The Most Powerful Line in the Pres. Obama's State of the Union Address

January 21st 2015

ATTN: Staff

President Obama directly challenged critics of raising the minimum wage during his State of the Union address, daring them to defend their stance on behalf of a $7.25 per hour federal minimum:

And to everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it. 

It was a powerful line that implored members of Congress to consider the real effects of their inaction in Washington. 

Only a few members of Congress have taken this challenge seriously.

"All spontaneity is out the window," said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) when describing her recent experience attempting to live on the federal minimum wage. "Feel like buying a cup of coffee? Forget it. Those pretzels in the vending machine look tempting? Keep walking. They’re not in the budget."

While Congress failed to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour last year, many voters took matters into their own hands. Through ballot initiatives and state legislative action, 20 states have raised their minimum wages for 2015. Twenty-nine states now have a minimum wages above the federal level.

The federal minimum wage has not even come close to keeping pace with inflation. When adjusted for inflation, the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 is one of the worst in history. The minimum wage today should be around $11 an hour to equal the same buying power it had in the late 1960s.

And the idea that it will kill jobs does not comport with the evidence:

Residents of Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, and Washington have automatic hikes after tying their minimum wage to the cost of inflation. Those increases range from $0.12 in Florida to $0.23 in Colorado. In the other 11 states and the District of Columbia, the raise is directly because of voter-driven initiatives or other legislative action by the state governments. Alaska, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Rhode Island, and South Dakota will all see an increase of at least $1.00, with South Dakota seeing a $1.25 jump in minimum pay.

Washington state will have the highest minimum wage of the group after the raise, as 176,000 workers will see their pay go up to $9.47 this year, while Washington, DC's $9.50 wage will be the highest in the country in 2015. 

To learn more about the movement to raise the minimum wage, watch and share this video: