In an address to House Democrats, President Obama promised that if congress fails to act on a number of issues such as immigration and the minimum wage, he is not going to wait around because “America does not believe in standing still.”
Obama emphasized that instituting a universal minimum wage hike, increasing unemployment benefits, establishing retirement security, and comprehensive immigration reform will help the working classes improve their lives. Furthermore, according to the President, his policies will allow them to share in America’s growth, which lately has been enabling the wealthy more than the working class.
“The single most important thing we have to do, not just as a party, but as a country, is make sure that there is opportunity for every single person, that we are focused every single day … making sure that if you are willing to work hard and take responsibility that you can get ahead,” Obama told his fellow Democrats.
Obama defended himself against critics who assert that the minimum wage involves younger and more entry level positions and is less likely to involve adults, who are the dominant breadwinner for their families. “These aren’t teenagers,” Obama said. “These are folks who are looking after families and trying to raise kids.”
However, according to the 2012 Bureau of Labor Statistics, minimum wage workers tend to be young. What’s more, only 3.6 million (4.7 percent) of the 75.3 million hourly wage earners earn minimum wage or less. Of those 3.6 million people who do receive the minimum wage or less, about half of them are under 25.
As much as Obama orates that he will take to “pen and phone” to lay down the law, he conceded that there are limits to his executive power. “Across the board, we’re moving,” Obama said. “But … we can get a whole lot more done if we’ve got Congress working with us.”
Obama emphasized the need to put politics aside, especially when it comes to comprehensive immigration reform, in order to move his agenda forward, “Look, everybody here is an elected official and we can all appreciate the maneuverings that take place, particularly in an election year,” he told his party leaders. “But when it comes to immigration reform, we have to remind ourselves that there are people behind the statistics.”
Taking into consideration the ongoing congressional gridlock on immigration reform, it is evident that Republicans and Democrats have varying ideas about what is best for the people behind the statistics.