Rep. Tim Ryan (D., Ohio) criticized the Democratic Party's fixation with raising the minimum wage as a policy that does not speak to people's aspirations during remarks to the International Association of Fire Fighters labor union on Monday.
Ryan, whose district is mainly in Youngstown, Ohio, touched on the declining economy for blue-collar workers in his district during his speech. Economic dissatisfaction among white, working-class voters helped propel President Donald Trump to a lopsided victory in Ohio in 2016.
Ryan said his constituents see the stock market surging on the news but don't "feel it."
"They drive through communities that have 10 or 12 dilapidated homes on their way to a job that pays a hell of a lot less than the one they had a few years back," Ryan said. "And I get upset sometimes when my party talks about the minimum wage, the minimum wage, the minimum wage, 10 bucks, 12 bucks, 15 bucks."
Ryan said he supports raising the minimum wage, but added his district's residents used to make $40 an hour.
"When they hear a political party talk about fighting for 15 bucks an hour, we are not speaking to their aspiration," he said. "We are not speaking to what they want their lives to be like, not where they are. Our politics are stuck. We need to jump ourselves out of this."
Ryan called for creativity in getting private investment into forgotten communities.
"The government can't do everything," he said. "I think in some ways it's not doing enough, but in other ways, we've got to get more creative on how we drive investment into these communities."
"China is eating our lunch," he added.
China, he said, is being connected through high-speed rail and moving on renewable energy, battery-powered cars, and pumping hundreds of billions of dollars into research.
"And we're standing here having fights about stuff nobody even knows what the hell we're talking about," he said.
Ryan in 2016 launched an unsuccessful challenge to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's (D., Calif.) leadership position following Tump's victory. He has not been shy about criticizing his party since the 2016 election, warning it does not have a "strong economic message."