President Obama took the podium for last night’s State of the Union Address at a time when mood of the country is sour—toward the president and toward the economy. [...]
Of course, actions speak louder than words. In the speech, Obama announced he will sign an executive order that will force federal contractors to pay employees a minimum wage of $10.10 per hour.
Now, as Amy Traub, senior policy analyst at Demos, notes, this is not exactly revolutionary. It will apply to new contracts and contracts that are up for renewal—so it’s not like all the federal contractors worker at or near the current minimum wage will get an immediately boost. Realistically, she notes, a couple hundred thousand people might get raises this year. That’s a very small fraction of the U.S. workforce.
Still, this is an important step. Congress may still be reluctant to act. But something is clearly happening in America when it comes to the minimum wage. Many states and cities are acting to create higher-wage ecosystems through minimum-wage and living-wage laws and ordinances. Now the federal government is adding its considerable consuming power to the mix. “Historically, this is how we’ve seen broad sweeping change occur on a variety of different policy issues,” said Traub. “They’re creating facts on the ground.”
And facts on the ground speak more eloquently than facts in a spreadsheet.