Reiterating themes from Tuesday night’s State of the Union speech, President Barack Obama addressed a cold crowd of about 500 at U.S. Steel’s Irvin Plant in West Mifflin Wednesday.
Obama once again called on Congress to raise the federal minimum wage and said “too many Americans are working harder than ever just to get by, let alone get ahead.”
He then went on to talk about his four-point "Opportunity Agenda."
“Number one, more new jobs,” Obama said. “Jobs in American manufacturing, jobs in American energy, jobs in American innovation and technology. Number two, we gotta train more Americans with the skills we need to fill those jobs. Number three, we gotta guarantee every child in American world-class education, and number four, we gotta make sure hard work pays off.”
Saying no one who works full-time should have to raise a family in poverty, Obama called on Congress to take action.
“There a bill in Congress right now to raise that minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, and I told Congress, ‘Say yes to that, give America a raise,’" Obama said. "But that’s not all we have to do to grow our middle class. Making work pay also means access to health care that’s there for you when you get sick.”
He then outlined benefits of the Affordable Care Act. In his State of Union, and again in Pittsburgh, Obama said that he would take action on his own when possible if Congress didn’t act. To that end he signed an executive order directing the U.S. treasury to create the MyRA program.
“Not IRA, MyRA,” Obama said. “What it is is it’s a new type of savings bond we can set up without legislation that encourages Americans to begin to build a nest egg, and it’s simple.”
Workers can contribute through automatic deduction from their paychecks, and start an account with as little as $25, and continuing contributions of as little as $5. He said the MyRA accounts will never go down in value and are backed by the faith and credit of the U.S. government.
“What that means is, for those of you who don’t have a 401(k) on the job, don’t have a pension on the job, don’t have a mechanism to start saving, especially younger workers, you can get started now,” Obama said. “And in an emergency you can withdraw contributions without paying a penalty, so it’s a pretty good deal.”
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew was also in Pittsburgh, so Obama joked that he knew he’d get the executive order right away. Obama said workers should be able to retire with dignity after decades of honest work. After his Pittsburgh visit he’s slated to visit sites in Wisconsin and Tennessee.