ANN ARBOR, Mich. — President Barack Obama blasted congressional Republicans for opposing a minimum wage increase, Wednesday in Ann Arbor.
Obama also urged voters to call their congressmen to get them to vote for the wage increase.
“Nobody who works full-time should be raising their family in poverty,” Obama said to loud applause. “That’s what’s happening right now all across the country.”
Speaking to an audience of several hundred students and others at the University of Michigan’s Intramural Building, Obama called on congressional lawmakers to vote for an increase in the federal minimum wage. He hopes to raise minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10.
The President called the increase an “opportunity for all.”
He criticized congressional Republicans for opposing a minimum wage increase, pointing to polls that indicate as much as 75 percent of Americans support the change.
“(A wage increase) would lift millions of people out of poverty right away,” Obama said. “You would think this would be a no-brainer, politically.”
A Congressional Budget Office report from February found that a $10.10 minimum wage would lift about 900,000 people out of poverty, while also costing an estimated 500,000 jobs.
The president challenged Republicans for dismissing the wage increase as a benefit that would only impact young people.
“We should be making it easier for your generation to grab a foothold on the ladder of opportunity,” Obama said.
Obama has made a minimum wage push one of the key pieces a part of his “year of action” he launched during his State of the Union address earlier this year. During that address, the President signed an executive order raising the minimum wage for federal workers to $10.10 per hour.
“If you cook our troops’ meals, our country should pay you a living wage,” Obama said.
In the Democratic Senate, moderate Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine is attempting to win over several Democrats on a compromise measure that would increase the minimum wage by a smaller degree.
Obama urged Americans, especially younger people, to call their representatives and ask them to raise the minimum wage. He called on businesses to raise their wages on their own.
“Fair wages and higher profits aren’t mutually exclusive. They can go hand-in-hand. That’s what Henry Ford understood,” Obama said, referencing the automotive pioneer who paid his employees a then-unheard-of $5 per hour.
Obama also highlighted other portions of his agenda and actions he has taken over the course of the past five years. He pointed to the student loan reform law he signed in 2009 that cut banks out of the federal loan process and caps many loan payments at 10 percent of a person’s income.
“Still, we’ve got more work to do to rein in tuition costs,” Obama said.
He also attacked congressional Republicans for pushing for the budget written by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., which was unveiled this week. Obama said it would drastically cut funds for educational programs while providing tax relief for the top income brackets.
“They do, to their credit, have one original idea, and that is to repeal Obamacare,” he said sarcastically. “Because they haven’t tried that 50 times.”
Obama highlighted his passage of the Affordable Care Act as a way his administration has worked to create “opportunity for all” by providing greater access to health care.
The White House announced yesterday that over 7 million Americans had signed up for health insurance through the law’s exchanges, meeting expectations following a brutal rollout.
“We believe opportunity isn’t just for the few,” he said. “We believe everyone should have a chance.”
Air Force One landed with the President at Ypsilanti’s Willow Run Airport around 1 p.m. Obama spoke at U-M before 3 p.m.
Before speaking, he stopped at Zingerman’s, a famous sandwich shop in Ann Arbor. Obama used the restaurant as an example of a business paying its employees a fair wage.
The U-M visit was part of a larger push for the minimum wage ahead of next week’s vote in Congress.
It was also Obama’s second visit to Michigan this year, previously visiting in February to sign the Farm Bill in Lansing.
Several prominent figures, including Rep. Gary Peters, D-Mich., likely Democratic Michigan gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer, and Big Ten men’s basketball player of the year Nik Stauskas were in attendance.