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President Obama Argues for Minimum Wage Raise and Infrastructure Growth

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In the first of a series of speeches focusing on the economy, President Barack Obama called for significant changes in the way employees are paid and the sectors where job growth should be focused. The July 25 speech, delivered at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., emphasized the need to shift America’s attention from international pursuits to internal advancement.

 

 

Raising the Minimum Wage

Obama spent part of his address lobbying for an increase to the national minimum wage. According to the White House, a full-time minimum wage worker earns $14,500 a year, an amount the president argued is far too small to support an individual, much less his family.

Touching on the true spending value of America’s current $7.25 hourly wage, Obama pointed out that the minimum wage is currently lower than it was at the beginning of Ronald Reagan’s presidency, and proposed it be raised to $9 by 2015 to account for inflation. This increase would raise the wages of 15 million workers, including tipped workers for whom salary requirements have not budged in 20 years. Already in 2013, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and Washington have raised their minimum wage rates by 28-37 cents an hour, or an extra $582-$770 per year for a full-time worker.

Conservative Congress members have fought against a minimum wage increase by saying it will stunt job growth. More than a dozen studies, including a landmark 1994 study by David Card and Alan Krueger, argue that raising the minimum wage would not affect the employment rate.

Supporting Infrastructure Growth

In a quip that drew some laughter, the president then noted that more than 100,000 American bridges are old enough to qualify for Medicare. Tailoring his job growth strategy to the contracting and building sectors, Obama stated that job growth should occur to fix aspects of America’s infrastructure that have been neglected due to heavy international expenses over the last decade, much of it in the war effort.

“Businesses depend on our transportation systems, on our power grids, on our communications networks,” President Obama said.  “And rebuilding them creates good-paying jobs right now that can’t be outsourced. … The longer we put this off, the more expensive it will be and the less competitive we will be.”

Photo credit: Center for American Progress Action Fund

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