Late last night, House GOP leadership announced a compromise bill that will (temporarily) end all the Congress-created crises by setting the federal budget and suspending the debt limit through the end of the Obama presidency.
The House is expected to vote on the bill tomorrow (Wednesday). A draft of the bill is available here.
What it doesn’t do, from the perspective of the Right Wing:
What it doesn’t do, from the perspective of the Working Class:
It doesn’t rein in corporate giveaways to stockholders, such as dividends and buybacks. (Trillions of dollars that corporations could have used to create jobs, pay fair wages and make long-term investments.)
It doesn’t end the tax preference for unearned income. (Most investment income is still taxed at about half the rate of wage income.) Ending this tax preference could end the budget deficit.
In its current form, it doesn’t do much to reverse previous cuts to Food Stamps, veterans benefits, and other safety-net programs. It doesn’t mention the 2.1 million American workers who are long-term unemployed… or the 1-in-five American children who are living in poverty.
What it does do:
It loosens the Sequester budget restrictions, both for defense and non-defense spending – and it also increases an off-budget military spending account.
It completely rewrites the procedures governing IRS audits of business partnerships. (Call me cynical, but I’m guessing that part of the bill was written by somebody’s lobbyist.)
It diverts some Social Security tax revenue into the Social Security Disability Trust Fund, and *privacy alert* it also creates a new information clearinghouse (presumably, to be used to detect fraud).
It reduces payments to some Medicare providers and regulates the increase in Medicare supplement policy premiums.
It renames the small House rotunda… in honor of the House Freedom Caucus.
It does some other things. Please take the time to read through the bill yourself – and encourage your Congressional representatives to do the same. Contact information for those representatives is available here.
Personally, if this “grand compromise” happens, I don’t expect anything else to get through this Congress until President Obama leaves office. (Remember, GOP extremists have been working to “submarine his presidency” since the very first day of his first term.)
MomsRising Backs President Obama Urging Congress to
Pass the Healthy Families Act and the FAMILY Act
Earlier today, President Obama in a Labor Day address announced a new executive order expanding paid sick leave to all employees who are working on federal government contracts. The action makes all federal contract workers eligible to earn 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked up to 7 days. In the speech, President Obama also announced his support for the Healthy Families Act, legislation that would guarantee paid sick leave to all U.S. workers; and of the the FAMILY Act, legislation that would establish an insurance program that would provide workers—including those who are self-employed and/or work part time—with much-needed income while they, or a family member, deal with the arrival of a new baby or a serious health issue.
Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, executive director and CEO of MomsRIsing.org, an organization of more than 1 million mothers and their families issued the following statement, praising President Obama’s announcement and urging Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act and FAMILY Act:
“Moms and their families across the country welcome President Obama’s expansion of earned paid sick days to all federal contract workers. Advancing earned paid sick days, as well as family leave insurance, boosts our nation’s families and our nation’s economy. Our over million members wholeheartedly support these two policies and have been raising their voices, sending letters to leaders, attending meetings, sharing their stories with the media, and much more at the city, county, state and federal levels to advance these critically important policies.
Plain and simple – no one should ever have to choose between going to work sick and risk infecting coworkers and customers or staying home and losing an invaluable day’s pay. And no one should have to go back to work immediately after a new baby arrives or when facing a catastrophic health issue.
American families just can’t afford it. American businesses and our economy can’t afford it either.
It is now up to Congress to take the next step and expand earned paid time off to all American workers. Our public policies are not caught up with what modern working families and our modern economy need to thrive. Women are now 50% of the labor force, and 40% of primary breadwinners are moms, but our family economic security policies are stuck in the stone ages.
For instance, despite the fact that over 160 countries guarantee a minimum number of earned sick days, right now, nearly 40% of private sector workers, and more than 80% of low-wage workers, in the US don’t have the ability to earn a single paid sick day – costing the economy nearly $160 billion in lost revenue and productivity.
Further, it is a national embarrassment that over 177 countries provide some form of paid family leave insurance to new parents and that the US isn’t one of them. Even though the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was passed more than two decade ago, only 13% of American workers are able to access paid family leave when a new baby arrives.
President Obama’s Labor Day announcement for working families, including his public support for the Healthy Families Act (earned sick days) and the FAMILY Act (paid family leave insurance) are important steps in helping to improve family economic security in the US, while at the same time strengthening our businesses and our economy.
