The grotesque arguments against raising the minimum wage: when will we demand a decent society?

ROBERT REICH: Raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 should be a no-brainer. Republicans say it will cause employers to shed jobs, but that’s baloney. Employers won’t outsource the jobs abroad or substitute machines for them because jobs at this low level of pay are all in the local personal service sector (retail, restaurant, hotel, and so on), where employers pass on any small wage hikes to customers as pennies more on their bills. States that have a minimum wage closer to $9 than the current federal minimum don’t have higher rates of unemployment than do states still at the federal minimum.

A mere $9 an hour translates into about $18,000 a year — still under the poverty line. When you add in the Earned Income Tax Credit and food stamps it’s possible to barely rise above poverty at this wage, but even the poverty line of about $23,000 understates the true cost of living in most areas of the country.

Besides, the proposed increase would put more money into the hands of families that desperately need it, allowing them to buy a bit more and thereby keep others working.

A decent society should do no less.

HEIDI MOORE: “There is something truly grotesque about corporate leaders who earn millions of dollars – or even hundreds of thousands of dollars – arguing over paying their workers literally pennies more. Those workers often have to rely on food stamps or government welfare programs to make up the difference. Meanwhile, company CEOs have barely received a cut in pay for years, and on average they make 231 times as much as the average worker. That’s a lot of money, obviously. So the idea that paying $1.50 an hour more in minimum wage would break their companies and force them to save on costs is patently ridiculous. The first and most obvious cost they would have to think about cutting would be their own pay packages. What if those CEOs made, say, only 200 times the average worker? Or 100 times? One suspects their companies could afford that uptick for poorer workers then.”

73% OF AMERICANS SUPPORT raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour: Republicans in Congress oppose any increase to the federal minimum wage, but they might want to do some polling first, as data suggest an increase is incredibly popular among voters. As The Daily Change notes, polling conducted by Lake Research in February 2012 found that not only is support for Obama’s proposed increase “stratospherically high,” voters actually want to go further than the President suggests. Their polling shows 73 percent of voters want to see the minimum wage raised to $10 an hour by 2014, including 50 percent of Republicans (Note: just don’t tell the those Republicans that the president supports it).

  • According to Think Progress, a study published in the Review of Economics and Statistics back in November 2010 found “no detectable employment losses from the kind of minimum wage increases we have seen in the United States.” Another study, published in 2011 “found no impact on hours worked or employment levels.”
  • In a March 2011 report, the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) found that raising the minimum wage has no “discernible impact” on employment. CEPR concluded that wage increases are more likely to result in more, rather than fewer, jobs.
  • A major study of the minimum wage, done by economists David Card and Alan Krueger and published in September 1994, supports the notion that raising the minimum wage actually increases employment. investigating the effects of New Jersey’s 1992 minimum wage increase from $4.25 to $5.05, the pair revealed job creation was actually strengthened by the increase.

WH FACT SHEET:

Raising the minimum wage mostly benefits adults, and especially working women: Around 60 percent of workers benefiting from a higher minimum wage are women, and few are teenagers — less than 20 percent.

Raising the minimum wage helps parents: The average worker who would benefit from a rise in the minimum wage to $9 an hour brought home 46 percent of his or her household’s total wage and salary income in 2011, according to the Current Population Survey.

For a working family earning $20,000 – $30,000, the extra $3,500 per year from raising the minimum wage would cover:

  • The family’s spending on groceries for a year; or
  • The family’s spending on utilities for a year; or
  • The family’s spending on gasoline and clothing for a year; or
  • Six months of housing.

Raising the minimum wage will boost wages without jeopardizing jobs while improving turnover and productivity: A range of economic studies show that modestly raising the minimum wage increases earnings and reduces poverty without measurably reducing employment, and that in fact employers may see a more stable workforce due to reduced turnover and increased productivity.

Republican Reindeer Games 2013: missives from the front lines of the #Obamaquester

Reuters: The U.S. economy could take a big hit from automatic government spending cuts even if Congress only leaves them in place for a month or two.

What could be more important than a solution to the sequester? Games!

Jonathan Chait says that who’s at “fault” for the sequester is HIGHLY debatable: 

…Most Republicans in the House voted for the sequester, while most Democrats voted against it, and Boehner boasted, “I got 98 percent of what I wanted.”

But do the House Republicans detect any contradiction at all in this messaging strategy? Message No. 1 is that they won’t compromise at all, not even offering any of the tax reform they’ve been dangling for months, not even in exchange for cuts to Social Security and Medicare, to replace the sequester. Krauthammer: “If they do nothing, the $1.2 trillion in cuts go into effect. This is the one time Republicans can get cuts under an administration that has no intent of cutting anything. Get them while you can.” Sequester ho!

