economy

11 Things The Senate Should Remember While Voting On The Minimum Wage

— by CAP Action War Room

After returning from a two-week recess, the Senate is planning to vote on raising the minimum wage to $10.10 this Wednesday. The bill, called the “Minimum Wage Fairness Act,” needs 60 votes to advance thanks to the de facto GOP filibuster threat. And while in the past we have used this space to outline many of the different benefits of raising the minimum wage to $10.10, in anticipation of this important vote we wanted to go over some of the most important reasons one more time. Here they are:

  1. Increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 and indexing it to inflation would raise the wages of 28 million workers by $35 billion. Raising the minimum wage would provide Americans who work hard a better opportunity to get ahead while giving the economy a needed shot in the arm.
  2. In 2013, CEOs made 774 times the pay of minimum wage workers.While the top CEOs made an average of $11.7 million in 2013, full-time workers making the minimum wage took home only $15,080 a year.
  3. Nearly two-thirds of all minimum wage workers are women. Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 would benefit 15 million women.
  4. One million veterans would benefit from a minimum wage increase.After risking their lives to protect our country, 1 in 10 veterans working in America today are paid wages low enough that they would receive a raise if the minimum wage is raised to $10.10.
  5. Raising the minimum wage will cut government spending on food stamps. Millions of workers earning the minimum wage make so little that they qualify for food stamps (SNAP benefits). This, in effect, amounts to taxpayers subsidizing corporations paying low-wages. Raising wages for low-income workers would actually cut government spending on SNAP by $4.6 billion a year, or $46 billion over the next 10 years, as workers earn enough on their own to no longer rely on the program.
  6. Minimum wage workers are older than you think. Nearly 90 percent of minimum wage workers are 20 years or older. The average minimum wage worker is 35 years old. A higher minimum wage doesn’t just mean more spending money for a teenager, it means greater economic security for the millions of Americans who rely on it as their primary income.
  7. Businesses see the value in increasing the minimum wage. Nearly 60 percent of small business owners recognize that raising the minimum wage would benefit businesses and support raising it. In fact, 82 percent of those surveyed don’t pay any of their workers the federal minimum wage of $7.25.
  8. It won’t hurt job creation. States have raised the minimum wage 91 times since 1987 during periods of high unemployment, and in more than half of those instances the unemployment rate actually fell. Over 600 economists signed a letter agreeing that a minimum wage increase doesn’t hurt job creation.
  9. In polls, nearly three-quarters of Americans support a minimum wage increase to $10.10. Pew Research found that 73 percent of Americans back a minimum wage increase.
  10. Millions of children will be more secure. If we raise the minimum wage to $10.10, 21 million children will have at least one parent whose pay will go up.
  11. A $10.10 minimum wage means a $16.1 billion boost for people of colorRaising the minimum wage is a matter of racial justice: people of color are far more likely to work minimum wage jobs and those who do are far more likely to be in poverty. A $10.10 minimum wage would lift three and a half million people of color out of poverty and add $16.1 billion to their incomes.

BOTTOM LINE: Over the next few days, as Senators take to the chamber floor to debate and then vote on this legislation that would help the economy and millions of American workers, they should make sure they keep in mind these vital facts on why the minimum wage should be raised to $10.10. A vote against increasing the minimum wage is quite simply a vote against working Americans.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

The Economic Costs of Inaction on Immigration Reform

Last June, the Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill that would grow our economy and shrink the deficit. But without action from the House to move forward in the last year, our country is losing out on these economic gains.

The Ryan Budget Is a Broken Record of Failed Trickle-Down Economics

By Anna Chu and Harry Stein

For the past three years, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) has been trotting out the same conservative, top-down policies that have failed the nation’s middle- and working-class families, seniors, and the economy. The House Republican budget is built around the tenet that nearly everyone else must sacrifice in order to continue to give billions of dollars in tax breaks to millionaires, big corporations, and Big Oil. At every turn, the House Republican budget reveals its vision of an economy and government that only works for the wealthiest individuals and special corporate interests at the cost of everyone else.

