During the State of the Union address, President Obama declared to the American people that he would do whatever he could to raise the minimum wage.
This was a repeat from last year’s State of the Union, but the Republican-controlled House has balked at legislating minimum wage increases.
The president now vows to take his efforts a step further and bypass Congress when possible.
He told Americans on Tuesday evening, “wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.”
In the address, Obama announced one of the “steps” that he would take to follow through on last year’s promises.
“In the coming weeks, I will issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally-funded employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour – because if you cook our troops’ meals or wash their dishes, you shouldn’t have to live in poverty,” Obama said.
His executive authority does not permit him to increase the federal minimum wage for private sector employees that aren’t doing business with the government, but he used the address as an opportunity to strongly encourage states to follow his lead and raise state wages without the support of Congress.
He said, “To every mayor, governor, and state legislator in America, I say, you don’t have to wait for Congress to act.”
The liberal organization MoveOn.org applauded Obama’s remarks and accused Republicans of harming the working class by not going along.
Anna Galland, executive director of MoveOn.org Civic Action, said in a press release, “Americans in every corner of the country are feeling the impact of Tea Party Republicans’ misplaced priorities and policies that make the lives of poor and working families more difficult and insecure.”
She described it as “a war on the poor and working families.”
Despite the strong rhetoric streaming from the president and progressive groups, some economists say that raising the minimum wage would do little to help those living in poverty.
“It would not have a large impact on the economy overall. And it would have very little impact on the poor,” Michael Tanner, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, told The Daily Caller News Foundation in response to Obama’s statements.
Tanner explained that very few people even earn a minimum wage: “Less than three percent of people who work full time live in poverty and that includes minimum wage workers.”
He added, “The vast majority of people who earn a minimum wage live above the poverty level – they are college students.”
They will be the beneficiaries, but also the potential victims.
“The job loss may not be huge, but it will disproportionally impact those who are lower skilled,” Tanner told TheDCNF.
Robert Mayfield, who owns six fast food restaurants in the greater Austin, TX area, agreed.
“The raise in the minimum wage will have a ripple effect,” he told TheDCNF. “The cost of meat and materials will be higher and ultimately that cost will be placed back on the consumers when they go and buy a burger that is more expensive than it once was.”
“The truth is it won’t help people out at all. If the minimum wage goes up it is going to cost jobs,” he added.
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