Dear Mr. Lehrer,
As the moderator of 11 previous debates since 1988, you have had an especially noteworthy opportunity to shape the political discourse of the day. In the upcoming October 3rd debate, yet again, you have the opportunity to raise the standards of and improve upon the political conversation in this country in what may end up being the last time you are the moderator of a Presidential debate. I suggest a question that presses the candidates to abandon their pre-determined, focus group tested talking points:
On the campaign trail in 2008, President Obama promised to increase the federal minimum wage to $9.50 by 2011. However, 2011 has come and gone and the minimum wage is still $7.25 with no Obama proposal in four years. Mitt Romney supported tying minimum wage increases to inflation, until he wavered during the primary. This issue is not only a crucially important issue to our economy and to thirty million hard-working Americans caught between $7.25 and $10.00 an hour. It gives you a chance to illuminate for the voters the candidates’ positions on an issue for which both have been markedly ambiguous or silent.
In the past few years, working people in this country have had to endure devastating economic conditions. In the aftermath of the Wall Street-produced financial crisis, millions were left unemployed, without a home, saddled with enormous college loans, and struggling to make ends meet. Unfortunately, the economy continues to lag, and millions of Americans remain out of work, underpaid, or in low-paying, part-time jobs. Nearly 23 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed.
Since 1968, when the minimum wage was worth an inflation-adjusted $10.57, it has lost nearly 50 percent of its value. Meanwhile, according to Forbes’ annual survey of CEO compensation, since 1970, average value of total compensation for CEO’s has skyrocketed over 900 percent.
Two thirds of low-wage workers in the U.S. are employed by large companies. Every major western country has a minimum wage considerably higher than that of the U.S. In Canada, Ontario’s minimum is $10.25 per hour.
In the time since the minimum wage has lost nearly half of its value, there have been over 20 presidential debates with hundreds of questions posed to the candidates. In 40 years, the presidential candidates have been asked about their position on the minimum wage just once.
Please don’t let another debate pass without asking the candidates about this important issue. For more current information on what is going on, see timeforaraise.org.