found good reasons to support this. I want to put this on the screen for you.

It's not just Ralph Nader that's concerned about the government giving corporate welfare to slacker employees. Here you got a conservative saying there's many low-wage workers, and we pay a huge social welfare programs for them. It doesn't make sense for employers to pay their workers and not the government?

In other words, I don't understand the case you were making earlier.

MOORE: Right.

JONES: Why should American taxpayers be giving food stamps and Medicaid to Walmart workers? Walmart is one of the most successful corporations in the world. Shouldn't they pay their workers enough that America's government shouldn't have to give full-time workers at Walmart food stamps?

MOORE: You know, it's interesting. If you look at the managers at Walmart and the people who are actually running a lot of those stores, guess what? Over half of them started at minimum wage job.


JONES: You want corporate welfare for Walmart.

MOORE: Here's what you don't understand. Here's what you and Ralph don't understand. When you saw off those lowest rungs of the economic ladder, those starter jobs, then you can't move up the -- let me make one other point. I want to throw this --


MOORE: This is important. The last time we raised the minimum wage was in 2008 and 2009, right in the recession. You know who the biggest victims of that were? The unemployment rate went up to 50 percent on black teenagers. Now, how can you -- how can you defend that policy?

JONES: Well, first of all, it went up from about 38 to 50 and then came back down. Let me tell you this --

MOORE: That's a high unemployment rate. It's 30 percent.

JONES: In other words, it was high before.

But listen, this is the serious question conservatives have to ask. The minimum wage that we're trying to push for now means that Uncle Sam, American taxpayers stop giving corporate welfare to people like Walmart. How can you argue that Walmart shouldn't pay its workers enough, full time workers enough, it means we should be giving them food stamps?

MOORE: You and Ralph keep, you know, thumbing your nose at these Walmart jobs. Every time they open up a new Walmart store, people circle around the blocks to get those jobs. People want those jobs.

And what Newt and I are saying is you and the Democrats don't have any ideas about how to create the jobs in the first place.

JONES: We'll get to that.

MOORE: I haven't heard one.

NADER: Steve is playing the ditto game. Newt, you're known for clapping with one hand. I have to admire you. You say it's 500,000 jobs lost, so on.

But economists have said it's going to generate a huge stimulus for consumer demand because people will spend the money for necessities of life. They go from $7.25, $8, $9, $10.

Steve, you know, you're stuck on the mobility paradox, right? At any given time, never mind some may go from $7.50 to $8, $9, $10.

MOORE: Or $15 or $20.

NADER: Or $20. At any given time there are 30 million of your fellow Americans, where's your sense of compassion, who can't even --

MOORE: It is not compassionate to put a million people out of work.

NADER: Wait, wait.

MOORE: It's that simple. Their wage is zero.

NADER: There are 30 million people who will get a raise, they won't get put out of work. Economies make adjustments. I didn't see you worry about all the people put out of work when NAFTA and WTO came on, or when automation came on, or Wall Street crash came on, you don't understand because you don't feel it. These are people --

MOORE: We know how to create jobs. Not taxes. Cut regulations and get rid of Obamacare. Those things will put America back to work.

NADER: Let's not divert the subject. OK?

MOORE: Job creation?

NADER: Yes, pretty soon, you'll be citing Ecclesiasticals.

Look, the main thing here is this -- you have 30 million people, let's put a face on it. They take care of our ailing grandparents, they clean up after us, they produce the food, they serve the food, they pick up the baggage. They -- these are the people --

MOORE: They're not minimum wage.

JONES: OK, let's move on. I want to -- Newt got a question.

GINGRICH: Look, you paint a very powerful picture, but there's also different picture. There is a picture of the young person who goes out to get their first job who learns and who rises. And historically in America, this was a country, we never expected to trap people in minimum wage jobs. We always wanted to have social mobility.

And the challenge to me I think is to figure out how we get back to a serious conversation that says we want you to be learning enough. I mean, you know, it drives me crazy that you have these huge bureaucratic systems that don't work that produce kids who can't read, who end up trapped in -- they're trapped in a dead-end job because they've been cheated by the government, and they don't have the kind of education they should have.

And it just seems to me, historically, you'll find a way to put people back to work and have them rise.

JONES: I've got an idea for that. Pass a bipartisan immigration bill that you know would create 6 million jobs. Why won't Republicans pass the immigration bill that conservative economists like yourself say, we're talking about half a million jobs that may or may not lose. Six million jobs.

MOORE: The answer to that is simple, because Barack Obama wants an amnesty program to 12 million people. I mean, I'm all in favor of getting the smart people -- anyone who wants to come into this country and work hard, I'm all for it.

But this actually proves the point. You know, these immigrants, they come into this country oftentimes with only the shirt on their back and they rise up. I mean, the economic ladder still works in this country.

JONES: What is so amazing to me is that there is a plan to create jobs, 6 million jobs be created with a bipartisan immigration bill that the Republicans won't even pass that. We want to argue about this.

Look, we're going to come back. We're going to come back.

Stay here. When we come back, we want you at home to be weighing in on today's "Fireback" question. Do you think the minimum wage should be raised to $10.10 an hour?

Tweet yes or no using #crossfire. We'll give you those results after the break.

We'll also then give you our "Outrages of the Day". If you don't think you're wealthy, wait until you hear what a big CEO thinks about your income.


JONES: Now, it's time for "Outrages of the Day".

Here's mine: mega rich CEOs telling working Americans how happy they should be because their salaries would make them rich in some other country where they don't live.

This is CEO Bud Konheim.


BUD KONHEIM, CEO, NICOLE MILLER: Money is all over the place and the guy that's making, oh, my God, he's making $35,000 a year. Why don't you try that out in India or some countries we can't even name, something like that, China, anyplace? The guy is wealthy.

(END VIDEO CLIP) JONES: OK. So, you got that? So, are you a mom or a dad and you're raising a family of five on 35 grand in Chicago. No problem, just buy a home in Bangladesh and buy your food in China. Problem solved. Or not.

Look, today, CEOs are paying themselves 273 times what they pair average worker. So, CEOs of America, here's a good idea for you -- fewer pep talks, bigger paychecks. Thank you. That's mine.

GINGRICH: I'm outraged about the city of Washington's failure with the drama of "House of Cards" on Netflix. Perhaps you've seen it Washington politicians behaving badly, I know that's a shock.

But that doesn't really matter. The outrage is, "House of Cards" is being shot in Baltimore. That's because the bureaucracy here in the nation's capital is so incompetent it's been unable to give filmmakers the relevant tax breaks to bring their cameras and actor and actors here.

This is a program entirely about Washington and Capitol Hill. The fact that it can't be made in Washington and on Capitol Hill is an outrage.

MOORE: It's almost as big an outrage as two CBO reports in one week, 3 million lost jobs of the Obama administration.

JONES: OK. Look, we want you to go to Facebook and Twitter and weigh in on our "Fireback" question. Do you think the minimum wage should be raised to $10.10 an hour?

Right now, 54 percent of you say yes, 46 percent say no.

What do you guys think about those results, real quick?

NADER: Restoring minimum wage to what it was in 1968, would be $10.75 an hour. That's 30 million people who would get a raise for the necessities of life. Costco co pays $11.50 an hour.

MOORE: I want a pay raise for American people. So, let's create some jobs in this country.

JONES: Well, good. Thank you both. I want to thank Ralph Nader. I want to thank Stephen Moore.

The debate is going to continue online at, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

From the left, I'm Van Jones.

GINGRICH: From the right, I'm Newt Gingrich.

Join us tomorrow for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.