We thank and salute President Obama for his commitment to helping our families and our economy be healthy and strong and recognizing the needs of the American workforce this Labor Day. Moms and their families around the country back President Obama’s call for Congress to pass these crucial laws now, and we call on every single person running to be President of the United States to support earned paid sick days and a national paid family leave insurance policy.”
MomsRising.orgis an online and on-the-ground grassroots organization of more than a million people who are working to achieve economic security for all families in the United States. MomsRising is working for paid family leave, flexible work options, affordable childcare, and for an end to the wage and hiring discrimination which penalizes so many others. MomsRising also advocates for better childhood nutrition, health care for all, toxic-free environments, and breastfeeding rights so that all children can have a healthy start. Established in 2006, MomsRising and its members are organizing and speaking out to improve public policy and to change the national dialogue on issues that are critically important to America’s families. In 2013, Forbes.com named MomsRising’s web site as one of the Top 100 Websites For Women for the fourth ye
“We applaud Secretary Clinton’s endorsement of a commonsense solution to a pernicious problem in American society—our nation’s refusal to give the formerly incarcerated a second chance at a decent life. With Clinton’s announcement, the three leading Democratic presidential candidates and President Obama himself have all endorsed banning the box.
President Obama must listen to the calls from formerly incarcerated people, from civil rights groups, and from businesses who all want the White House to walk the talk by issuing an executive order banning the box for federal jobs and contractors and implementing hiring practices that give these applicants a fair chance at employment.”
Wade Henderson is the president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference and its 200-plus member organizations, visit www.civilrights.org.
“This is an important step forward in updating our nation’s labor practices and will ensure a fairer overtime wage for more workers, including women, low-income people, and people of color. This overdue adjustment would provide overtime protections for 5 million people who currently work above and beyond 40 hours a week without any benefits.
By and large, our nation’s labor practices haven’t caught up with the times. Workers are suffering from stagnant wages, a rollback of their right to organize, unscrupulous employment contracts that bar them from enforcing their rights in court, and a minimum wage that—due to inflation— is worth a little less every day.
More needs to be done. Our country needs sweeping reforms necessary to ensure economic security for the American workforce. We also need legislative action that protects workers and raises the minimum wage, issues that cannot be addressed by the executive branch alone.
We applaud the Obama Administration and Secretary Perez for this important step forward in ensuring that more workers can pursue the American Dream.”
Nancy Zirkin is executive vice president and director of policy of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference, visit www.civilrights.org.
America is in an abusive relationship with trade-obsessed politicians and corporations.
Despite their long history of battering the U.S. middle class with bad trade deal after bad trade deal, these lawmakers and CEOs contend workers should believe that their new proposal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), will be different. President Obama and the CEO of Nike, a company that doesn’t manufacture one shoe in the United States, got together in Oregon on Friday to urge Americans to fall once again for a trade deal.
The trade fanatics say everything will be different under the TPP – even though it is based on deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that lured American factories across the border, destroyed good-paying jobs and devastated communities. They plead: “Just come back for one more deal and see how great it will be this time!” And, like all batterers, they say: “Sorry about the terrible past; trust me about the future.”
This is trade abuse.
At the Nike world headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., the chief executive officer of Air Jordans told the chief executive passenger of Air Force One that Americans should believe in the TPP because it’ll be like Santa Claus stuffing jobs down chimneys across America.
The thing is, Nike could easily create 10,000 manufacturing and engineering jobs in the United States right now. No TPP required. It employs 1 million overseas, the vast majority in low-wage, high-worker-abuse countries like Vietnam, China and Indonesia. To bring 1 percent of those jobs – 10,000 – to the United States doesn’t seem like such a Herculean, TPP-requiring task, especially considering Nike’s massive profit margin.
Instead of manufacturing in America, Nike chooses to “just do it” in countries where it knows workers are abused. In the 1990s, the media slammed the corporation for sweatshop conditions in its foreign factories. Like a typical abuser, Nike promised to reform its ways. It said in a news release last week, “Our past lessons have fundamentally changed the way we do business.”
Promises, promises. Why doesn’t Nike simply insist on higher standards at its factories? What exactly is there in a trade deal with 11 Pacific Rim nations that is essential to Nike establishing higher standards and stopping the abuse of workers in factories making its shoes?
Oh, yeah, the American middle class, which has suffered most from past trade deals, is not allowed to know that. The TPP is secret. Well, except to the privileged corporate CEOs who helped write the thing.
