President Obama is launching a new campaign to hike the federal minimum wage. In his State of the Union address he said he wants it raised from $7.25 to $9 an hour.
The president talked up his most controversial new proposal in Ashville, N.C., Wednesday.
"It's time for an increase in the minimum wage because if you work full-time, you shouldn't be in poverty," he said.
The White House said raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour would boost wages for 15 million Americans making the minimum or just above, lifting many of them out of poverty and helping to revive the economy.
Henderson County, N.C., resident Lukas Case, who makes minimum wage, is on board with the president's plan.
"Well, it's not fun living paycheck to paycheck," Case said. "[I'd] be able to do more things; have a better life."
The boost would be enough to lift at least some people out of poverty.
A full-time minimum wage worker earns $14,500 a year. For a single parent with a child, that's below the federal poverty line. Making $9 an hour would mean an annual salary of $18,000 -- slightly above the poverty level.
Critics say, however, the move would hurt the unemployment rate because employers won't be able to hire as many workers.
"When you raise the price of employment, guess what happens? You get less of it," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said. "Why would we want to make it harder for small employers to hire people?"
North Carolina small business owner Daniel Robinson agreed with Boehner's assessment of the president's plan.
"With me, I'd just have to cut employees; it'd be me," Robinson said. "I'd have to come down here and work, open and close by myself and just do everything because that's the only way you can afford it."
Opponents of raising the minimum wage point to the unemployment rate among young people.
Youth unemployment increased to 15 percent after the minimum wage went up in 2007. Now it's at nearly 24 percent, much higher than the overall unemployment rate.
The president faces a tough battle from Congress on raising the minimum wage. Republicans say increasing it will only send the unemployment rate higher when hiring people becomes more expensive for employers.