President Obama made good on a threat…ah, promise…yesterday and, using that executive order pen he likes to talk about and wave around, raised the minimum wage for federal contractors from $7.25 to $10.10, representing a nearly 40% spike:
Mr. Obama said the federal minimum wage needs to be raised across the board because the current rate, due to inflation, “is worth about 20% less than it was when Ronald Reagan took office – 20% less, a fifth less.”
The move is the first step in a broader fight over the minimum wage being pushed by Democrats during an election year and part of the president’s effort to narrow the income inequality gap. (Our colleagues at the Real Time Economics blog take a look at who benefits from a higher minimum wage.)
Now, it’s just for federal contractors — with, to WSJ’s point, an eye toward a campaign issue — but it’s still not a very good sign because it’s likely a shallow move to gain political favor that sets a bad example for a couple of different reasons.
First, it’s yet another swipe at Congress who, as much as they are fairly maligned, are still the colleagues with whom our President must work. And quotes like this one are, frankly, rude and counter productive:
After reviewing thousands of pages of a series of Benghazi-related documents, including classified emails and situation reports, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations released a summary of its members’ particular reviews regarding what is known of the circumstances surrounding the Benghazi attack and the Department of Defense’s response.
According to Think Progress, the Subcommittee concluded that “there was no way for the U.S. military to have responded in time to the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya to save the four Americans killed that night,” but according to the report, “given the uncertainty about the prospective length and scope of the attack, military commanders did not take all possible steps to prepare for a more extended operation.”
In other words, what the Subcommittee concluded appears to sound nothing close to what Think Progress reported.
The White House, the Subcommittee found, failed to address a growing concern related to the deteriorating security situation in Libya, which created a particularly vulnerable situation for U.S. personnel stationed in Benghazi. The Subcommittee also found that the response of our military was “severely degraded because of the location and readiness posture of U.S. forces, and because of lack of clarity about how the terrorist action was unfolding.”
Given this week’s news of yet another delay to yet another Obamacare regulation that just five short years ago was going to literally keep people from dying in the streets, I thought an illustration would be useful. So here it is:
Yep. That’s it. That’s Obamacare in a nutshell.
I first saw this image linked to Obamacare by Twitter user @cuffymeh (#FF) a couple years ago during the 2012 presidential campaign when the first delays and waivers started popping up. I laughed for a good 10 minutes. It perfectly portrays everything about Obamacare in one neat, catastrophic package.
The absurdly huge amount of flame represents the massive size of the failure so far. From waivers, to delays, to implementation, to website failures, to coverage gaps, to state rebukes, to ever-sinking poll numbers. It is uniquely appropriate that there are more flames and smoke than train in the photo.
While it is, of course, a still photo, the train does have a sense of motion, but it seems like a very sluggish, hampered speed. Obamacare has moved just as slowly and ungracefully. Some of the parts that would eventually become the law started being proposed in 2007 even before the 2008 presidential campaign heated up (pun fully intended).
In an occasionally contentious interview with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, President Barack Obama defended his administration’s handling of the Benghazi terrorist attacks and the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) targeting of conservative groups. He also addressed the Obamacare canceled health plan controversy.
Obamacare rollout and Sebelius
O’Reilly began the interview by asking President Obama why HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius still has a job in his administration after the initial, disastrous rollout of the federal Obamacare exchange, Healthcare.gov.
President Obama repeated the line that no one in his administration “anticipated the degree of problems” on the federal Obamacare exchange website, which isn’t necessarily true, given the warnings from some officials that the website wasn’t ready for launch. Instead, he acknowledge the problems and focused on the fixes applied to the website.
President Obama was in Nashville yesterday paying a visit to McGavock High School on the heels of Tuesday’s State of the Union address. It’s no accident he chose this school at this time, reeling as McGavock still is after a recent shooting there.
Given Obama’s focus on gun control in Tuesday’s speech — even going so far as to suggest he will work around Congress if they refuse to pass legislation that restricts 2nd Amendment rights — it’s a very focused move to test the temperature of a community that may be ready for the discussion in a way they haven’t been in the past. Tragedy has a way of doing that:
“It’s a tragedy, a terrible tragedy,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters on Air Force One. “The president will obviously speak about matters of education at the event, but I think you can expect he will have something to say about the tragedy at the top of his remarks.”
The shooting that left 15-year-old Kevin Barbee dead happened Tuesday. Another teenager was playing with a pistol when it discharged, striking Barbee in the face.