In pushing for “Fast Track” authority to shove the deal through a Congress that has abdicated its Constitutional responsibility to oversee foreign trade, President Obama admitted “past deals did not always live up to the hype.”
Just three years ago, trade fanatics promised that the Korean deal, called KORUS, would definitely provide more exports and more jobs. Instead, U.S. goods exports to Korea dropped 6 percent, while imports from Korea surged 19 percent. So the U.S. goods trade deficit with Korea swelled 104 percent. That means the loss of 93,000 America jobs in just the first three years of KORUS.
What this means is that instead of exporting goods, America is exporting jobs. Foreign workers get the jobs making the stuff Americans buy. And they’re often employed by factories producing products for so-called American corporations like Nike. They’re employed by factories that collapse and kill hundreds. Factories that catch on fire and immolate workers trapped inside. Factories where workers are ill-paid, overworked and slapped when they can’t meet unrealistic production quotas. Factories that pollute grievously.
American workers no longer are willing to engage in this abusive relationship with trade fanatics. They no longer believe the promises of change. They don’t want the federal money TPP fanatics promise them to pay for retraining as underpaid burger flippers after their middle class-supporting factory jobs are shipped overseas. They’re over trade pacts that benefit only multi-national corporations like Nike.
To Fast Track and the TPP, they say, “Just Don’t Do It!”
President Obama pushing for his flagship trade agreement at the headquarters of one of the largest abusers of cheap foreign labor is more than ironic. Rachel Maddow said, “It’s like going to approve the Keystone pipeline at the site of an oil spill.”
Politico reported: “Nike pledged earlier Friday that it would create 10,000 jobs over the next decade if the trade deal passes, a small part of the global company’s more than 1 million contract factory workers, most of which are based in Asian countries.”
Yea, 10,000 jobs but how many new jobs will Nike create in foreign factories thanks to the TPP?
The major issue with the Trans-Pacific Partnership is not that we do not want to have fair trade with these countries, it is that we as American workers want to know that the TPP will level the playing field not encourage more offshoring of US jobs.
Another major sticking point in this agreement is the lack of transparency. The entire agreement is being negotiated in secret. The White House is assuring us that this agreement will help American workers and force better wages and labor conditions overseas.
We need our elected leaders to stand up and be the representatives we elected them to be. I recommend you call at tell them how you feel about the TPP and the Fast Track legislation at 1-855-712-8441.
I reached out to my Senator’s office through the press connections I have made. I asked if Senator Shaheen supports the Fast Track legislation and the TPP as a whole?
“Senator Shaheen plans to carefully review the final Trade Promotion Authority legislation as it makes its way through the committee process in the coming months,” said Senator Shaheen’s Deputy Press Secretary, Nick Brown.
I asked the same of Congresswoman Annie Kuster’s office. Her press secretary Rosie Hilmer responded with some more a more promising response. “
“Congresswoman Kuster has raised concerns with draft legislation to grant the President trade promotion authority, also known as fast-track authority, and there are ongoing efforts to change and improve this legislation.”
“Congresswoman Kuster supports fair trade policies that protect U.S. jobs and reflect American values. She believes Congress must play a leading role in setting our nation’s trade agenda, and she has raised concerns with the flawed process that has been used to pass earlier trade agreements. She continues to have concerns about how the Trans-Pacific Partnership could affect Granite State workers and, as Congress debates these issues, she will continue to advocate for Granite State priorities and will judge any trade legislation by its impact on New Hampshire.”
We need to keep pressuring all of our elected leaders and make your voices heard. We want good paying American jobs, not more false promises of mythical jobs that come from these trade agreements.
CALL YOUR CONGRESSIONAL REPRESENTATIVE AND YOUR SENATORS AT 1-855-712-8441.
For more information on the TPP and Fast Track go to StopTheTPP.org and watch this short video from Robert Reich
There is one thing that is abundantly clear now that the Republicans control both the House and the Senate, the Keystone XL Pipeline will pass through Congress. Republicans are trying to convince us that this monumental piece of crap will “spur economic growth” and “create thousands of jobs.”
Thankfully we elected a President who is willing to stand up for our Mother Earth by standing up against the Keystone Pipeline. Well maybe he has not said it yet, but like my Magic 8 ball says, all signs point to veto.
It is becoming more and more obvious that President Obama will not sign the Keystone legislation even if it was to pass. He told The Hill that, “building the Keystone oil pipeline would ‘not even have a nominal benefit’ to consumers, pushing back at claims it would lower gas prices further.”