Now for the fourth consecutive year, the House Republican budget proposes dismantling traditional Medicare and slashing investments that drive our economy, all while cutting taxes for the rich and protecting taxpayer subsidies for big businesses and oil companies. The American people have seen this before, and we know how it ends—with millionaires, big corporations, and Big Oil as the only ones who are better off. Everyone else gets left behind, and our economy only gets weaker. Read more.

Makers and Takers

Originally posted on Rcooley123's Blog:

There seems to be a vast difference of opinion in this country as to who are the makers and who the takers. People like Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney and other members of the 1%, their apologists or both have for decades portrayed themselves as delivering to American society the wherewithal that has created the greatest economy the world has ever known. Through their superior knowledge, hard work and inner strength, they have risen above the rest of us in terms of economic wealth and political power. The only thing holding them back from even greater accomplishments is the fact that so many of their fellow citizens expect a free ride and a free lunch at their expense.

The fact that we have a degree of economic inequality in this country that allows many to go homeless, hungry and without adequate health care means nothing to many of the wealthy in…

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Dangerously Addictive American Dream

Why we are biologically ill-suited to the riches of modern America
— Peter Whybrow (originally posted at Post Carbon Institute)

[Excerpt] “It’s called the American Dream,” George Carlin lamented shortly before his death, “because you have to be asleep to believe it.” Too bad for the rest of us that George and his signature satire haven’t been around for the wake-up call of the current market meltdown. After all, George Carlin knew something about the dangers of addiction from first hand experience. He understood earlier than most that the debt fueled consumptive frenzy that has gripped the American psyche for the past two decades was a nightmare in the making—a seductive, twisted and commercially conjured version of the American Dream that now threatens our environmental, individual and civic health.

The United States is the quintessential trading nation and for the past quarter century we have worshiped the “free” market as an ideology rather than for what it is—a natural product of human social evolution and a set of economic tools with which to construct a just and equitable society. Under the spell of this ideology and the false promise of instant riches the America’s immigrant values of thrift, prudence and community concern—traditionally the foundation of the Dream—have been hijacked by an all-consuming self-interest. The astonishing appetite of the American consumer now determines some seventy percent of all economic activity in the US. And yet in this land of opportunity and material comfort—where we enjoy the 12-inch dinner plate, the 32-ounce soda, and the 64-inch TV screen—more and more citizens feel time starved, overworked and burdened by debt. Epidemic rates of obesity, anxiety, depression and family dysfunction are accepted as the norm.

Read full article

Photo creditseanbarnard/flickr

An Ugly Truth Made Pretty

A Cartoonist’s Depiction Of Wealth Inequality

WealthDistribution

Whoa, that’s lopsided!

FACT CHECK TIME. Here’s what our fact checkers found:

This graphic is based on research by The Levy Institute, which uses data from the Federal Reserve Board’s Survey of Consumer Finances. Those figures have also appeared in research by the Economic Policy Institute.

I’d be remiss to ignore that the illustration contains a small mistake: That gigantisized money stack on the far left is actually five bundles shorter than it should be. (Sigh…)

Original by Randy Coffey, found on Visual.lyDownload a high-quality PDF of this infographic from RandyCoffeyIllustration.com.

What I signed today

Earlier today, I signed an Executive Order to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 for federal contract workers.

It’s the right thing to do. But what’s more, companies have found that when their employees earn more, they’re more motivated, they work harder, and they stick around longer. You should expect the same of your federal government.

The bottom line is this: We are a nation that believes in rewarding honest work with honest wages. And America deserves a raise.

If you agree, let me know you’re standing with me — and take a look at what else we’re going to do in 2014.

The order I signed today will help folks across the country. But it’s not enough.

