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Obama: Raising the Minimum Wage Is ‘Common Sense’

by Hugh McQuaid | Mar 5, 2014 5:09pm
(20) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Business, Election 2014, White House, New Britain

Hugh McQuaid photo

President Barack Obama

NEW BRITAIN — President Barack Obama is unlikely to get a hike in the minimum wage through Congress, but he encouraged states and businesses to take the lead during a half-hour speech Wednesday at Central Connecticut State University.

Costco, Gap, and even Cafe Beauregard in New Britain — where the president ate lunch Wednesday — have increased their employees’ wages to $10 an hour or more.

“Nobody who works full time should ever have to raise a family in poverty. That violates a basic sense of who we are. That’s why it’s time to give America a raise,” Obama told a packed auditorium.

The president’s push for an minimum wage increase is widely supported by Connecticut voters. Legislators and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy are pushing this year to boost the state’s wage to $10.10 by 2017.

The president’s trip to the Nutmeg state comes a day after Quinnipiac University poll found, for the first time, that Connecticut voters disapprove of the president. But Obama was flanked on stage by the governors of Massachusetts, Vermont, and Rhode Island, as well as Malloy, who stepped into the national spotlight last week as a prominent supporter of Obama and his push to raise the minimum wage.

Malloy defended Obama last week against comments from Louisiana Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, who accused the president of “waving the white flag of surrender” by supporting a minimum wage hike.” Malloy recalled the incident Wednesday as he introduced Obama.

“Let me say, as I look around this room, I don’t see anyone ‘waving a white flag.’ Bobby Jindal did not make it to Connecticut,” he said.

Hugh McQuaid photo During his remarks, Obama called for better job training opportunities, increased access to affordable higher education, and equal pay for women, but much of the speech centered on boosting the minimum wage.

The president praised Malloy and the other governors on stage for their support of minimum wage increases but urged people watching at home to contact their representatives and pressure them to support a federal increase.

‘If we’re going to finish the job, Congress has to get on board. This should not be that hard, in effect, because nearly three-fourths of Americans and about half of all Republicans support raising the minimum wage, but Republicans in Congress oppose it,” he said.

He joked that it’s because he proposed it that the Republican-controlled House opposes it.

“I don’t know if it’s because I proposed it. Maybe I should oppose raising the minimum wage,“ he quipped.

Obama said increasing the minimum wage would boost the economy by putting more money in the pockets of working people, who would spend the money at local businesses, who could then hire more workers.

“It’s common sense!” a woman in the crowd shouted.

“It’s common sense, that’s right,” the president answered.

After the speech, Lori Pelletier, head of the Connecticut AFL-CIO, said the woman in the crowd “hit it right on the head.” Pelletier said it was great that Obama was in Connecticut to highlight pro-labor policies being adopted in New England, but wished he had taken the opportunity to show support for organized labor unions.

“The only thing I wish he had said was that the real ticket to the middle class is a union card and that collective bargaining brings you to the middle class,” she said. “Ten-ten an hour is terrific — it gets a lot of people out of poverty — but we still have a ways to go.”

Rep. Peter Tercyak, D-New Britain, praised Obama’s speech for stressing that there are many who earn the minimum wage besides young people.

“People want to think that the majority of people earning the minimum wage are teenagers. [Obama] pointed out that that’s not true,” Tercyak said.

The Congressional Budget Office reported that 12 percent of those who make the minimum wage nationally are teenagers, and 13 percent of those earning the minimum wage are over 55.

Tercyak co-chairs the legislature’s Labor Committee, a panel that approved Connecticut’s minimum wage proposal during a meeting Tuesday. He acknowledged that the state’s Democratic-controlled legislature did not need a presidential visit to get the bill passed.

“We don’t need him to help us with the heavy lifting or anything but we’re the state that just proposed $10.10 . . . it makes perfect sense for him to come here and for the other governors to be here too. In some ways it wasn’t just a Connecticut event,” he said.

Connecticut Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr. said a minimum wage increase isn’t going to improve the economy in Connecticut or the rest of the nation.

“We all agree that more must be done to help those who struggle to make ends meet, but as long as the cost of doing business in Connecticut remains among the highest in the nation, good-paying jobs will continue to flee our state,” Labriola said.