That is what we progressives have been trying to say for years.
The Republicans are trying to sell the Keystone XL Pipeline as a “jobs bill” that would create tens of thousands of good paying jobs.
Yes, we need a jobs bill that will create tens of thousands of good paying jobs, but the reality is that the Keystone Pipeline would only create a few thousand temporary construction jobs and 35 permanent jobs.
We also need to look at who is really going to benefit from the Keystone Pipeline? It will not be us, it will the be the Canadian oil industry as they move their tar sands oil right through America’s heartland to the Gulf of Mexico to be shipped off and sold to foreign countries.
Even President Obama knows this.
“That oil currently is being shipped out through rail or trucks and it would save Canadian oil companies, and the Canadian oil industry enormous amounts of money if they could simply pipe it all the way down to the Gulf,” Obama said during his final press conference of 2014.
It also begs the question, why would this group of fiscal conservatives be willing to take out a $3 Trillion dollars loan, pushing us further into debt, to benefit a foreign oil company? I will give you a hint, TransCanada’s profits would go through the roof and that would be very good for Wall Street insiders. (Side note: Did you know that Grover Norquest is the lobbyist for the Keystone XL pipeline?)
In 2009, the economy was hemorrhaging jobs and unemployment was skyrocketing. Congress passed the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)” that nearly every Republican balked at. The $900 million dollar investment in America increased the number of “people employed from between 1.5 and 3.3 million” workers, and reduced unemployment from “between .7% and 1.8%.” Ultimately the stimulus only added $200 million dollars to our national debt and started us back on the road to recovery.
How is this $3 Trillion dollar investment going to help us? Will you be one of the lucky 35 people to get a permanent job after the pipeline is created? Instead of spending $3 Trillion dollars for 35 jobs, we could spend $1 Trillion and create millions of jobs.
Lets not forget that we have seen a significant rise in oil pipes leaking their toxic sludge over the past few years.
“History has shown that these pipelines are notorious for springing leaks, and middle class American homeowners, farmers, and ranchers stand to lose the most if there is a spill,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) in her opposition to H.R. 5682, a bill to fast track the Keystone Pipeline. “The sections of the Keystone Project that are already in use suffered over thirty spills in their first year of operation.”
So let me sum this all up. The Republicans, who are heavily funded by Wall Street and oil tycoons like the Koch Brothers, are pushing a bill that would require us to take out a $3 Trillion dollar loan, potentially wrecking our environment, all to boost the profits of a foreign corporation.
Opposing the Keystone Pipeline is a bold step for President Obama. He is opposing the Republicans, opposing Wall Street, and standing up for our environment. We progressives need to stand behind him.
The fight is far from over, in fact it has just begun.
“Those who oppose these trade deals ironically are accepting a status quo that is more damaging to American workers,” Obama said at the Business Roundtable. “There are folks in my own party and in my own constituency that have legitimate complaints about some of the trend lines of inequality, but are barking up the wrong tree when it comes to opposing TPP, and I’m going to have to make that argument.”
Barking up the wrong tree? Working families do not need another NAFTA that will continue to decimate American manufacturing. Since NAFTA we have lost millions of good high paying manufacturing jobs. The TPP will open the door for more manufacturers to offshore our jobs.
We do need to create a new trade agreement with our partners in the Far East, but we need to make it harder, not easier, for companies to offshore jobs. We also need to change our tax policies that reward corporations who build factories in China.
The biggest problem with opening up trade with China is that, we as Americans’ are buying billions of dollars worth of Chinese made stuff, yet China is not returning the favor. Comparatively China only buys a fraction of the U.S. made products creating a massive trade deficit.
If we want to see an economy that works for everyone again then we need to boost our own manufacturing base, and stop importing everything.
Look at Germany undoubtedly one of the strongest economies in the world, they have a trade surplus. A trade surplus leads to more jobs and higher wages.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership will do nothing for the millions of struggling workers here in the United States. As cheap Chinese products flood U.S. markets, American manufacturers will be forced to lower wages to compete with the slave labor wages in China. The TPP would only benefit the multi-national corporations who are only looking to boost their already obscene profits.
Any trade policy that does not turn our trade deficit to a trade surplus should be rejected.