Message No. 2: This horrible sequester is all Obama’s fault! It’s devastating!

Obviously you can tie this all together if you maintain that raising tax revenue — even if it comes not by raising rates but by reducing the “special interest loopholes and deduction” he had previously pledged himself to cleaning out — would have horrific consequences. You would have to believe that Boehner’s own December budget offer would have horrific consequences, since it pledged to increase tax revenue by $800 billion, a good $180 billion higher than the revenue increase we got.

They’re still trying to make Obama a one-term president: “Republicans open to letting billions in sequester cuts go through figure they can blame the president if the economy goes south,” Politico reports.

It’s great to see that Politico is on board with this week’s meme:

Steve Benen reminds everyone that “if Republicans don’t like the sequester, they have a terrific option available to them: they can cancel it and end this stupidity once and for all”:

Both sides put some skin in the game: Democrats would be forced to swallow over $500 billion in deep domestic cuts, while Republicans would be forced to swallow over $500 billion in deep cuts to military spending during a war. (Originally, the White House asked that Republicans face a threat of automatic tax increases, but Republicans refused — even hypothetical tax increases were deemed outrageous — so they settled on deep Defense cuts instead.)

At the time, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the deal gave him “98 percent” of what he wanted. Did Boehner complain at the time about Obama forcing him to accept a sequester idea the Speaker found outrageous? He did not. Not even a little.

Republicans now want Americans to believe this was all Obama’s fault. Let’s consider the evidence:

1. Republicans created the debt-ceiling crisis.

2. Republicans wrote the ransom note and named their price.

3. Republicans endorsed, accepted, and voted for this plan, saying they’d accept the consequences.

and 4. Republicans now refuse to compromise (again) to deal with the mess they created.

So we’re supposed to believe this is Obama’s fault? That’s only true if you ignore literally detail and pretend reality has no meaning.

Let’s make this plain: the sequester is a key part of the ransom the GOP settled for during the debt-ceiling crisis they created. It’s a little late to pass the buck now.

Then Tom DeLay went and let the cat out of the It’s-Obama’s-fault- bag

Tom DeLay, the former House majority leader, who was meeting with a few of his former colleagues on Wednesday at the Capitol, says Boehner’s playbook is “sharp,” since defense spending “can always be replaced during the appropriations process, after the cuts are put into place.” “You can always put money back in for defense,” DeLay says. “I think Boehner is going to stick with the sequester since the cuts are already happening, and if he needs to do something later, he can. I don’t think the president realizes how Boehner has the upper hand.”

And unnamed GOP aides reveal the method behind the madness

And, though GOP aides insist it has not been openly discussed, there could be political advantage if Republicans let Congress pass the delayed sequester deadline. Some of the states that get the most federal discretionary money, defense or domestic, also are home to some of the 2014 cycle’s vulnerable Democrats, Sens. Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mark Warner of Virginia and Mark Udall of Colorado. Hagan, however, starts out in a weaker position than Udall or Warner. According to the U.S. Census Bureau Statistical Abstract breaking down federal spending by state, Virginia in 2009, for example, was the top recipient of federal defense spending dollars, North Carolina was 13th and Colorado 16th. In nondefense spending, Virginia ranked eighth and North Carolina 10th.

Honeywell CEO David Cote — [who made $37 million in 2011 and] who is part of an organization called Fix the Debt that is pushing for steep cuts in social spending — acknowledged in an interview that the sequester’s spending cuts will harm the economy but he thinks they need to happen anyway.

The reality of Republican Reindeer Games 2013 – How The Sequester’s Budget Cuts Will Devastate Already-Battered Programs

Food safety: The Food and Drug Administration is already facing serious cuts, jeopardizing its ability to safely inspect foreign food imports. Under the sequester, the U.S. Department of Agriculture would be forced to furlough thousands of workers for weeks at a time, causing food processors to shut down. That would cost the industry billions of dollars while further limiting food inspections. Other studies estimate that there would be 600 fewer food inspectors at meat and poultry plants.

Aviation safety: The first round of cuts would force the Federal Aviation Administration to furlough 10 percent of its staff each day, reducing the number of air traffic controllers and regulators on the job at any given time. That could mean the loss of 1,200 air traffic controllers over the next year if the sequester remains in place.

Women, Infants, and Children programs: WIC, which helps low-income women provide for their children up to age 5, is already facing significant reductions under budget caps that could kick 970,000 women out of the program. The first round of the sequester would cut $353 million, meaning 600,000 women and their children would lose access.

Early Childhood Education: As many as 70,000 children would be cut from Head Start and Early Head Start under the first round of cuts, while 30,000 parents would lose access to child care services. Head Start, early childhood education, and child care for working parents provide huge benefits to families and their children. One study in California found that Head Start results in $9 of benefits for every dollar spent on the program.

