Alfonse D'Amato

Not the way to help the middle class


President Obama’s fourth State of the Union address may have sounded magical, but don’t be fooled by the pie in the sky.

The president stood in front of Congress and spoke passionately about helping the middle class. He also touched on gun control, the economy, education and foreign policy, but laid out few plans for action, especially when referring to job creation.

This may be enough to placate some Americans, but most people want to see results, and fast.

Despite the problems of the middle class, Obama called on Congress to raise the federal minimum wage rate from $7.25 to $9 an hour. According to members of the president’s staff, he is concerned about the weak overall growth of the economy under his watch, and hopes that a boost in the minimum wage would help protect American workers and “build a better future for the middle class.”

The last time the federal minimum wage was increased was in 2007, when the then Democratic-controlled Congress passed the Fair Minimum Wage Act. The bill raised the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour. But the raise was enacted in three incremental increases over the course of two years. Obama is foolish if he believes that a jump to $9 an hour will save and protect the middle class. The 2007 increase did little to help middle income earners, and an increase this year would once again be of no help to them.

I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be some increase, but jumping right to $9 could be disastrous for the small businesses that would foot the bill for such a proposal. Republicans in Congress must press Democrats to keep minimum-wage increases to a minimum.

The Republican Party must stand up and make everyone aware that raising the minimum wage will not save the middle class. If Republicans don’t step up, why would the Democrats stop at $9? Why not make it $10 or, even better, $15 an hour?

In fact, a substantial increase would be detrimental to the most vulnerable members of society who work at lower-wage jobs — teenagers, immigrants and unskilled workers. Small business would be unable to hire them at such steep rates, and would instead be forced to make additional layoffs.

The president needs to put minimum-wage increases on the back burner and focus on job creation.

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