Obama did it. Why won’t Congress?
This past week, President Obama issued an executive order (referred to as his “pen”) to establish a minimum wage for federal contractors of $10.10 an hour. Now he’s challenging Congress to do the same.
In his weekly address, President Obama told the people, “You deserve to know where the people who represent you stand on this. If they don’t support raising the federal minimum wage to ten-ten an hour, ask them ‘why not?'”
The President explained that he had just raised the minimum wage for federal contractors, as he said he would do in his State of the Union address. He referred to the minimum he set of $10.10 as a “fair” wage. He continued, “These are workers who serve our troops’ meals, wash their dishes, care for our veterans – Americans who work hard and will get a raise as these contracts come up. This will be good for contractors, for taxpayers, and for America’s bottom line.”
Obama said this was important because those at the top are doing better than ever, but “average wages have barely budged. Too many Americans are working harder than ever just to get by, let alone get ahead. And that’s been true since long before the recession hit.”
The President is getting good at explaining things to Americans, who are no doubt wondering why nothing is getting done in DC. “But to finish the job, Congress needs to act.” This is the way our government is set up. President Obama can’t just raise the minimum wage for everyone. Only Congress can do that. The President can do it for federal contractors because they are under the purview of the executive office.
“Congress” is being used basically as a euphemism for “Republicans”, since it is largely Republicans holding up most legislation via the GOP-led House, where bills go to die. And Republicans are against raising the minimum wage as a party, whereas raising the minimum wage is a party goal of Democrats.
Obama raised the stakes on Republicans by pointing out that while they can continue to ignore this issue, it might be costly to them personally come election time. He said, “An overwhelming majority of Americans support raising a minimum wage that’s worth about 20% less than when Ronald Reagan took office.”
Before Republicans wax lyrical about how hard it would be to raise the minimum wage, the President pointed out that there is already a bill in Congress that would raise the wage to 10.10.
President Obama made it personal for the viewer by pointing out just whom this would help, “And remember, the average worker who would get a raise if Congress acts is about 35 years old. Most lower-wage jobs are held by women. And raising the minimum wage wouldn’t just raise their wages – its effect would lift wages for about 28 million Americans… – without requiring a single dollar in new taxes or spending. It will give more businesses more customers with more money to spend – and that means growing the economy for everyone.”
Oh, so it would be good for the entire country, including business? Well, we can’t have that. The Republicans will be against it for sure now.
Obama knows the Republicans will duck and dodge on this issue, so he brought it home, “You deserve to know where the people who represent you stand on this. If they don’t support raising the federal minimum wage to ten-ten an hour, ask them ‘why not?'”
Republicans don’t want to face town halls of angry Americans demanding to know “WHY NOT?” This is not a good optic for the party of the top 2%.
Republicans say that raising the minimum wage will kill jobs, but somehow giving CEOs huge bonuses and raises does not kill jobs. Obama has an answer for them, “The opponents of raising folks’ wages have deployed the same old arguments for years, and time and again, they’ve been proven wrong. Let’s prove them wrong again, and give America a raise. Let’s make opportunity easier to come by for every American who’s willing to work for it.”
The Economic Policy Institute does not agree with the GOP fear mongering about jobs (since when do Republicans care about jobs anyway? If they care about jobs, why not pass a real jobs bill?). In fact, the EPI found the opposite:
“… raising the minimum wage will likely have a modest but positive impact on job creation, leading to an additional 85,000 net new jobs when fully phased in.” Furthermore, the President is right, it would be good for the economy, “Lower-income earners spend their income more immediately, more completely, and more locally, than do higher income earners, and therefore generate more economic activity. Increasing the wages of 27.8 million workers by $35 billion over the phase-in period generates an additional GDP impact of $22 billion.”
Since we all know that Republicans have zero intention of doing something so people centric as raising the minimum wage, President Obama is applying pressure by getting the People involved in calling for a raise to the minimum wage. It will be harder for them to continue saying no if the people apply pressure in an election year.
Why won’t Republicans raise the minimum wage in order to reward hard working Americans the same way they champion rewarding allegedly hard working CEOs with millions of dollars in bailouts, golden parachutes and bonuses?
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.