Disaster relief: The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s budget would be cut by $1 billion right as the spring storm season begins, jeopardizing aid for families, states and localities, and businesses that are devastated by natural disasters. Even the aid package that just passed for victims of Hurricane Sandy would face $1.89 billion in reductions, according to the report.

Health research: The National Institutes of Health would lose $1.6 billion in funding under the initial round of cuts, putting medical research and jobs at risk. Over the year, NIH would lose $12.5 billion, according to research estimates, a hit that could cost the U.S. $860 billion in lost economic growth over the next nine years while resulting in the loss of 500,000 jobs.

Law enforcement: The first cuts would reduce the Coast Guard’s air and sea operations by 25 percent, while 1,000 federal law enforcement officials and 1,500 corrections officers would face furloughs. Border patrol and customs agents would be furloughed for two weeks, resulting in a reduction of 5,000 officers and agents at points of entry to the United States. Over the year, there would be a 25 percent reduction in border patrol agents, according to estimates.

Consider where we are:

  1. Republicans want to replace the entire sequester with cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other social insurance programs, like food stamps. The White House says those ideas are “terrible.”
  2. President Obama, meanwhile, wants a Grand Bargain, which would include combine smaller, more targeted cuts to those programs with additional revenue from tax reform. But for the most part, Republicans have said the president’s proposal is dead-on-arrival because it includes tax increases. These Republicans claim to oppose the sequester, but say they’d prefer to the sequester to any sort of compromise with the president.
  3. Senate Democrats are looking for a set of smaller spending cuts and tax hikes that would replace the first part of the sequester, an effort the administration supports, but their plan requires revenue, which Republicans say they won’t support. And House Progressives have proposed the only plan to eliminate the sequester that would both reduce the deficit and create jobs, but their plan makes too much sense for it to have a prayer.

Given that nobody in Washington, DC can agree on what should replace the sequester, the logical thing for them to do would be to repeal it.

Kevin Drum: don’t panic until Feb. 28th: “In a nutshell, we seem to be in a situation where the sequester, as bad as it is, is less bad than all of the alternatives. Republicans don’t want more defense cuts; Democrats don’t want more domestic cuts; and neither side wants the president to have more flexibility. And of course, simply doing away with the sequester entirely for a couple of years, which is by far the smartest option, is completely off the table. The wise men of Washington, along with the flamethrowers in the GOP, simply can’t be convinced that budget deficits are a good thing to have right now, even though all the evidence in the world points in that direction.

Meanwhile, Boehner 2013 argues with Boehner 2011: 

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For someone who doesn’t consider herself wealthy, Ann Romney chose an extremely expensive hobby / therapy

While most people with MS (or any other pre-existing condition) would be grateful to have health insurance and / or simple healthcare in general, Marie Antoinette has said she doesn’t consider herself wealthy yet she explains her dressage hobby as a form of therapy for her MS:

Ann Romney and dressage: A pricey private world
[Romney] soon fell in love with dressage, a fussy Olympic sport that is also called “horse ballet.” In dressage, a horse moves in delicate, dance-like steps to music as the rider, formally clad in top hat and tails, imperceptibly guides the animal.

Because it requires tremendous muscle control, dressage also provided Romney unexpected therapeutic benefits.

“Riding exhilarated me; it gave me a joy and a purpose,” Romney told the Chronicle of the Horse magazine in 2008. “When I was so fatigued that I couldn’t move, the excitement of going to the barn and getting my foot in the stirrup would make me crawl out of bed.”

The article says, “Dressage is not for the faint of wallet; it requires healthy outlays of cash for upkeep, training, transportation and veterinary care. It attracts some of the world’s richest people…”  Apparently so:

A spokeswoman for the Romney campaign would not discuss the costs associated with Ann Romney’s horses. “We are not required to disclose this information,” said Amanda Henneberg in an emailed statement.

The woman who bought Super Hit, Catherine Norris, testified that it cost $2,400 a month to board him at the Acres.

Insurance documents in the court file indicate that from November 2006 to November 2007, Ann Romney paid $7,800 to insure five horses against mortality and theft for amounts ranging from $50,000 to $135,000 per horse, which she said was far less than their value. “I self-insure for the rest,” she testified. “Just expensive to have insurance.”

That’s five horses at approximately $100,000 each. A pittance, she’ll assure you! Ann and Mitt not only want to repeal Obamacare on his ‘first day’ if he wins the election, but they want to close all Planned Parenthood clinics which provide multiple health care services for low income women. So you see, Marie Antoinette gets dressage as therapy and you get a bottle of Jack Daniels and a piece of wood to bite on. And? Ann has explained, patiently, that you just need to be wealthy in spirit, because that’s worth more than money (or a job, a car, a home, food, or medicine).

