While discussing equal pay, President Obama called for not only a minimum wage increase, but a living wage for all workers.
The president tried to explain to Republicans why women earning as much money as men is not a bad thing:
Now, what’s important to realize also, though, is this is not just an issue of fairness. This is a family issue. This is a middle-class issue. This is an economic issue. Just last week, a report confirmed what we already know: that women are increasingly the breadwinners for American families. Women are now the primary source of income for nearly 40 percent of American families. Forty percent — almost half.
That’s not something to panic about, or to be afraid about — that’s a sign of the progress and the strides that we’ve made. But what it does mean is that when more women are bringing home the bacon, they shouldn’t just be getting a little bit of bacon. (Laughter.) If they’re bringing home more of the income and that income is less than a fair share, that means that families have less to get by on for childcare or health care, or gas or groceries. It makes it harder for middle-class families to save and retire. It leaves small businesses with customers who have less money in their pockets — which is not good for the economy. That’s not a good example to set for our sons and daughters, but it’s also not a good recipe for long-term, stable economic growth.
So to anyone who says 77 cents on the dollar sounds pretty close to equal, I say, you’re math is bad. (Laughter.) You wouldn’t like it if your vote only counted in three out of four elections. (Laughter.) You wouldn’t like it if your daughters or sons went to school but they only got taught three out of four days a week, or four out of five days a week. You wouldn’t like it if you were forced to work every fourth day without pay. Men would be complaining about that. (Laughter.) They wouldn’t think that was equal or fair.
President Obama discusses equal pay more often than any president in memory, as he should. Equal pay is a matter of fairness. It is about that fundamental American value of an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay, and paying women 77& of what men make for the same work is not an honest day’s pay.
Near the end of his remarks, President Obama called for the minimum wage to be increased to a living wage, “And now is the time to make sure that we are putting in place a minimum wage that you can live on — (applause) — because 60 percent of those making the minimum wage are women.”
President Obama’s call for the minimum wage to be increased to a living wage was very important. The living wage is the hourly wage needed so that workers can afford the basic necessities of life, and support their families. In the state of New York, the minimum wage is $7.25. The living wage is $11.50, and for a family of four it is $21.03. In Alabama, the minimum wage is $7.25. The living wage for an individual is $8.51, but the living wage for a family of four is $18.04. In Ohio, the minimum wage is $7.30. The living wage for an individual is $7.96, and the living wage for a family of four is $17.27. In Arizona, the minimum wage is $7.25. The living wage for an individual is $9.00, and for a family of four it’s $19.33. In California, the minimum wage is $8.00. The living wage for an individual is $11.20, and for a family of four it’s $22.15.
Republicans and conservatives argue that the average minimum wage worker is the teenager working an afterschool or summer job, but this is not true. Fifty percent of all minimum wage workers are over age 25.
Raising the minimum wage to a living wage would not only reduce the gender pay gap, but it would also help lift millions of working poor people out of poverty. There is an entire body of academic research that disproves the Republican claim that raising the minimum wage hurts the economy.
One of the easiest ways to address gender pay inequality, and the broader issue of income inequality is to raise the minimum wage. President Obama didn’t bring this up by accident. With the 2014 election around the corner, no one should be surprised if Democrats make raising the minimum wage one of the keys planks in their campaign to keep the Senate and retake the House.
It is time to turn the minimum wage into a living wage.
Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor and Senior White House and Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association