Obama delivers State of the Union Address, calls for raise to federal minimum wage

Lissandra Villa

In his sixth State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama delivered a clear message: He plans on making changes whether Congress is with him or not.

In the address on Jan. 28 from the House chambers, Obama said he would soon issue an executive order to raise the minimum wage of federal contracts.

“This will help families. It will give businesses customers with more money to spend. It doesn’t involve any new bureaucratic program. So join the rest of the country, say yes. Give America a raise,” Obama said.

During last year’s State of the Union Address, Obama called for an increase in the federal minimum wage to $9 per hour. This year, Obama expressed support of the bill Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Rep. George Miller (D-CA) have put together, which would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.

“I think that is so important because it is totally unacceptable that people who work full time can still be living below the poverty line,” said Zoe Kustritz, president of the ISU College Democrats.

The last time the federal minimum wage was raised was 2009.

“The economics of raising the minimum wage just [are not] there,” said Jon Laudner, president of the ISU College Republicans. “When you do that, you put workers out of jobs because employers still have to meet their bottom line, and if that means laying off workers due to increased cost of labor, they’re going to have to do that to maintain that bottom line.”

Obama called for changes in the tax code to close loopholes. He said money saved with tax reform could be used to upgrade infrastructure such as roads.

“I will act on my own to slash bureaucracy and streamline the permitting process for key projects, so we can get more construction workers on the job as fast as possible,” Obama said.

This was another example of how he acknowledged he would act without Congress.

“[Last year] he called on Congress a lot. This year, I didn’t expect him to do that as much because of the division in Congress,” Laudner said. “It did live up to my expectations that he would continue to talk about using executive action … to get some of those policies enacted without going through Congress.”

Obama also reported America holds its lowest unemployment rate in five years, has a recovering house market, has cut its deficit in half, has a growing job market and has produced more oil rather than imported for the first time in 20 years.

He asked Congress to make 2014 the year immigration goes through reform, a process that was stalled by the U.S. House of Representatives despite Senate passing an immigration reform bill last summer.

Affordable healthcare, Obama’s priority because of the Affordable Care Act, and accessible education were also emphasized in his address.

“There are millions of Americans outside Washington who are tired of stale political arguments, and are moving this country forward,” Obama said. “They believe, and I believe, that here in America, our success should depend not on accident of birth but the strength of our work ethic and the scope of our dreams.”