There was no Republican support for an increase in the minimum wage last year when state lawmakers approved a bill that would bring it up to $9 an hour in January 2015. This year’s legislation would boost it to $10.10 an hour by 2017.

According to a Quinnipiac University poll, 53 percent of Republicans surveyed oppose a hike in the minimum wage, even though it remains popular with Democrats and unaffiliated voters. The poll found 71 percent of those surveyed supported an increase.

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(20) Comments

posted by: Greg | March 5, 2014  5:42pm

Did Obama or Malloy point out all the jobs being created in CT with all the labor-friendly policies?  The nation-leading economic growth? The top of the list business climate?

Why didn’t they???

posted by: dano860 | March 5, 2014  6:38pm

They are giving all the CCSU students big hopes of pulling down those big bucks when they graduate…in 3 years. $10.10, where does that come from?
I still maintain $15 is a better number, get them off and out of the poverty level earnings and into tax paying positions. Get better employees with an education and capability to learn.
The Republicans would be wise to endorse this plan. They will just look like spoiled little kids if they don’t quit their whining.
In the future it can be written into the business curriculum at all of the Ct Colleges, whether it pulls people out of poverty or causes the loss of jobs and business’s. The great humanitarian case study of the Northeast.

posted by: Chien DeBerger | March 5, 2014  7:08pm

Think these two will open up a comedy act when they get out of office? They could be the new Laurel and Hardy….not meaning to insult Stanley and Ollie.

posted by: Lawrence | March 5, 2014  7:52pm

Mr. Labriola is correct in stating that CT does have a high ‘cost of doing business’—at least according to Forbes Magazine’s 2013 listings.

But that has little relevance in Forbes’ overall “Best States for Business” rankings, where CT ranks 33rd overall, a little below average.

6 of Forbes’ Top 10 best states for business had ‘business cost’ rankings of 22 or higher—middle of the pack or worse.

Yet they were still desirable places overall to do business due to other rating factors such as labor supply, regulatory environment, growth prospects, and quality of life (where CT ranks 2nd.)

So, cost of doing business is just one fraction of a state’s overall attractiveness to business, and by itself has little relevance to a state’s overall ranking—according to Forbes. I’m sure other rankings with different criteria would arrive at different conclusions.

Virginia was number one in the rankings, BTW, for a variety of reasons.  Interesting to note that, according to Forbes, one-third of the state’s $446 billion economy is due to federal government spending.

posted by: DrHunterSThompson | March 5, 2014  9:09pm

DrHunterSThompson

Right. 71% support the increase. So what’s the issue? The people have spoke.

HST

posted by: justsayin | March 5, 2014  9:11pm

It is non-sense, not common sense. If Barry and Danny created a better business climate and lessened the burden maybe they would not have to give people other peoples money. People could lift themselves, but then they would not be needed.

posted by: Lawrence | March 6, 2014  7:42am

Throughout its history CT’s minimum wage has merely kept up with inflation—including the increases that took effect January 1 and the raise to take effect next January 1.

$10.10 is the first time the min. wage would actually be something higher than inflation. Instead of an inflation-adjusted $9.76 an hour, it would be 34 cents more, at $10.10.

In a state with one of the highest income disparities in the nation (3rd) in a country with the 3rd-highest income disparity in the world, I don’t have a problem with that. And neither do many CT business owners, according to all the media coverage.

posted by: Joebigjoe | March 6, 2014  8:49am

There are very few people who in their hearts don’t think that it would be nice to give another 1.85 to the 5% of workers that get min wage…economics and running a business aside.

That’s where that 71% approval comes from.

Reframe that and make the question do you think the people on min wage, the people who are two dollars above min wage presently, and union workers where their pay is tied to the min age should get an increase and I bet that number goes down to 25%

Too bad I can’t debate the Governor and throw that one out for all to ponder.