Deal with the cake you’re given to eat.

French-speaking multi-millionaire who won’t release his tax returns compares Obama to Marie Antoinette

On Thursday, the Romneybot 2012 charged President Obama with being insensitive for discussing facts:

“When the president’s characterization of our economy was, ‘It could be worse,’ it reminded me of Marie Antoinette: ‘Let them eat cake,’” said Romney.

[...] “It is actually laughable that the ‘Quarter-Billion-Dollar Man’ would call President Obama out of touch — and use the example of a French monarch to make the point,” DNC spokeswoman Melanie Roussell said in a statement to The Huffington Post on Thursday evening. “This is the same guy who joked that he was ‘unemployed,’ offered a $10,000 bet as casually as one might buy a cup of coffee, and said ‘corporations are people.’ He’s also the same person who, as a former corporate buyout specialist for Bain Capital, made his fortune firing thousands of workers, cutting benefits, bankrupting American companies and outsourcing jobs overseas. He’s the one who won’t release his tax returns — most likely because we would all learn that he pays a lower tax rate than middle class wage-earners. Laughable.”

Tightening the screws a bit, Obama campaign Press Secretary Ben LaBolt quickly followed suit, tweeting out a link to a video of Mitt Romney speaking French for an introduction of the volunteers at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Obviously, the Romneybot has been programmed for self-parody. bleep! blork! blah blah…

A stock trader admits THEY LOOK FORWARD TO another big recession because they make a lot of money #OccupyWallStreet

‘I Go To Bed Every Night And I Dream Of Another Recession’ - ThinkProgress

While European government and financial leaders are scrambling to prevent a financial crisis in the Eurozone that would likely throw the global economy into even more turmoil, stock trader Alessio Rastani took to BBC today to tell the world that traders were looking forward to the possibility of a second big recession. “For most traders, it’s not about – we don’t really care that much how they’re going to fix the economy, how they’re going to fix the whole situation,” he said. “Our job is to make money from it.” Rastani, who also claimed “Goldman Sachs rules the world,” said, “Personally, I’ve been dreaming of this moment for three years…I go to bed every night and I dream of another recession. When the market crashes… if you know what to do, if you have the right plan set up, you can make a lot of money from this.” 

Wall Street bankers like Rastani, meanwhile, are large donors to the GOP’s presidential frontrunners, who want to repeal the Dodd-Frank financial reform law that was aimed at preventing another financial crisis like the one that wrecked the American economy in 2008.

The Few profiting off the misery of the Most: extend the tax cuts for the wealthy and give spending cuts to the rest of us. Deregulate and hoard what you can — let them eat cake!  Something to keep in mind when you wonder if you should get yourself to a voting booth in 2012.


image: sarahlee310

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France’s wealthiest join Warren Buffett’s call for the ultra-rich to pay higher taxes

France’s wealthiest are joining Warren Buffett’s call for higher taxes on the ultra-rich while their government plans austerity measures and cuts for the non-wealthy (BBC):

Sixteen executives, including Europe’s richest woman, the L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, offered in an open letter to pay a “special contribution” in a spirit of “solidarity”.

Later the government is due to announce tighter fiscal measures as it seeks to reassure markets and curb the deficit.

They are expected to include a special tax on the super-rich.

Before the announcement, expected on Wednesday evening, a letter appeared on the website of the French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur.

It was signed by some of France’s most high-profile chief executives, including Christophe de Margerie of oil firm Total, Frederic Oudea of bank Societe Generale, and Air France’s Jean-Cyril Spinetta.

They said: “We, the presidents and leaders of industry, businessmen and women, bankers and wealthy citizens would like the richest people to have to pay a ‘special contribution’.”

They said they had benefited from the French system and that: “When the public finances deficit and the prospects of a worsening state debt threaten the future of France and Europe and when the government is asking everybody for solidarity, it seems necessary for us to contribute.”

They warned, however, that the contribution should not be so severe that it would provoke an exodus of the rich or increased tax avoidance.

The move follows a call by US billionaire investor Warren Buffett for higher taxes on the American ultra-rich.

Like in France, the USA’s wealthiest individuals and businesses have benefited — hugely — from the American tax system over the past 30 years. The income inequality in our country is bordering on criminal. But apparently it isn’t yet enough, as the GOP Teaparty continues to fight for more tax cuts for the rich and powerful, and more tax loopholes and subsidies for profitable corporations — most of which have outsourced formerly American jobs overseas.

Maybe France’s elites remember their history and how the let-them-eat-cake-mentality ended. America may have to have its own ‘let them eat cake’ moment as well.


Caricature of the Third Estate carrying the First Estate (clergy) and the Second Estate (nobility) on its back.
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