Then again, given a recent decision to expand into the state by firearm manufacturer Beretta, he may have more of an uphill climb than he suspects. Economic tragedy has a way of doing that:
Just a few weeks ago, it looked like Congress was going to overwhelmingly pass new Iran sanctions while the Obama administration was still negotiating with the prospective nuclear nation over their enrichment program. That hit a brick wall this week as Senator Rand Paul became the first Republican to denounce the idea:
I’ve been for sanctions. I have voted for sanctions in the past, to try to get the Iranians to negotiate. I think while they’re negotiating, and if we can see that they’re negotiating in good faith, I don’t think it’s a good idea to pass sanctions while we’re in the midst of negotiations.
Now it looks like there may not even be a vote on new sanctions until this summer. Even under a Democrat-led Senate, it’s an entirely new thing for this kind of dithering and delay on Iran issues. However, coming less than a year after the failed Syria military intervention idea, it’s becoming clearer that the American people and even their representatives may be weary of perpetual global police action at our expense.
The proposals outlined in President Barack Obama’s 2014 State of the Union address would cost taxpayers at least $40 billion, according to an analysis by the National Taxpayers Union Foundation.
““Even though the President largely reiterated or reframed issues that have long been on his party’s current agenda, the proposals for new federal expenditures he outlined last night would still add up to a hefty price tag,” said Demian Brady, Director of Research at the National Taxpayers Union Foundation. ”Moreover, his push for new mandates, regulation, and tax hikes, particularly on energy, will give taxpayers and business owners plenty to be wary of.”
Of the 29 proposals outlined in the speech by President Obama, only one would reduce spending, according to the analysis, while 12 would increase spending. The costs of 16 proposals couldn’t be quantified.
The most costly proposal outlined by President Obama was the Senate version of immigration reform — the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act — which would cost $20.2 billion each year. Extention of federal unemployment benefits was the second-most costly item, at $12.8 billion.
President Obama’s universal pre-K proposal is would cost $3.5 billion each year, making it the third-most costly item in his State of the Union address.
The only proposal that would cut spending is the FHA Solvency Act, a measure that President Obama supports. This bill, which would protect taxpayers from bearing the cost of another housing crisis, would reduce federal outlays by $103 million, according to the National Taxpayers Union Foundation.
Contained within last night’s speech were many examples of how young people lose out in the big-government status quo.
It’s easy to lampoon the State of the Union address. A speech full of pomp and circumstance but relatively devoid of specifics is difficult to take seriously.
Few can see through the charade more clearly than younger generations. Marketers and ad execs know that traditional TV marketing techniques are ineffective with Millennials, so it’s obvious last night’s promises are liable to fall particularly flat with 20-somethings.
Young people today face a government that is more bloated, more invasive, and less efficient than ever. Tuesday night’s speech promised to continue this status quo.
The State of the Union was a study in contrasts and omitted information, and young people can see right through it. The President praised a low unemployment rate – leaving out the fact that the job-seeking numbers are low because many people have given up on finding work. He touted a reduced deficit – while praising the end of the Budget Control Act and sequester that led to the reduction.
President Obama’s claim to be responding to people’s concerns related to the NSA’s surveillance programs hasn’t gained momentum, mainly because most Americans still believe that his promised reforms will do nothing to address the real problems.
According to Politico, a new Associated Press-GfK poll shows that over 60 percent of people who participated said they value privacy over surveillance tactics disguised as anti-terror protections carried out by agencies like the National Security Agency. Since the last time this question was asked of respondents back in August by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, the percentage of Americans that claimed to value privacy over security has gone up two points.
Since NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden made his revelations public, President Obama has been scrambling to gain the public’s trust back but none of his efforts seems to be paying off. He has recently promised to review NSA’s surveillance system by ensuring that new limits are going to be imposed to the intelligence committee. According to Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Obama’s reforms are not going to be effective mostly because the President has misdiagnosed the problem.
According to the most recent poll, only 34% of respondents claimed to support Obama’s reform proposals concerning the FISA court procedures and the creation of a panel of attorneys that would offer counter-arguments to the government, while only 17% say Obama’s proposal to move collected phone data out of the NSA’s hands is valid.
President Obama gave an interview to The New Yorker, you know the same interview where he said racism was probably to blame for his falling approval numbers. He was asked about marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington and he answered:
he said of the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington that “it’s important for it to go forward because it’s important for society not to have a situation in which a large portion of people have at one time or another broken the law and only a select few get punished.”
That appears to indicate the Obama Administration is supportive of allowing states to set their own policies on marijuana legalization. Although the Obama Administration has began to walk back those comments we should assume the Obama Administration is willing to consider a sane, rational approach to marijuana.
In 2010, nearly 790,000 Americans were arrested on marijuana related offenses and African-Americans and other minorities were disproportionately targeted. While marijuana is a dangerous drug and I would not encourage anyone to use it under any circumstances, the effects appear to be no more dangerous than alcohol or tobacco, both of which are legal.