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Obama presses his message on the road

President Barack Obama hit the road Wednesday to press for the economic agenda he presented Tuesday night in his State of the Union speech.

While on stage at U.S. Steel's Irvin Plant in West Mifflin, Pa., President Barack Obama signs an executive order to create a new type of retirement savings bond.

At his first stop at a Costco store in Lanham, Md., Obama urged Congress to increase the federal minimum wage by 39 percent, but acknowledged that Congress might choose to not act on his proposal and that states might need to act on their own.

“To every governor, mayor, state legislator out there, if you want to take the initiative to raise your minimum wage laws to help more hard-working Americans make ends meet, then I’m going to be right there at your side,” Obama said.

He also told the crowd of Costco employees that he would sign an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay workers at least $10.10 an hour on new contracts.

President Barack Obama talks about the minimum wage at a Costco store in Lanham, Md.

“The defining project of our time of our generation is to restore opportunity for everybody,” he said.

He also said that “As Americans we understand some people are going to earn more than other people and we don’t resent those who – because they work hard, because they come up with a new idea – they achieve incredible success.”

Recalling his childhood and that of his wife Michelle, neither of whose families were wealthy, Obama told the audience "we didn't go around when we were growing up being jealous about folks who had made a lot of money – as long as if we were working hard we could have enough.”

Later Wednesday afternoon, speaking at a U.S. Steel plant in Pittsburgh, Obama struck some optimistic notes about the economy, saying businesses had created 8 million new jobs over the past four years and that “our unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in more than five years, our deficits have been cut in half, housing is rebounding, (and) manufacturing is adding jobs….”

And yet despite those signs of economic vitality, he said “too many Americans are working harder than ever just to get by, let along get ahead.”

Yuri Gripas / Reuters

President Barack Obama gestures as he tours Costco Wholesale in Woodmore Towne Centre in Lanham, Maryland January 29, 2014.

He focused in his Pittsburgh speech on encouraging Americans with jobs to save for retirement. He said Congress should change the law to “give every American access to an automatic IRA on the job, so they can save at work”

He then signed a memorandum directing Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, who was in the audience, to “create a new way for working Americans to start their own retirement savings” called MyRA.

“It’s a new type of savings bond that we can set up without legislation that encourages Americans to begin to build a nest egg” through automatic deductions from their paycheck, investing in bonds that Obama said would “never go down in value” and would be backed by full faith and credit of the U.S. government.



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