Obama: Minimum Wage Increase Will Boost 'Rising, Thriving Middle Class'
Posted by Amanda Terkel on 02/13/2013 at 6:57 PM
WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama on Tuesday night laid out a vision for a society in which everyone has a fair shot at a decent education, adequate health care and a job that pays a living wage.
"It is our generation's task, then, to reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth -- a rising, thriving middle class," said the president in the first State of the Union address of his second term. "It is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country -- the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, no matter what you look like, or who you love."
The president's most notable proposal was to raise the minimum wage from its current $7.25 an hour to $9 an hour. A worker making the minimum wage now earns just $14,500 a year -- well below the living wage in many areas. Obama also proposed indexing it to inflation, so that when the cost of living goes up, so do earnings.
"This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working families," said Obama. "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. And a whole lot of folks out there would probably need less help from government. 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."
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told The Huffington Post that he was "very grateful the president focused on income inequality." He said he wholeheartedly supported the minimum wage increase, although believed that $9 an hour was probably too low.
"I also think it's nice to talk about indexing the minimum wage to inflation, but I think it would be better to index it to CEO pay," Ellison said. "So if the CEO is making a lot of money, everyone else should get some money."