Right now, there’s a bill in Congress that would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour for all Americans. It would lift wages for more than 28 million current workers, and would move millions of Americans out of poverty. That means businesses would have customers with more money to spend.

Raising the minimum wage would grow the economy for everyone.

You don’t need to believe me: Believe the 600 economists — including seven Nobel Prize winners — who wrote both houses of Congress last month to remind them that the bill before them will have little or no negative effect on jobs.

When I stood before both chambers of Congress and said that I intended for 2014 to be a year of action, that wasn’t just a nice line in a speech. It was an acknowledgment that we’ve got to restore opportunity for everyone in America — the idea that no matter who you are, or how you started out, you can get ahead here if you’re responsible and willing to work for it. That’s what this “year of action” is all about.

And since that speech, I have taken actions on my own to make it easier for folks to save for retirement, help working Americans get the skills that good jobs demand, and assist millions of Americans who have been looking for work for several months. I’ve announced a major new commitment toward connecting our schools to 21st-century technology.

That action continues today, and in the months to come.

Take a look at what we’ve done already and what’s to come.

Thank you,

President Barack Obama

The Mythical Budget Deficit

— by Rich Dunn, NV Rural Democratic Caucus, 2nd Vice Chair

On Monday the treasury budget for December was released, and guess what. The federal government ran a surplus of $53.20 billion. Yes, I said surplus. It got little attention because budget surpluses have become relatively routine of late. Here are the treasury budgets for the previous seven months:

Jun +$116.5 billion
Jul -$97.6 billion
Aug -$147.9 billion
Sep +$75.1 billion
Oct -$91.6 billion
Nov -$135.2 billion
Dec +$53.2 billion

You’re seeing that right. The budget was in surplus in three of the last seven months of 2013.

The deficit for Fiscal Year 2013 totaled $680.3 billion, which was down from $1.09 trillion in 2012—the fourth consecutive year when deficits were over a trillion dollars. The Obama administration is now running annual deficits less than half the size of the one he inherited from Bush in 2009, and economists are already speculating that Obama’s budget for Fiscal Year 2016 could well be in surplus.

The government should not be running a fiscal surplus when aggregate demand is still lagging in the macro economy. The country’s infrastructure is falling apart and we should be fixing it right now because the money is there and isn’t being used to expand employment or investment in the private sector. Instead coporate balance sheets are hoarding cash and using it to pay special dividends and stock buybacks for the investor class. That money should be put to work investing in America!

Bob Dylan’s America

— by Rich Dunn, NVRDC 2nd Vice Chair

This morning I was listening to Bob Dylan’s song “Like a Rolling Stone” on the radio, and was struck by the line, “When you ain’t got nothin’, you got nothin’ to lose.” That no doubt resonates with the growing number of Americans who have nothing to lose.

Exhibit A: While short term unemployment is back near its historical norm, the number out of work for 27 weeks or longer remains near historic highs. That’s why extended benefits have been renewed no less than 11 times.

That problem remains unresolved, yet extended unemployment benefits are not being renewed for a 12th time. They will expire on December 28th, leaving 1.3 million breadwinners without any bread. The effects will ripple through 2014, leaving 4.9 million job seekers without a lifeline by the end of the year.

The economic effects of those cuts will include 240,000 fewer jobs and a 0.4 percent loss of GDP, which will lower tax revenues and grow the deficit. How ironic is that? And here’s something else that’s ironic: John Boehner’s government shutdown cost the treasury $24 billion, which is exactly what renewing extended unemployment benefits for a year would have cost.

There’s more. On November 1st, SNAP benefits were cut 15% for families with not enough money for food, and in January the House will approve a farm bill with another $40 billion in SNAP cuts. That won’t just hurt food producers, processers, retailers and hungry kids, it will further reduce final demand in the economy, and yes, increase the deficit.

