Obama shifts focus back to economy

After a month dominated by the crisis in Ukraine and final weeks of ObamaCare open enrollment, President Obama will look to return focus to the economy as he travels to Michigan on Wednesday.

During an event at the University of Michigan, the president will reiterate his call on Congress to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour. 

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“More than 100 years ago in Michigan, Henry Ford helped create a thriving American middle class by doubling his workers’ wages, famously arguing that it would be good for business if his workers could afford to buy the cars they were helping to build,” a White House official said. 

“A century later, American companies like Costco and the Gap are following Ford’s lead, paying workers more than the minimum wage because they know it increases productivity, reduces turnover and bolsters the bottom line.”

So far, Senate Democrats have struggled to gather enough votes to pass a bill that would set the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, the president’s preferred level. Earlier this week, Senate Democrats indicated they could target a lower rate that would not open them up to charges that the hike would costs jobs.

A nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office report released earlier this year estimated half a million jobs would be lost if lawmakers passed the president’s proposal. The White House has disputed the analysis, arguing it does not account for enough factors and pointing out similar hikes in the past have not reduced employment levels.

Still, the report has offered Republicans a potent weapon to argue against the bill. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has repeatedly signaled he would not consider a minimum wage hike, citing the possible job loss.

According to the White House, the push for a minimum wage increase was on the agenda, as Obama met with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday. 

After the meeting, Pelosi said Democrats would be turning their focus to what she called a “poverty of ideas” that Republicans had displayed on job creation and investment in the middle class. She also hinted that she and the president had discussed electoral strategy for the upcoming midterms.

“That's the debate that the election will be about — jobs and the budget, which is the blueprint to the future, a statement of our values,” Pelosi said. “That is the legitimate political debate in our country.”

Obama’s trip to the Midwest will also include a pit stop in his hometown of Chicago, where he hopes to bolster those Democratic electoral odds through high-dollar fundraising.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Obama will attend a pair of Democratic National Committee fundraisers while in the Windy City.

The first, an intimate gathering with about 25 donors at the Chicago Cut Steakhouse, will be hosted by Mesirow Financial Chairman and CEO Richard Price. Tickets run as high as $32,400 per person.

Later, the president will headline a dinner for around 55 donors contributing up to $10,000 at the ritzy Lincoln Park home of Craig Freedman and Grace Tsao-Wu, major fundraisers for the president.