Obama urged Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act this year to enable women to earn comparable wages as men. He also urged Congress to raise the minimum wage to $9.00 an hour and tie it to the cost of living.
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“We know our economy is stronger when we reward an honest day’s work with honest wages,” he said. “But today, a full-time worker making the minimum wage earns $14,500 a year. Even with the tax relief we put in place, a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line. That’s wrong. That’s why, since the last time this Congress raised the minimum wage, 19 states have chosen to bump theirs even higher. Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour. We should be able to get that done.”
Obama also called for changes in gun laws to reduce gun violence as many members of Congress wore green ribbons in memory of the shooting victims of Sandy Hook, Conn.
“Overwhelming majorities of Americans—Americans who believe in the Second Amendment —have come together around common-sense reform, like background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun,” he said. “Senators of both parties are working together on tough new laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals. Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets, because these police chiefs, they’re tired of seeing their guys and gals being outgunned.”
In the Republican response, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., objected to the tax reforms proposed by Obama.
“Mr. President, I still live in the same working class neighborhood I grew up in,” he said. “My neighbors aren’t millionaires. They’re retirees who depend on Social Security and Medicare. They’re workers who have to get up early tomorrow morning and go to work to pay the bills. They’re immigrants, who came here because they were stuck in poverty in countries where the government dominated the economy. The tax increases and the deficit spending you propose will hurt middle-class families. It will cost them their raises. It will cost them their benefits. It may even cost some of them their jobs. And it will hurt seniors because it does nothing to save Medicare and Social Security. So Mr. President, I don’t oppose your plans because I want to protect the rich. I oppose your plans because I want to protect my neighbors.”
Rubio argued that economic growth is the best way to help the middle class. “Unfortunately, our economy actually shrank during the last three months of 2012,” he pointed out. “But if we can get the economy to grow at just 4 percent a year, it would create millions of middle class jobs. And it could reduce our deficits by almost $4 trillion dollars over the next decade. Tax increases can’t do this. Raising taxes won’t create private sector jobs. And there’s no realistic tax increase that could lower our deficits by almost $4 trillion. That’s why I hope the President will abandon his obsession with raising taxes and instead work with us to achieve real growth in our economy.”