U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young created an Internet buzz this week by the way he answered a question about raising the minimum wage.
When a man, who identified himself as Pepe, asked Young whether he supported hiking the minimum wage to $10 an hour, the longtime congressman from Indian Shores had this to say: Get a job.
The man told Young that U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. is passing around a bill to increase the minimum wage to $10 an hour. Would Young support that, he asked.
"Probably not," Young says on the video.
The man countered: "It's 10 bucks an hour. It would give us a living wage."
Young countered, "How about getting a job. Why do you want that benefit? Get a job."
"I have a job, but it's not enough to get by on," the man responded.
On Friday, Young said the question came Wednesday when he was at an American Legion hall in Treasure Island. After giving remarks, he said he was surrounded by people, including activists with the progressive Florida Consumer Action Network.
Young said he misunderstood the question about the minimum wage, which is $7.67 per hour in Florida.
"He asked me a legitimate question, and I gave him what I thought was a legitimate answer," Young said. "I thought he said there's a bill circulating to raise it $10 an hour."
But Young stuck by his retort that the man "get a job."
"Maybe I was a little frustrated because of all this pushing and pulling because everybody was talking at once and yelling political stuff. If they had been a little more quiet then I would have not misunderstood."
He said he would not support raising the minimum wage to $10, adding: "To go from the present minimum to $10 is a big jump. A lot of minimum-wage earners would lose their jobs."
Young, who is running for re-election, said being targeted by "trackers" — the name for political operatives who try to catch opponents saying something embarrassing or confrontational — motivates him to run harder.
"It encourages me that people like me have to stay to keep this government from turning into a leftist movement," he said.
The 81-year-old Young is seeking his 22nd term to Congress in the newly drawn 13th Congressional District. He will face Darren Ayres and Madeline Vance in the Aug. 14 Republican primary.
Young is the senior member of Florida's congressional delegation. A Democrat vying for the seat says the congressman cannot relate with constituents.
"Bill Young is out of touch with what hard-working people go through every day," Jessica Ehrlich said to fldemocracy2012.com. "His comments are a stark reminder of the sad fact that he lost touch with middle-class folks years ago."
Mark Puente can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8459. Follow him at Twitter at twitter.com/markpuente.