Obama Has A Crafty Midterms Plan, And It Involves A Huge Push For Raised Minimum Wage
President Barack Obama has a big plan for midterm elections this November, and he's wasting no time trying to spark a fire under young, dissatisfied Democrats. Polls have indicated many voters who boosted Obama to a second term – women, minorities and young Americans – have become disillusioned, which could see the Senate handed over to the GOP in November. Obama pushed his agenda for a higher minimum wage during his visit to the University of Michigan Wednesday, among other key issues like college affordability, Obamacare, equal pay for women, and the Republican's "stinkburger" of a budget plan.
Obama was in a chipper mood, one day after his announcement that the Affordable Care Act had exceeded his administration's goal with 7.1 million sign-ups. He spoke to a crowd of mostly college students, pressuring Congress to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10. The president said this would bring millions out of poverty, and challenged Congress to do what's best for Americans.
"They've got to make a clear choice — talk the talk about valuing hard work and families, or walk the walk and actually value hard-working families," Obama said, according to The Los Angeles Times. "You've got a choice. You can give America the shaft, or you can give it a raise."
It's been 14 months since the president first called for a minimum wage increase in his 2013 State of the Union address. Since then, the District of Columbia and seven states have taken regional action to increase the wage. Plus, 34 more states are debating the issue. Individual activists in the remaining eight states are looking to place referendums on the ballot to increase the minimum wage.
Of course, Obama is trying to push the issue by spotlighting it on the national level. It's a great way to kill two birds with one stone - drum up support for Democrats for the November election, and increase state attention and action.
Before his speech, Obama told Bloomberg Businessweek that "it's important for college students to be engaged, and the momentum from 2012 we hope carries forward to 2014."
Unfortunately, his speech, Speaker John Boehner's aide Brendan Buck slapped the minimum wage issue on the nose, saying economists believe it would only lead to more job loss. "The president's plan would increase costs for consumers and eliminate jobs for those who need them the most," Buck said. "The House is going to continue focusing on our plan to protect workers' hours and create jobs, not the president's plan to destroy them."
Even with Republican opposition on the issue, experts like Jeanne Mejeur, a senior researcher at the National Conference of State Legislatures, say the minimum wage issue is building in momentum and Obama's national spotlight on the issue is only boosting confidence in states to increase the minimum wage.
"This is the first time where there have been quite a few states that have gone over the threshold of $10 per hour," Mejeur told The New York Times. "When Congress doesn't act on the minimum wage, that's when the states start looking at it."
Beginning next week, the U.S. Senate will have the chance to vote on the minimum-wage bill, which could be blocked by Republicans. Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin has told the Washington Post that he'd be open to compromising if the bill is blocked.
Other Democratic leaders in the Senate say they aren't budging and will stick to the proposed increase, even though many Republicans have said they will not support a minimum wage increase, regardless of the amount. "We're sticking with $10.10," New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer told The Los Angeles Times. "We're not negotiating against ourselves."
So will this increased spotlight on the minimum wage aid Democrats in their congressional campaigns this fall? Well, the jury is still out, but it likely depends on whether voters believe an increased minimum wage will actually benefit them — or result in more job losses.