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SOTU Proposal Opens Up Minimum Wage Debate


A notable policy proposal from President Barack Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday was a call to raise the federal minium wage to $9 per hour from $7.25, and to automatically adjust it with inflation.

We know our economy is stronger when we reward an honest day’s work with honest wages.  But today, a full-time worker making the minimum wage earns $14,500 a year.  Even with the tax relief we put in place, a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line.  That’s wrong.  That’s why, since the last time this Congress raised the minimum wage, 19 states have chosen to bump theirs even higher.

Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour.

The federal minimum wage was last raised through Congress in July 2009 from $6.55 to $7.25, and before 2007, the wage had been stuck at $5.15 per hour for ten years. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have since raised their minimum wages higher than the current federal standard. The New York Times reports that Obama's proposal would raise the minimum wage to $9 in stages by the end of 2015. The president argues the move would help close the income gap without raising the unemployment rate or putting undue pressure on business, but Republicans like House Speaker John Boehner argue the change would cost jobs and lower wages across the board.

"When you raise the price of employment, guess what happens? You get less of it" Boehner said Wednesday. "At a time when the American people are still asking 'where are the jobs?' Why would me want to make it harder for small employers to hire people?"

“Any discussion about raising the minimum wage needs to recognize that small employers often have to operate under very slim profit margins,” Washington Post reports Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President Randy Johnson said. “An increase has to be shouldered by the employer, who may have to spread it out over many employees. Too often that reality is left out of the discussion, as it was last night.  We will look at the proposal, consult with our membership and react accordingly.”

On 'Real News' the panel debated where both sides could possibly come together on this issue, and whether the proposal is serious or a way for the president to win support by teasing low-hanging political fruit:

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