Sen. Barbara Boxer today visited San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club, where she called on her colleagues in Congress to raise the federal minimum wage and to restore long-term unemployment benefits.
Boxer, a Democrat serving her fourth six-year term in the Senate, decried the partisanship that she said has led to a stalemate over measures intended to help the working poor.
“It has been a brutal time, but I believe unnecessarily so,” she said in a speech to an overflow crowd at the Commonwealth Club’s Market Street office. “Our federal government could have done so much more.”
Boxer said the decline of the country’s middle class has led to dangerous levels of income inequality, citing a well-reported statistic that the 400 top-earning Americans have more wealth than the lowest-earning 150 million.
She said raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to the $10.10 currently proposed would help the lowest-paid workers around the country.
“We owe it to our working families,” Boxer said. “Nobody who works full-time should have to raise her children in poverty.”
Congress in December allowed federal long-term unemployment benefits to expire, affecting 1.2 million Americans—including about 200,000 in California, Boxer said.
“It makes no economic sense,” she said. “Extending these benefits is the morally right thing to do.”
The senator read letters from constituents, including one in the East Bay city of Albany, who are struggling to make ends meet after losing their benefits while still looking for a job.
In a question-and-answer session with the crowd following her speech, Boxer reiterated her support for comprehensive immigration reform, as well as green job creation and other policies to address global climate change.
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News