July 23rd, 2007
10:07 PM ET
7 years ago

Work for minimum wage? 'Most of us can afford to'

(CNN) - Eyebrows raised and many candidates shifted their feet, licked their lips or rubbed their hands after Cecilia Smith presented her question to the candidates.

"If you're elected to serve, would you be willing to do your service for the next four years and be paid the national minimum wage?," Smith asked in her video.

Sen. Mike Gravel, D-Alaska was first to respond that he would work for the minimum wage and all other democratic candidates joined suit.

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, said Sen. Dodd 'is doing all right' and that most of the candidates, including himself, could afford to work for minimum wage. But as well as the Democrats are doing, Obama said there is one candidate, a Republican, who is doing even better.

"I mean, we don't have - we don't have Mitt Romney money," Obama joked, referring to the wealthy candidate from Massachusetts.

But then it was Obama's bottomline that became the punchline for another joke.

"I don't have Barack Obama money either," Biden said, adding he'd need to work a second job to afford living if his salary was minimum wage.

Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Connecticut, also said he could not afford to live on minimum wage with two young daughters he is "trying to educate."

The national minimum wage will increase 70 cents on Tuesday, from $5.15 to $5.85. While a minimum-wage worker will earn about $12,168 a year before taxes, the current presidential salary is more than $190 per hour or about $400,000 per year in addition to benefits.

- CNN contributor Ebonne Ruffins

Filed under: CNN/YouTube Debate
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Jack, Durham, NC

    Another liberal economic policy that will result in more inflation.

    What a surprise.

    July 23, 2007 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  2. Jay, Nashua NH

    Pft – The President is on call 24/7 – that sure as heck ain't making $190 an hour! Try about half that ($95/hr) for an 80-hr week; or maybe about $30/hr working 24/7.

    July 23, 2007 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
  3. Amy, Glen Ellyn Illinois

    This was a great "think fast on your feet" not your typical political question. I enjoyed watching the candidates try to figure out how to spin their response, and it was Obama who nailed it. Hopefully, their responses made them think about life for the American worker who does only make minimum wage.

    July 24, 2007 02:42 am at 2:42 am |
  4. Jeff, Bridgeport, Connecticut

    People are not suppose to stay on minimum wage the rest of their lives. Minimum wage was created as a spring board to give others the opportunity to improve themselves. It was intended to prevent Americans have strating in such a hole that there would be no way out. However society has forgotten that, and other's are using it as a constant wage, or a crutch. People aren't suppose to live on minimun wage forever, they are suppose to attempt to continueouldy improve themselves. These canidates see min. wage as another form of social security. This is absurd.

    July 24, 2007 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  5. Tom Dedham, Mass

    While Obama was again jabbing at Mitt Romney during this question with (again) a canned response "None of us have Mitt Romney money".

    Really, you all are a litle poor, huh!

    Romney never took a dime as Governor of Mass. and has already pledged to not take a salary as president either, can you put your money where your big mouth is Barack?

    Didn't think so.

    Many of you may have not been aware of that declaration, but if it was a democrat they would have been lauded, feted and like dominoes, they all would have fallen suit.

    I am glad that he got under your skin Obama, he's a threat and you know it.

    July 24, 2007 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  6. Jennifer, Houston, TX

    I agree, Obama nailed the answer to that question.

    But I'm really disturbed by Chris Dodd's answer. He has two young children to educate? Um, does he think that he's unique in that? What about all the people in America trying to support their families right now on the minimum wage – or slightly more than that? Remember, Jeff, a higher minimum wage will also drive the wages of other lower-paid workers up.

    Shame on you, Christopher Dodd. Statements like this from politicians make me think that they just don't get it.

    July 24, 2007 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  7. David, Gilbert Arizona

    Although the question was interesting and thought provoking it was very unrealistic. The minimum wage is...well just that, the minimum. It is unrealistic to ask any qualified educated employee to work for minimum wage. Would I want a President that only warranted minimum wage? Absolutely not. I would want the best qualified candidate for the job and I should be willing to pay that candidate what he or she is actually worth.

    If a minimum wage employee is struggling to succeed they would do well to invest in their own education.

    When Obama and Clinton quickly answered "yes" to the question the first thing that entered my mind was that both candidates are pandering for votes.

    July 25, 2007 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |