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Obama Calls for Minimum Wage to Be Raised

Photo courtesy of Joe Bielawa

In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Obama proposed raising the minimum wage to $9 per hour and indexing the wage to increases in the cost of living:

Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour. This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working families. It could mean the difference between groceries or the food bank; rent or eviction; scraping by or finally getting ahead. For businesses across the country, it would mean customers with more money in their pockets. In fact, working folks shouldn’t have to wait year after year for the minimum wage to go up while CEO pay has never been higher. 

The idea already has some support in Congress. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) issued a statement in support of raising the minimum wage, although they say Obama's proposal doesn't go far enough:

The two of us have a long track record of working together on this issue in Congress, and we have been working together again this year on our own new legislative proposal to raise the minimum wage to $10.10. Our proposal would ensure that minimum wage workers, often in difficult and dangerous jobs, will not fall into poverty.

While we believe the President’s proposal is lower than what is needed, there is no question that last night he threw the door open for a robust discussion on the importance of raising the minimum wage. We look forward to working with the President and our colleagues in the House and Senate on enacting a minimum wage increase as soon as possible.

William Spriggs, chief economist at the AFL-CIO, said:

The president has re-started an important effort and we applaud him for that. If the minimum wage was restored to its value in 1968, then today it would stand at $10.58, but more importantly if we kept the minimum wage in relation to the average wage, it would be close to $12.00 an hour. We must index the minimum wage to average wages so that all workers are able to benefit from productivity increases.   

Public opinion is strongly on the side raising the minimum wage to an even higher level than the president proposed, with a recent poll showing 73% support raising the wage to $10.

Christine L. Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, lauded the president's remarks:

The president said he was putting jobs and the economy front and center tonight—and that's exactly what he did by calling for a minimum wage increase.  President Obama's remarks tonight show he understands that a higher minimum wage is key to getting the economy back on track for working people and the middle class. The president's remarks also cement the growing consensus on the left and right that one of the best ways to get the economy going again is to put money in the pockets of people who work, who will spend it at small businesses in their communities. A minimum wage increase will stimulate consumer demand and help drive economic growth for the people who most need it in America—workers.

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