LANHAM, Md - President Barack Obama says it's time to give Americans a raise.
Obama was at a Costco warehouse in Maryland to promote higher minimum wages the morning after announcing a new executive order in his State of the Union address. Obama's action will raise the minimum wage for new federal contract workers to $10.10. Costco's CEO supports the initiative and already pays their workers significantly more than the current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
Obama says no one who works fulltime should ever have to raise a child in poverty. He says he's choosing to make 2014 a year of action because too many Americans are struggling just to get by.
Obama is calling on Congress to raise the federal minimum wage for all workers to $10.10. He says raising the rate doesn't require new federal spending and it would help Americans make ends meet.
"Making work pay means doing more to help Americans all across this country, but it also means improving the economy," said Obama in remarks during the visit. "One of the things that's been holding our economy back is wages and incomes being flat, which means consumers aren't spending as much, which means businesses don't have as many customers, which means they don't hire as much and they don't invest as much, and we don't get that liftoff on the economy that we could."
The response to the president's push to increase the minimum wage has been mixed. Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler, a Democrat running for governor, called Obama's remarks "a welcome sign of support for our efforts here in Maryland to raise the minimum wage and reduce income inequality."
Like the president, there is a push to increase the minimum wage in Maryland to at least $10.10 an hour and index future increases based on inflation.
Already, Prince George's and Montgomery counties have passed legislation to increase the minimum wage to $11.50 in their jurisdictions.
"Maryland is the wealthiest state in the wealthiest nation in the world," said Gansler in a statement. "No Marylander who works full time should be living in poverty.
"The current minimum wage has created a community of ‘haves' and ‘have nots' right here in our own state. That is why in August I pledged my support for raising the minimum wage in Maryland.
"It is time that we take the steps needed to strengthen our middle class, grow our economy, and provide the opportunity for shared prosperity that has defined both our state and our country."
However, Jessica Cooper, the director of the Maryland office of the National Federation of Independent Business urged Obama to visit a small business next time to get both sides of the story on minimum wage.
Cooper said it's unfair to assume every small business can match Costco's pay scale.
"The President made the argument that paying workers more will be better for businesses…" said Cooper in a statement.
"He's the chief executive of a government that has run up record deficits and debt," said Cooper. "Small business owners can't print money and they certainly couldn't survive under the same financial practices.
"Businesses that are forced to pay more than their sales can support will have to cut back on hours, automate those jobs or find ways to survive without hiring new workers. The President's plan is very bad for small business and low-wage workers will be badly affected."