#SOTU: Economic Justice
This is the first post in a series on the RAC’s expectations and hopes for President Obama’s
Economic inequality is expected to be a focal point of the President’s address—within the speech he will touch on a variety of programs critical for economic justice in our nation. If I can guarantee one thing to be mentioned in the State of the Union, it is the Minimum Wage Fairness Act, which has been simmering in the Senate for the last two months. The bill would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2015 and index it to inflation each year after. Additionally, it would raise the tipped minimum wage to at least $7.07 from its current paltry $2.13. President Obama likely wants to make this bill a signature piece of legislation for his second term and will be pushing hard for its enactment.
One hope for the State of the Union address is that President Obama announces his intention to sign an executive order raising the minimum wage for employees of government contractors. Through contractors the government is the largest creator of poverty-wage jobs—larger than the next two largest poverty-wage job creators combined (Walmart and McDonalds). Signing this executive order would give a raise to two million employees, boost the economy and rally those fighting for the Minimum Wage Fairness Act.
We also expect him to call for Congress to extend unemployment insurance. These vital benefits have been lost for 1.3 million Americans and nearly 4 million will lose them over the course of this year. The lack of these benefits threatens to hold back economic growth, while over 10 million Americans are out of work and 69% of Americans believe these benefits should be extended. President Obama should call on Congress to pass an extension that does not include a cut to the Child Tax Credit to pay for it.
A few other things we would like to see mentioned: the Farm Bill is still in legislative no man’s land and its path to passage is unclear. The National Housing Trust Fund is actually in an even worse place, having been created, but unfunded. If President Obama can give these two issues an executive push in the right direction it could benefit millions of Americans.
Take a moment to call on your Members of Congress to raise the minimum wage and tell us, if you were President, what would you talk about in your State of the Union?