Turn to your neighbor and tell your neighbor, “We’re all in this together.” Turn to your other neighbor, tell them, “We’re all in this together.”
Now say it with me “We all do better when we’re all doing better.”
Our parents and our grandparents, they understood something about our country and something about our State. It’s the truth that beats in our hearts and it is this: The stronger we make our country, the stronger we make our State, the stronger we make our community, the more she gives back to our children and grandchildren. That is why this is so very important.
Our parents understood that with more college opportunity, with a minimum wage, with treating people decently and giving them a reward for a hard day’s work, that that would grow our middle class. (Applause)
But now we’ve had this other theory, that came down from this gentleman named Ronald Reagan years ago. You’ve heard of him, haven’t you? And he wanted to tell all of us that jobs actually trickle down as long as you make the top 1 percent wealthier than they’ve ever been in the history of the republic. And they had their way with that economic theory and they tried it.
If what they were doing worked, then instead of seeing our middle class hollowed out, we would have seen jobs all over the place. They would have been raining from the sky.
Look, this is not some fanciful tale. The more workers are able to earn, the more customers businesses have. That’s what drives the economy. (Applause)
If the minimum wage had just kept pace with inflation since 1968, it would be a little above $10 now. If it had kept pace with worker productivity, it would be $20 an hour right now. If it had kept pace with the earnings of Ronald Reagan’s top 1 percent, it would be $273.
So, look. We know that we all do better when we’re all doing better. And if workers have more money, if workers are able to earn more, then they’ll be better customers.
They’ll be better taxpayers. How much sense does it make for taxpayers to subsidize Medicaid so that some employers can pay minimum wage? That doesn’t make any sense.
The way we grow our country, the way we grow our economy, is to grow our middle class. There’s some people who think, “Well, in good times we can afford a middle class.” Poppycock. (Laughter)
You grow your middle class, you strengthen your middle class, in order to strengthen your economy. (Applause)
This is not about anger, it’s not about fear. It’s about giving our children a country of more. More opportunity, not less. The opportunity to get ahead, instead of constantly working harder and falling further behind. Why did we make college, together, more affordable for more people over these years? Because we want to grow our middle class. Why were we the first state in the union to pass a living wage bill? Because we want to grow our middle class. Why do we enforce prevailing wage? Because we want to grow our middle class.
We want to grow our middle class because we want to grow our economy. We want to prosper. We want more people to have more opportunity.
It’s an interesting thing about our State, isn’t it? We have a bit of a pathological modesty. When we’re #1 in something we say, “Aw shucks, we don’t deserve it.” And when we’re not #1 in something, we think that we’re all not working hard enough or our leaders are failing us, right?
Well when we raised the minimum wage many years ago, we were at the forefront of that. But now, 21 other states have a higher minimum wage. So, get this. We are #1 in concentration of Ph.D. scientists and engineers of any state in the union. We have the highest median income. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says we’re #1 in innovation and entrepreneurship. And yet 21 states are ahead of us in raising the minimum wage.
We have an opportunity here in Maryland to do something that makes a difference. It makes a difference for food on the table. It makes a difference for kids and their moms and dads to be able to put a roof over their heads. It is about the dignity of every individual, it is about the dignity of work. And that’s why here in Maryland we say we move forward, not back.
Together it’s time to raise the minimum wage. Are you with me? Are you ready to move forward?
(Crowd chants “Raise the wage!”)
God bless you all. Forward, not back!