WASHINGTON—Statement by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten on President Obama’s executive order that expands protections to millions of undocumented immigrants:
“As a union, we’ve always been committed to opening the doors of opportunity for all children, and immigration is an issue that touches every community we serve. After the House of Representatives refused to act on comprehensive immigration reform, although the Senate had passed bipartisan legislation, President Obama—as he did with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and as many of his predecessors have done—is using his legal authority to secure our nation’s borders, to help keep families together and to expand our economy.
“A great and diverse nation, founded by immigrants seeking a safer, more prosperous life, continues to deliver the promise of the American dream. Yet our broken immigration system has hurt millions of students and families. We continue to hear heartbreaking stories of kids who don’t know if their parents are coming home or have been deported. We hear from teachers whose students stop showing up for school after their parents are sent to a country these children have never called home. Our nation’s children are counting on us. We must unite, not divide, families. The president’s plan will give many of these families the security of knowing they can stay together, and it will bring many workers out of the shadow economy, ensuring higher wages for all. We remain eager for Congress—especially the Republican-controlled House—to take legislative action and show unity on an issue so personal to American families.”
Image by Chuck Kennedy (Official White House photo) CC FLKR
Today is the day that millions of aspiring Americans have been waiting for. The day when President Obama stands up to Congress and states clearly that if they will not do something to pass meaningful immigration reform then he will do what he can through executive orders.
It was announced last night that the President would make a prime-time address announcing his plans to stop the deportations of millions of aspiring Americans seeking citizenship. He will also stop the ripping apart of families, by stopping the deportation of the parents of children who are legal US Citizens.
A group of immigration lawyers from across the country sent a letter to President Obama citing his legal authority to defer deportations through executive actions.
“Our letter confirms that the administration has specific legal authority to use prosecutorial discretion as a tool for protecting an individual or group from deportation,” said Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, Samuel Weiss Faculty Scholar at Penn State Law. “This legal authority served as foundation for prosecutorial discretion policy across several administrations. Historically, this policy has been premised on the twin policy goals of managing limited resources and shielding people with compelling situations from removal.”
“This letter reflects a clear, broad, and informed consensus on two key points,” said Hiroshi Motomura, Susan Westerberg Prager Professor at UCLA School of Law. “First, the president has the legal authority, exercising his discretion as the nation’s top immigration prosecutor, to establish enforcement priorities. Second, the president’s lawful discretion includes the authority to set up an orderly system, modeled on DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), for granting temporary relief from deportation.”
“It is well established that the President has the legal authority to end this crisis by granting temporary relief to a broad class of workers,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “It is also equally established that current enforcement of immigration law is at odds with our American vision of a just society and our values of family, hard work and fairness.”
President Obama’s Executive Order would protect nearly 5 million people currently residing in the United States.
Of course the Republicans were quick to respond to the announcement with more threats to harm real Americans if the President takes action without Congress.
“If ‘Emperor Obama’ ignores the American people and announces an amnesty plan that he himself has said over and over again exceeds his Constitutional authority, he will cement his legacy of lawlessness and ruin the chances for Congressional action on this issue — and many others,” said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel.
“If the president wields his pen and commits that unconstitutional act to legalize millions, I think that becomes something that is nearly political nuclear …,” King said. “I think the public would be mobilized and galvanized and that changes the dynamic of any continuing resolution and how we might deal with that.”
King said if that happens, House-passed legislation on border security, including rolling back the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, order, “becomes a requirement” for a continuing resolution.
Over the last six months conservative pundits has indicated that President Obama’s threat to defer action on deportations is unlawful and would warrant everything from a government shutdown to all out impeachment.
The irony of this is that Republicans have already forgotten that their hero, President Ronald Regan, took similar action to provide amnesty to over 3 million undocumented residents.
“The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) gave up to 3 million unauthorized immigrants a path to legalization if they had been “continuously” present in the U.S. since January 1, 1982 (The Hill).
The IRCA was not without issues, forcing the government to deport the immediate family members of those who were covered under the new order.
President George H.W. Bush followed up the IRCA with a “family fairness” policy that would close the loophole in the IRCA in turn protecting another 1.5 million aspiring Americans. The combination of the “family fairness” policy and President Reagan’s executive action provided amnesty to over 40% of the undocumented population living in the United States.
President Obama’s proposal to some seems extreme, however it would cover approximately 40% of the undocumented population currently residing in the United States.
The battle is set to begin tonight as President Obama lays out his plan to help millions of aspiring Americans.
The current government funding extension will expire on December 11th and we will have to wait to see if the Republicans will harm millions of Americans in their opposition to the President by completely shutting down the government.
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