Obama proposes minimum wage raise
President Barack Obama gives his State of the Union address during a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Tuesday. MCT
Student workers could get a raise if President Barack Obama has his way.
In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, the president pledged to raise the federal minimum wage from its current rate of $7.25 an hour to $9 an hour.
Raising the minimum wage was just one of the issues the president touched on during the State of the Union. He also addressed reforms to education and immigration as well as a program to put US citizens to work on important infrastructure repairs.
The president also discussed the Paycheck Fairness Act, reintroduced in 2011 after failing in the Senate in 2010. The act would seek to rectify the income disparity between men and women by requiring employers to show that any wage discrepancies between men and women were based on job performance and not gender.
President Obama justified the wage increase by claiming that, despite tax cuts for middle and working-class families, workers were not earning enough money to stay afloat.
"We know our economy is stronger when we reward an honest day's work with honest wages," he said. "But today, a full-time worker making the minimum wage earns $14,500 a year. Even with the tax relief we've put in place, a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line."
The president also claimed raising the minimum wage would provide a potentially life-saving boost to lower income families.
"This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working families," he said. "It could mean the difference between groceries or the food bank; rent or eviction; scraping by or finally getting ahead."
This was an opinion shared by some students, such as communications major John Barger.
"I would agree that it's pretty much impossible to make a living at $7.25," he said.
Obama's plans drew criticism from the Republican Party. In a response to the State of the Union, Sen. Marco Rubio claims some of the president's economic plans would actually hurt middle class families.
"The tax increases and the deficit spending you propose will hurt middle class families," he said. "It will cost them their raises. It will cost them their benefits. It may even cost some of them their jobs."
The Republican Party contends that the major threat to the US economy isn't a shrinking middle class, but overzealous government spending.
"The president loves to blame the debt on President Bush," Rubio said. "But President Obama created more debt in four years than his predecessor did in eight. The real cause of our debt is that our government has been spending $1 trillion more than it takes in every year."
A large number of students manage to juggle work and school, and while raising the minimum wage seems like a net benefit at first, economics professor Douglas Campbell warns that it might not be such a good thing for student workers after all.
"In the short term, it could create a net gain if their hours are not cut," he said. "If employers decide to cut hours or lay off workers in response, it would not be a positive net gain."
The federal minimum wage was set at $7.25 an hour on July 24, 2009 as a result of the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2009. A number of states pay more than the federally mandated minimum wage, with the state of Washington having the highest rate among states at $9.19 an hour. Among cities, San Francisco, Calif. leads the nation with a minimum wage of $9.79 an hour. Tennessee does not have a state minimum wage; though state law requires that employers pay the wages they promise employees.
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