Michael Eggman: Congress, it's time to stop fighting, and raise the minimum wage

03/28/2014 4:20 PM

03/28/2014 9:26 PM

We work hard here in the Central Valley. As I travel throughout San Joaquin and Stanislaus County, I meet men and women who are doing everything they can to make ends meet and support their families. The folks I speak to aren’t asking for handouts, they just want a fair shake.

Every day I speak with Valley residents who share my frustration with an out-of-touch Congress that spends more time pointing fingers and playing partisan games than they do solving problems. We need Congress to come together to ensure that Americans who work hard and play by the rules have the ability to support their families and the opportunity to join the middle class. There’s much work to be done, but Congress can start by working in a bipartisan manner to do one simple thing: raise the minimum wage.

I support raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour over the next three years and then tying the minimum wage to inflation so workers don’t get left further behind by a rising cost of living in the years to come. The minimum wage is at a historic low and hasn’t kept up with inflation. Increasing the minimum wage would give a raise to 28 million Americans – 88 percent of whom are adult workers just trying to make it. This is just plain common sense.

As it stands, the minimum wage only pays $15,000 a year – which is $3,000 below the poverty line for a family of three. That’s wrong. Nobody who works hard and plays by the rules should have to raise children in poverty. As a farmer, I was taught to wake at dawn and keep working until the job was done. We knew that if we worked hard, we’d be able to make it. But today, millions of Americans lack that security.

The middle class is shrinking – and with it the American dream. Raising the minimum wage won’t solve everything, but it will be an important first step to help hard-working men and women get a shot at joining the middle class.

Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour will help lift 4.6 million people out of poverty and will give $35 billion in raises to millions of Americans over the course of three years. Raising the minimum wage would also increase GDP by nearly $22 billion as local workers spend their raises in our communities, resulting in thousands of new jobs.

Unfortunately, my opponent Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, has consistently opposed increasing the minimum wage – both in Congress and in the California Legislature. But while he opposed giving a raise to hardworking Californians, Denham has always made sure he gets paid – at taxpayer expense. While in the state Senate, Denham campaigned against pay raises for politicians, but then he took them when no one was looking. Last year he voted to shut down the government, but then took his congressional pay.

Getting paid for not working? That’s not how it works for the rest of us.

Such double-talk has resulted in congressional approval ratings reaching all-time lows. When we choose our representatives, we expect them to work for us – not for their own self-interest.

It’s time for Rep. Denham to work for struggling Americans as hard as he’s worked for himself. There’s much to be done as we work to rebuild the middle class, but raising the minimum wage is a good starting point. I hope Rep. Denham will put politics aside and join me in support of an increased wage that will help Central Valley families get the shot at the American dream they deserve.

Editor's Choice Videos

Join the Discussion

The Modesto Bee is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Terms of Service