Somin Comments on President's Exercise of Executive Power to Raise Minimum Wage

As the president announced plans to sign an executive order to raise the minimum wage for employees involved in future government contracts, Professor Ilya Somin noted a disparity between the president's earlier criticisms of Bush-era uses of executive power and his own use of that power.

"In 2008, Barack Obama ran against the overreaching use of executive power by the Bush administration," Somin said. "Since then, unfortunately, he has matched and sometimes even exceeded Bush-era excesses in this field."

In his State of the Union address, President Obama indicated he would sign an executive order to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour for employees involved in future government contracts as a means of lowering turnover, boosting morale, and increasing productivity. 

Support for raising the minimum wage has increased in recent months, with some states and localities choosing to raise their own after a publicly-waged campaign that included strikes and demonstrations.

Obama will force federal contractors to raise minimum wage, The Sacramento Bee, January 28, 2014. By Anita Kumar. 

"Obama has known for years that he had the power to raise the minimum wage, using as a model President Lyndon Johnson's executive order banning gender and racial discrimination against employees whose companies had federal contracts. Subsequent presidents have used similar actions to regulate contractors.

"But Obama resisted using the power, choosing instead to push Congress to raise the minimum wage.

"Obama came into office four years ago publicly skeptical of using executive powers. But he's grown more comfortable trying to move his agenda forward, particularly after Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in 2010. He's used executive powers on immigration and gun control, climate change and gay rights."