A raise of the federal minimum wage is one of those common-sense proposals that is both good for the economy and good for the country. Considering there has not been an increase since July 2009, workers who depend on these wages have been losing income to inflation for over four years. A raise is long overdue.
This isn't just a proposal supported by Democrats; economists and nearly three-quarters of Americans support giving hard working folks a raise. And research shows that it could lift approximately five million people out of poverty, ensuring a more secure future and increasing economic activity in their communities.
But incredibly, Republicans oppose this raise. They say that it would lead to job losses, a claim that ignores the economic studies that clearly indicate a minimum wage hike would strengthen the economy. Keep in mind this is the same Republican Party that caused a $24 billion hit to our economy when they shut down the government in the name of denying people health care.
For years, the Republican Party's approach to poverty in the United States has been to ignore it, or worse, oppose and obstruct policies that would expand opportunity. In 2014, GOP leaders are finally paying some lip service to poverty; but they're taking little action.
The only "action" Republicans have taken so far is to obstruct efforts by our President and Democratic members of Congress to pass laws that would create opportunities for hard-working Americans to climb the ladder to the middle class.
Right now there are people in this nation who don't know how they're going to pay for tomorrow's dinner, let alone next month's rent. So we cannot wait for Republicans in Congress to join the fight for expanding economic opportunity.
The American people are counting on us to get this done, and in his State of the Union Address Tuesday, President Obama committed to taking action despite GOP obstruction: He will use executive authority to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 for those working on new federal contracts.
This is a good first step to show we are committed to helping Americans who work hard and play by the rules. And as we tend to this core American value, we will expand the middle class, which will always be the backbone of this nation's economy.
These principles are essential to Democrats like me, but they do not have to be exclusive to Democrats. We would welcome Republicans to join us in the achievement of improving wages and creating new momentum for the U.S. economy.
Unfortunately instead of working with us in this first step to help Americans, Speaker Boehner today said he suspected the number of Americans helped by this action would be "somewhere close to zero." Well Mr. Speaker, I suspect there are some federally contracted workers who would unequivocally disagree with you.
Americans have been paying attention. They understand the difference between a leader like President Obama who advocates a living wage for Americans who work hard, versus leaders in the GOP who sent workers home with a government shutdown, causing uncertainty for them and their families.
And unfortunately we can expect more brinkmanship from Republicans - Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell recently said it would be "irresponsible" to pass a clean debt ceiling increase, a position that could lead to America defaulting on its obligations.
For an issue as important as increasing economic opportunity, Americans deserve serious solutions and a more responsive government. If Republicans truly want what's best for this nation, they will stop putting politics before people and start working with Democrats to help American workers.