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Obama: Higher Wages Will Renew Economy 09/02 06:29

   President Barack Obama renewed his push for Congress to raise the minimum 
wage Monday in a buoyant accounting of the economy's "revving" performance, 
delivered on behalf of Democrats opening their fall campaigns for the midterm 
congressional elections.

   MILWAUKEE (AP) -- President Barack Obama renewed his push for Congress to 
raise the minimum wage Monday in a buoyant accounting of the economy's 
"revving" performance, delivered on behalf of Democrats opening their fall 
campaigns for the midterm congressional elections.

   "America deserves a raise," he told a union crowd in Milwaukee, vowing to 
keep a hard sell on Congress in much the way he once courted his wife. "I just 
wore her down," he cracked.

   Timing his push to Labor Day, the traditional start of the autumn campaign, 
Obama aggressively drew attention to recent economic gains, setting aside past 
caution on that subject.

   "By almost every measure the American economy and American workers are 
better off than when I took office," he said, rattling off a string of 
improving economic indicators even while acknowledging not all people are 
benefiting. "The engines," he said, "are revving a little louder."

   It was, at least indirectly, a pep talk for Democrats facing tough races in 
a nation still gripped with economic anxieties.

   The emphasis on the minimum wage is designed to draw campaign contrasts with 
Republicans, many of whom maintain that an increase would hurt small businesses 
and slow down hiring. No one expects Congress to act on it before the November 

   Despite the absence of a federal increase, 13 states raised their minimum 
wages at the beginning of this year. Those states have added jobs at a faster 
pace than those that did not raise the wage, providing a counterpoint to a 
Congressional Budget Office report earlier this year that projected that a 
higher minimum wage of $10.10 an hour could cost the nation 500,000 jobs.

   Until now, Obama and his White House aides had been reluctant to draw too 
much attention to positive economic trends, worried that some may prove 
illusory or that, even if they hold, many working Americans continue to live on 
the edge of poverty and take no comfort in the upswing.

   But in Milwaukee, Obama dared to say of the job picture, "We're on a streak."

   White House aides still insist they are not declaring full victory over the 
lingering effects of a recession that ended five years ago.

   But White House officials believe it is time to highlight recent 
improvements, in part to strengthen a difficult political environment for 
Democrats and to counter public perceptions that are eroding the president's 
public approval. Officials say Obama's most compelling case is to compare the 
economy now to what he inherited in 2009 in the aftermath of a near Wall Street 

   Obama, whose public approval is at about 40 percent, has also been cautious 
about making appearances in states with close midterm political contests and 
where his popularity might be even lower.

   But in coming to Wisconsin, he brought his Labor Day message to the state 
that was the epicenter of a fight over the collective bargaining rights of 
public employees. Labor Secretary Tom Perez and several national labor leaders 
came with him.

   In Wisconsin, Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who pushed through a law that 
stripped most public sector union members of their ability to collectively 
bargain, is now in a tight re-election campaign and has been mentioned as a 
potential GOP presidential candidate in 2016. Polls find that Walker and 
Democrat Mary Burke are deadlocked with the election just over two months away.

   Walker was at General Mitchell International Airport to greet Obama upon his 
arrival in Milwaukee. Walker also greeted the labor leaders accompanying Obama, 
including Mary Kay Henry of the Services Employees International Union and Leo 
Gerard of the United Steelworkers Union.

   The White House is encouraging Democrats to draw attention to the recovery 
as they head into the November mid-term elections.

   In an August memo to House and Senate Democrats, Obama's top two economic 
advisers underscored the positive news: more than 200,000 jobs created per 
month for six consecutive months, a six-year high in auto sales, second-quarter 
economic growth that exceeded expectations and an expanding manufacturing 

   The unemployment rate stands at 6.2 percent, dropping 1.1 points over the 
past year, and the stock market has nearly tripled in five years.

   Even so, there is still significant weakness in the labor market, 
underscored by the long-term unemployed. Labor participation has dropped. As 
well, real hourly wages fell from the first half of 2013 to the first half of 
2014 for all income groups, except for a 2-cent increase for the lowest income 
level, according to the liberal Economic Policy Institute.

   Americans seem caught between confidence and worry.

   In July, the Conference Board's consumer confidence index rose to its 
highest reading since October 2007, two months before the Great Recession 
began. But a new survey by Rutgers University found that Americans are more 
anxious about the economy now than they were right after the recession ended.


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