Possible presidential candidate Martin O’Malley offered a tight embrace of liberal economic policies Thursday, backing raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, making it easier for workers to unionize, and expanding Social Security.
In remarks at Harvard’s Institute of Politics, the former Maryland governor did not criticize former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who announced her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination on Sunday. But he did appear to be making an effort to stake out political positions to her left.
After low-wage workers and others across the country rallied Wednesday in support of lifting the wage floor to $15, O’Malley was asked Thursday evening for his position on the issue.
“I support a $15 minimum wage” he said to applause from an audience of mostly students.
On Wednesday, Clinton tweeted, “Every American deserves a fair shot at success. Fast food & child care workers shouldn’t have to march in streets for living wages,” but her social media message and recent public comments have not made clear what her specific stance is on a $15 minimum wage. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25.
In a 23-minute speech, which was met with intermittent applause, O’Malley offered his version of the sweep of the country’s recent economic history.
He derided what he called the Republican-championed theory of “trickle-down economics,” which he said was marked by tax cuts that benefit the very rich, deregulation, and policies meant to keep wages low.
‘We made record investments in education to make our schools the best in the nation.’ – Martin O’Malley, former Md. governor who may seek the Democratic presidential nod
The former Baltimore mayor, speaking with a mostly even, slow cadence, portrayed the current economic picture as wealth concentrated among a relative few and a wide gap between the ultra-wealthy and everyone else.
And he offered a series of policy proposals to change the economic status quo.
They included raising the minimum wage and indexing it to inflation; expanding Social Security benefits; making it easier for workers to organize and collectively bargain; restoring “accountability” to financial markets; and no longer “entering into bad trade deals,” which he said include the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership.
He also framed reform of immigration laws — creating a path to citizenship for people in the United States illegally — as an action that would boost the economy.
In addition, O’Malley, who served as Maryland’s governor from 2007-2015, trumpeted his record.
“Yes, we raised the minimum wage, we expanded collective bargaining. We passed a living wage — while freezing in-state tuition for four years in a row. And we made record investments in education to make our schools the best in the nation,” he said.
After his speech, he took almost 40 minutes of questions, mostly from Harvard students. They ranged from attempts to elicit whether he was going to unveil a presidential run to a query about whether he thought he could be a good vice president.
O’Malley, 52, said he would make a decision on whether he would seek the Democratic nomination for president by the end of May.
He also said, to laughter, he does not think anyone actually runs for vice president.
“What we hope, though, is that all of our public officials have the humility to approach these public trusts,” he said, “understanding that they have a tremendous amount to learn every single day.”
O’Malley was warmly introduced Thursday by moderator Maggie Williams, director of the Institute of Politics and a former top aide to Hillary Clinton