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Jesse Ventura on minimum wage: Raise it, pay workers a living wage they deserve

Never one to hold back, former governor of Minnesota Jesse Ventura has drawn a line in the sand. Pay the workers and raise the minimum wage.

Jesse Ventura pulls no punches on the minimum wage.
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

The issue of income inequality and the minimum wage is one of the hottest topics around the political water cooler and on a recent episode of his show "Off the Grid," on, Jesse Ventura tackled those very issues. Ventura is one of the more interesting and misunderstood political figures in recent history. Due to his versatility, Ventura often gets labeled. Some know him as a former wrestler and commentator, others as an actor or the host of Tru TVs entertainment show titled "Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura." With the topic of "conspiracy," the former Navy frogman is unfairly stereotyped. What most people don't know is that Ventura is very progressive on many important issues and has a strong voice that can get the point across. In addition to all of the above job titles, the former governor, mayor, actor, wrestler and Navy Seal, Ventura also worked as a dish washer making minimum wage.

"I use to work for the minimum wage at a little restaurant in south Minneapolis called Mama Rosa, an Italian restaurant. I use to wash dishes there and at that time, in the late 1960s, the minimum wage was at $1.15 an hour. Now from the late 60s all the way to today, which is nearly 50 years almost, it's only gone from a $1.15 an hour to seven something an hour. The job I did washing those dishes was one of the most brutal jobs I've ever had. It was hot, you are by this steaming dishwasher all day long and believe me when you leave there you better take a shower and change your clothes pretty quickly after a long hard days work washing dishes."

During an episode titled "Raise the minimum wage already!," Ventura was asked about the demonetization many low income workers have to go through because they are often considered "unskilled" workers who make the bare minimum.

"Minimum wage workers. Somehow they make them seem like what they do has no importance because that's why they're paying the minimum wage or the fact that it's physical labor. What really gets me in the world today is how if you do something that requires great physical labor you get paid less than a person who pushes a pencil around. Why do you get paid less for sweating generally and get paid more for not sweating? Why are these jobs minimum wage? That part of society as a whole gets me. Dick Cheney couldn't dig a ditch, he'd drop dead of a heart attack."

According to Rolling Stone, 95 percent of income gain since the start of the Great Rescission in 2009 have gone to the top 1 percent. Since then, private employers have added 8 million jobs, but nearly two-thirds are considered "low wage" positions. With the very top of the income bracket reaping all the benefits, Ventura stated that no full time worker should have to rely on federal subsides to make ends meet.

"I don't care if it's the ditch digger or the biggest financial planner on the planet, if you put in a 40 hour work week, you should be able to live without government subsidies, without food stamps, without welfare, without anything like that. Your wages should be high enough to accomplish that."

If minimum wage followed with productivity gains since 1968, the rate would be around $20 an hour. President Obama has proposed a federal minimum wage increase to $10.10 an hour, which for a full time worker taking no time off, equals $21,008 a year before taxes. Earlier this year, Seattle announced plans to raise their minimum wage to the highest in the country for any city, at $15 an hour. On a state level, Vermont recently announced their plan to increase the minimum wage to $10.50 by the year 2018. Other states with a high minimum wage include Hawaii, Maryland and Connecticut, who have set their base pay at $10.10 an hour.

A recent report by the Congressional Budget Office, CBO, gave mixed reviews to the proposed federal increase of $10.10 an hour. The report pointed out the there could be as many as 500,000 jobs lost, which Republicans jumped on, but also notes that it could lift over 900,000 Americans out of poverty, which the Democrats were quick to highlight.

Republicans often talk about increased spending being the cause of a bad economy and government regulations forcing a company to pay its workers a living wage. The former Mama Rosa's dishwasher had something to say about that as well.

"Lets go to where the problem really is. It's not the low wage worker, it's the CEO who has to get the $500 million bonus at the end of the year. Pay the workers! Every time they raised the minimum wage the economy gets a boast. These people are buying, they aren't investing in the stock market. They're buying essential things they need from a day to day basis. There is a bad thing out there now when they talked about spending. Oh you hear the word 'spending. Can't have spending." You need to understand 'spending' is the gasoline that runs the economic engine. If you're not spending money, the economy goes to sh*t."

Jesse Ventura hits the nail on the head. The plan isn't to raise the minimum wage to unsustainable level that would hurt the majority of businesses both small and large, but rather to raise the rate so that Americans are lifted out of poverty and not stuck on the government handout list. If a company is making billions in profits at the expense of the government subsidizing its workers, the company simply shouldn't be in business in the first place.

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