By Maya Rhodan
November 11, 2015

Republican presidential candidates said Tuesday they would not raise the federal minimum wage, weighing in on a debate that had sparked protests and walkouts at fast food restaurants across the country earlier that day.

Trump, who is a leading candidate in national polls, said the country is already “losing too much” to offer low-wage workers more.

“I hate to say it, but we have to leave it the way it is. People have to go out, they have to work really hard and they have to get into that upper stratum,” Trump said at the debate, hosted by Fox Business. “But we can’t do this if we’re going to compete with the rest of the world. We just can’t do it.”

America is being “beaten on every front, including economically, militarily,” the business mogul continued. “Taxes too high, wages too high. We’re not going to be able to compete against the world.”

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, rivaling Trump for the lead in the GOP race, said raising the minimum wage only increases joblessness in the U.S. “Every time we raise the minimum wage, the number of jobless people increases,” he said. “How do we allow people to ascend the ladder of opportunity rather than how do we give them everything and keep them dependent?”

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio weighed in, too, saying raising the wage would make people “more expensive than a machine.”

Workers in some 270 cities walked out earlier Tuesday in protest at low wages in the fast food industry, pledging to “fight for $15.”

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