Policy: Entitlements

Obama: 'Time to give America a raise'

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Politics,White House,Barack Obama,Labor,Entitlements,PennAve,Economy,Meghashyam Mali,Minimum Wage,State of the Union

President Obama took his economic message on the road a day after his State of the Union address to rally support for new policies he says will bolster the middle class and fight income inequality.

The middle class “has been taking it on the chin since before the recession,” said Obama at a suburban Lanham, Md. Costco store and called for lawmakers to raise the minimum wage.

“It’s time to give America a raise,” said the president.

Obama, who mentioned the wholesale retailer in his speech to Congress and the nation on Tuesday, again praised the company, saying its owner knew that boosting workers' wages benefitted the nation and the firm's own bottom line.

“Profitable corporations like Costco see high wages as a smart way to boost productivity and reduce turnover,” said Obama.

He noted that at Costco, low-skilled workers start at $11.50 an hour and the “average hourly wage is over $20 not including overtime and benefits.”

The president added that many of those higher wages went down the supply chain, “including to many of the farm workers who grow the produce that you sell.”

Obama’s push for a higher minimum wage was a centerpiece of his State of the Union. The president, whose domestic agenda stalled in 2013, has vowed to bypass Congress if they fail to work with him and use executive actions to push his policies.

Keeping with that approach on Tuesday, he announced that he would raise the minimum wage for federal contract workers to $10.10, and pressed Congress to raise the minimum wage for all workers.

“$10.10 — it’s easy,” said Obama at Costco.

“It will give businesses more customers with more money to spend,” he continued. “I guarantee if workers have a little more money in their pocket, they’ll spend more money at Costco and if Costco sees more customers they’ll hire a few more folks.”

“Everybody does better,” said Obama. “It could help a lot of Americans make ends meet.”

In his State of the Union, Obama framed his economic policies as creating “opportunity for all.”

But his calls to tackle income inequality are not likely to move in the GOP-controlled House, where conservative lawmakers say Obama is trying to distract attention from a weak jobs record. Business groups also say that raising the minimum wage could dissuade companies from hiring new workers.

Obama is headed to Pittsburgh later Wednesday where he will tout new "MyRA" retirement accounts he announced on Tuesday.

The president at the start of his speech joked that he had come to Costco to buy food for his dogs, Bo and Sunny, a snow shovel and maybe a big screen TV “for the Super Bowl coming up.”

“The 80-inch?,” Obama joked with the audience. “The 60 is not enough, huh? Got to go 80.”

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