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Cruz slams $15 minimum wage in Brooklyn, says poor, black teens will suffer

Man of the hour: Brooklyn-born Republican activist John Burnett introduces Republican presidnetial hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz (R–Texas) to a small crowd of black business leaders at the Marriott Downtown on April 7.
Associated Press / Mary Altaffer

He came Cruz-ing for a schmoozing.

Republican Presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz (R–Texas) championed the plight of poor, minority teen workers in an effort to win over an audience of local black business leaders Downtown on Thursday night, slamming New York’s recent minimum-wage hike as a burden on small businesses that will force them to replace those kids’ jobs with computers.

“Every time you raise the minimum wage, thousands of people lose their jobs, and the people who are laid off are typically teenagers — low-income, African-American and Hispanic kids,” he said to the crowd of around 30 inside the Marriott hotel on Adams Street. “If you raise the price of labor too high, you substitute it with an iPad.”

The Harvard-educated former lawyer told the small crowd — corralled by East New York-born Republican strategist and one-time city comptroller candidate John Burnett — that he is dedicated to fighting these kinds of regulations and taxes, which have been “hammering” small businesses and their workers.

The Tea Party favorite claimed that if his Cuba-born father hadn’t been able to wash dishes for 50 cents an hour when he first came to America due to wage hikes or Obamacare, he would never have been able to bootstrap his way out of poverty.

Likewise, young New Yorkers need experience so they can work their way up, he argued, not a wage they can support a family on.

“Most people aren’t providing for a family on their first job, that’s when they’re just getting started, they’re learning skills,” he said. “I think every first job should focus on empowering.”

One attendee said she didn’t agree with Cruz’s minimum wage argument, but that he did a better job winning over the crowd in subsequent question-and-answer session that was closed to the media, in which he reportedly let his guard down and spoke candidly about small businesses, education, and criminal justice.

“I wasn’t crazy about Cruz at first, but when I heard what he had to say, you could tell he loosened up,” said a woman who identified herself only as Renee, and said she is considering voting for the Texan senator.

Renee said she initially was planning to vote for Donald Trump, but has been turned off by his recent antics — although she would vote for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vermont) if she weren’t a Republican.

Another audience member said Cruz would struggle to win black Brooklynites’ votes due to his party affiliation, but praised him for taking the time to schedule the intimate gathering.

“There’s such a sour sentiment towards Republicans and conservatives,” said Kevin Barrett, a real estate broker and writer. “The people in the community should be pleased he came and addressed us — not everybody does that.”

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill

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