In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama outlined a wish list of liberal policy ideas, including a proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour by 2015 and implement automatic adjustments tied to the rate of inflation in the future.
“Even with the tax relief we’ve put in place, a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line. That’s wrong,” Obama told a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night. “Let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on earth, no one who works full time should have to live in poverty.”
But like many of the ideas Obama put forward during his address, a bill to raise the minimum wage is unlikely to pass the divided House and Senate. And on Monday, House Speaker John Boehner shot down the idea, arguing that raising the rate would stunt job growth.
"When you raise the price of employment, guess what happens? You get less of it," Boehner said in response to a reporter's question about the president's proposal. "Why would we make it harder for small employers to hire people? Listen, I've got 11 brothers and sisters on every rung of the economic ladder. I know about this issue as much as anybody in this town. What happens when you take away the first couple of rungs on the economic ladder, you make it harder for people to get on the ladder. Our goal is to get people on the ladder and help them climb that ladder so they can live the American dream.
"A lot of people who are being paid the minimum wage are being paid that because they come to the workforce with no skills," he continued. "This makes it harder for them to acquire the skills they need to climb that ladder successfully."
In 2007, Congress passed and former President George W. Bush signed a bill to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 from $5.15 per hour, which took full effect under Obama in 2009. The provision was added as a sweetener for Democrats in a bill that primarily addressed funding for veterans, victims of Hurricane Katrina and the military. Boehner, the House minority leader at the time, voted against the bill. At that time, Congress had not approved an increase in the federal minimum wage since 1997.