Now the Ryan-Murray budget deal makes permanent the sequester cuts to Head Start, Meals on Wheels, Section 8 housing assistance and shelters for the homeless. And with yet another debt limit showdown looming at the end of February, anti-government zealots in congress will have more leverage to force cuts to programs which the most vulnerable among us depend on to survive.

I can’t help but wonder what’s going to happen when all these people who have nothin’ to lose decide to do something about it. Like vote.

2014 will be an interesting year.

We’re Not Broke — We’ve Been Robbed

Slashing government spending now is just going to make our nation poorer.

By Richard Kirsch

Richard_Kirsch

With the Friday the 13th December deadline for a federal budget deal, the cries of “we’re broke,” and “we can’t afford to keep spending,” are ringing again. But we’re not broke and acting like we are is making us poorer.

One of the biggest common misunderstandings is that governments are like households, which need to tighten their spending when times are tough. Actually, governments and households work in opposite ways.

Attack of the Budget Slashers, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

Governments can and should spend more when times are tough. Government spending makes up for lack of spending by families and businesses, and it helps get the economy moving by getting people back to work, putting money in their pockets, and contracting with businesses.

If we needed a reminder of that, the recent government shutdown gave us one. Journalists reported story after story about how business was down, as federal workers were laid off and national parks closed. The estimates are that even though the shut down only lasted 16 days, it cost the economy $24 billion.

We need government spending and investment to get the entire economy moving forward. When families are back at work with decent wages, government tax revenues will rise and spending on social supports will fall. That’s when government can reduce spending without slowing down the economy.

During the past two years we’ve reduced the deficit by half, close to 2008 levels. That may sound like it’s a good thing, but it’s really the biggest reason the economy is so lackluster for the vast majority of Americans with a near-record-high in unemployment, stagnant wages, and a smaller proportion of Americans working than any time in the past 30 years.

We’ve also cut all the wrong things: spending that puts money in people’s pockets today and investments in our economic future. We’ve cut spending on education, unemployment insurance, environmental protection, and scientific research. Our public investment, which includes annual government programs and spending on roads, bridges, transit, research, and development is actually the lowest it’s been as a share of the economy in 60 years.

What if we’d taken a different course during the recession? How about rather than cutting spending after an initial stimulus, which avoided a second great depression by saving three million jobs, the government had kept at it?

History shows that if we have continued the levels of spending normally done after recessions, we would have spent some $800 billion more than we did, and the overall economy (and not just the stock market) would be back to the same level today that it was before the recession hit.

In short, the argument that the government must live within its means to protect our children’s future is backwards. Averting deficit spending now means starving our children’s present and their future. More parents will have to struggle to get by, fewer good jobs will be created, education will suffer, and today’s college students will stumble into their careers saddled with huge debt loads.

And our infrastructure will keep crumbling and research will dwindle, making it harder for our businesses to compete in the global marketplace.

There are ways we can reduce the deficit without slowing down the economy very much, if at all. That is by looking at the other truth about the cry that “we’re broke.” In fact, we have been robbed.

When Uncle Sam gives big corporations tax breaks to move jobs overseas, we’ve been robbed. When Washington taxes billionaires at a lower rate than their secretaries, we’ve been robbed.

To get the country moving again, Congress needs to reverse direction and increase spending on vital services and investment.

That means reversing the budget cuts on domestic spending already in place and stopping any more sequestration cuts on vital services for our families. And raising taxes on the wealthy and huge corporations, which have been gaming the system at our expense.

Instead of obsessing about the “need” to cut government spending, our leaders should be figuring out how best to stimulate the economy to provide both a better today and future for our children.


Richard Kirsch is a senior fellow at the Roosevelt Institute and the author of Fighting for Our Health: The Epic Battle to Make Health Care a Right in the United States. He’s also a senior adviser to USAction. USAction.org.  Distributed via OtherWords. OtherWords.org.  Cartoon Credit:  Attack of the Budget Slashers, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib.