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This Ohio Democrat Has a Plan to Win Back Middle America. Will It Work?

Democrats lost big in the Midwest in 2016. Sherrod Brown thinks pocketbook issues can win them back.

Sherrod Brown Min Wage Speech

Donald Trump’s victories in states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio – spurred by inroads made among white, working class voters – have deeply troubled a subset of Democrats whose states and districts do not line the nation’s coasts.

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) launched a bid to unseat Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi from her perch atop House Democrats with a message that said Democrats needed to reconnect with middle America.

While that bid was ultimately unsuccessful, a fellow Ohioan is taking up the mantle. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who faces a 2018 reelect and potentially a 2020 presidential bid, is trumpeting a speech he plans to give this morning at Ohio State University.

The speech will also include a host of specific legislative proposals, ranging from traditional Democratic mainstays like increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour to new rules forcing companies that rely heavily on independent contractors to pay their payroll taxes. Independent contractors are at the heart of the so-called “gig economy,” and large corporations like Uber rely heavily on them — much to the chagrin of labor unions and many workers who believe it allows companies to skirt overtime and benefit rules.

He also plans to unveil a plan for a “Freeloader Fee,” which the Wall Street Journal explains:

Among the most novel of Mr. Brown’s proposals is bound to be among the most controversial. He would charge what he calls a “Freeloader Fee” to companies that pay more than a quarter of their staff less than 200% of the poverty rate or $23,760 in 2016. The fee would be a way to reimburse the government for food stamps and other social welfare programs such employees can tap.

The Journal is quick to point out that “few, if any, of the proposals are likely to make it into law soon.” But what if they did?

According to a study conducted by the Heritage Foundation, Brown’s minimum wage plan would impact nearly 40 percent of Ohio’s working population, and for the worse. The study estimates that Ohio would lose 296,000 jobs under a $15 federal minimum wage.

Brown’s hopes for reelection, and potentially moving into the White House if he decides to run, will likely hinge on whether he’s able to convince voters that a $15 minimum wage won’t devastate local businesses and economies. Right now, that looks like a tall order.