MILWAUKEE – President Barack Obama came to Milwaukee on Monday to talk up an improving economy and to push Congress to boost the minimum wage.
“If you work full-time you shouldn’t be living in poverty,” Obama said as he called once again for Congress to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour.
Obama noted that 13 states and Washington, D.C., had raised their minimum wage.
“The states where the minimum wage has gone up this year have higher job growth than the states that didn’t raise the minimum wage,” he said.
“There is no denying a simple truth: America deserves a raise.”
Even though Obama’s visit was official, the appearance at Milwaukee’s annual Laborfest was filled with political overtones with Labor Day marking the start of the fall campaign season.
Republicans are making a strong push in the midterm elections to gain control from the Democrats in the U.S. Senate. The GOP is expected to easily retain control in the House of Representatives.
In Wisconsin, Republican Gov. Scott Walker is trying to fight off a bid from Democratic rival Mary Burke.
Burke attended Laborfest and met privately with Obama. Republicans have chided her for ducking a public appearance with the president.
Christopher Harris, vice president of United Steel Workers Local 2-209, introduced Obama and said, “It’s time to rock Wisconsin.”
Obama recalled that in 2008 he told the Laborfest crowd that if he were sent to the White House he would work for them.
“I didn’t run for president to double down on top-down economics,” but on bottom-up economics to help the middle class, Obama said.
“I put my money on American workers and the belief that our economy grows best when everybody has a shot,” he added.
“I’ve come back to Laborfest to say because of your hard work, because of what we’ve been through together, that bet is starting to pay off,” he said.
Obama said that over the past 53 months American businesses had created nearly 10 million new jobs.
“We’re on a streak where the last six months we created more than 200,000 jobs each month; that’s the first time it has happened since 1997,” he said.
He also said the economy was buoyed by his administration’s decision to “save the American auto industry.” He pointed to tens of thousands of good jobs being created in alternative energy and championed the U.S. for being the world’s No. 1 oil and gas producer.
“It’s not Russia,” he said. “It’s not Saudi Arabia. It’s the U.S. of A.,” he said.
Obama said “millions of more Americans” now have a quality, peace-of-mind health insurance they can depend on since the passage of the Affordable Care Act.
“You wouldn’t always know it from Washington news – by almost every measure, the American economy, the American workers are better off than when I took office,” he said. “We’re better off by almost every measure.”