Again the policy is being driven by low information voters who if they had the facts would overwhelmingly not support this.

posted by: justsayin | March 6, 2014  9:06am

HST the people do not pay for the increase,they receive it. Business is against the increase, ref CBIA, CT business day comments.

posted by: jim black | March 6, 2014  10:03am

Everything out of Obamas mouth is a lie. No wonder he’s Dannel’s idol.

posted by: jim black | March 6, 2014  10:07am

Unions are what destroyed american jobs so of course Obama and Malloy would be on board with that. Sooner or later these fools will run out of job killing plans.

posted by: jim black | March 6, 2014  10:15am

The right approach would be to let Connecticut and states with other fools for Governors raise the minimum wage. When the labor market tanks in those states—- debate over.

posted by: Yankees | March 6, 2014  11:49am

To Jim Black.  To call someone a liar especially POTUS is disrespectful.  Didn’t your mother ever teach you right from wrong?  Speaking of lies where are those weapons of mass destruction that Cheney spoke of that caused countless losses of lives and cost taxpayers billions upon billions of which the US economy still has not recovered.

posted by: Greg | March 6, 2014  11:55am

I think dano860 has it right: let a bunch of new england states (or just CT) go for $15/hour and let it be the grand economc experiment of our time.  If incomes rise and folk are more prosperious and the economy grows, we’ll know the “living wage” is all it’s made out to be. Common sense. Compassionate. Fair Share.

If companies leave the state or jobs go away and are replaced by computers/robots/illegals and product inflation hits big time we’ll know that also, and can add yet another factor to the list of why CT doesn’t grow jobs and its economy. 

The legislature has the votes, go for $15/hour and lead the nation!

posted by: Matt W. | March 6, 2014  12:08pm

Matt W.

Why isn’t he proposing we raise it to $35/hour? If a little is good, more must be better. ITS COMMON SENSE!  I say its time to end poverty with a $35/hr min wage!  Market intervention always works, as long as it’s well intended!

posted by: ASTANVET | March 6, 2014  12:51pm

MattW - I appreciate your sarcasm, although it may be lost in CT.  How many jobs are people willing to trade for a few dollar increase in minimum wage.  Empirical study would tell you that every time the min wage has been increased it has increased unemployment for a few select groups of people, which are usually the unskilled either in urban areas, youth employment, in general the people who need jobs most.  So, all you advocates, how many jobs, lives are you willing to destroy in order to raise the minimum wage?

posted by: Joebigjoe | March 6, 2014  1:09pm

Yankees, those would be in Syria and yes unfortunately this POTUS and his henchmen like Harry Reid, Malloy and Murphy are liars. I guess just in the last day Murphy said 10 million people have signed up for Obamacare. That’s just more than double what even the Obama HHS people are saying.

Liar or misspeaking? You decide.

posted by: LongJohn47 | March 7, 2014  5:41pm

Food stamps and medicaid and the earned income tax credit are essentially subsidies for large corporations that don’t want to pay a living wage.  Each of us is putting money into corporate shareholder pockets through our tax dollars that support these programs.

Raising the minimum wage puts the burden on employers where it belongs.  If you work a full-time job, you shouldn’t live in poverty.  And if we raise the minimum wage the need for anti-poverty programs goes down, and our taxes with it.

posted by: Joebigjoe | March 7, 2014  6:45pm

Christine, I think someone stole LongJohns screen name and is trying to make him look silly.

Alot of people disagree with him, like moi, but comments about how the government will cut our taxes if they give less to the poor in programs is even too far out in left field for him.

I don’t think the real Long John would ever say something that could be construed as “don’t even try in school your whole life, maybe not even finish, maybe spent time in prison, and then one day decide to work full time hours and be guaranteed that you won’t be poor.”

posted by: RJEastHartford | March 8, 2014  7:30pm

LongJohn47 is correct about subsidizing large corporations but not so much on the decline of middle class taxes.This new business paradigm you see, is why the Minimum Wage debate is happening today. Wages and Benefits have declined steadily, have they not?  As more government resources are directed towards big business in the form of subsidies, tax credits, lower tax rates, little regulation or lax enforcement, accounting changes and outright payments (became exponential with the bailout after the Lehman fall in 2008), how can middle class / working class taxes ever decline? The tax stream is redirected - “our” government is awash in lobbying money. The conservative/liberal argument is just a distraction, and a money producing business.