Obama sotu

There are many important issues bubbling up all around the nation and the world that haven’t been addressed, thanks in part to the Republican Congress that has proven itself to be the most worthless thing to Americans that doesn’t have the last name of Kardashian.

Climate Change, the economy and long term unemployment, voting rights, racism, The War on Women, a nuclear treaty with Iran and a negotiated end to the civil war in Syria…many important topics for Pres. Obama to address. However, he has been mentioning along the way that there is one issue that he will be taking on as his top priority in what remains of his final term. This is expected to be in the spotlight in his State of the Union speech tomorrow night (BTW, we will be hosting a simultaneous live chat during his speech…the best way to watch it!).

Income inequality. The huge and quickly growing gap between the very wealthy and 99% of Americans (and the world). Of all the urgent issues weighing on this nation, this may be the most important and critical. As the Middle Class continues to shrink, as more people and especially single mothers with children find themselves in poverty (even though many are working) and unable to afford the minimums of food, clothes and housing, the nation itself continues to disintegrate in profound and far reaching ways.

It is obscene that in an era when the richest 85 people in the world own the same combined wealth as the poorest half of the world, 3.5 billion people, that these 85 and their like fight so cruelly against billions of others getting a penny more in earnings, let alone keeping the wages they currently have.

This kind of unrestrained and deviant greed is not sustainable and is destroying the fabric of our nation. One could reasonably connect the dots from income inequality to the current polarization in this nation, the corruption in our democratic system and politics, the ongoing pollution of the planet increasing Climate Change, our economic problems, so much of the difficulties we face are hinged on the majority having their income and power usurped and the wealthy and corporations increasing theirs.

When the people are weakened, when they are economically oppressed, they are often turned against each other and otherwise distracted from exercising the power that a united people would have. United we stand, divided we fall and all that. This is exactly the scenario the wealthy have worked towards and work each day to strengthen. Their political power has risen, policies that suit them and harm the public continue to have priority for that reason. Money is power and when money is concentrated in so few hands, so is power.

So where to start?

As I’ve written about previously, if the minimum wage is raised, it has been proven statistically not to reduce employment (as the dishonest corporatists howl in phony alarm) but it of course increases income to millions of Americans which they have to spend to purchase other goods and services…increasing the revenues of other businesses and spurring on more demand for greater employment. Also, as the minimum is raised, it brings up wages that are kind of pegged to it as paying above minimum wage. A rising tide that lifts many boats. A raise in the minimum wage could be the first and strongest campaign that Pres. Obama pursues following the SOTU speech and it is a winner for him and the Democratic Party to campaign on in this election year.

There are Republicans too who support this but of course, as soon as Pres. Obama announces that it is a priority of his, Republicans as a whole will have to oppose it as a litmus test because their only philosophy is to fight whatever Obama supports…even if they agree with it. Still, in these times when income inequality, joblessness and poverty are just as serious for rank and file Republicans as they are for Democrats, it is a very unpopular position to oppose such a long-delayed and justified increase right now.

The reality is that adjusted to inflation, today’s minimum wage should be $10.56  to simply equal the minimum wage of 1968 for example, when it was $1.60 (for a little perspective, a gallon of gas cost .34 cents then so we are looking at around a ten times increase in various costs of living since then). Instead, the minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, around 30% less than what was regarded as the minimum wage people need to be able to pay their necessary expenses.

So it is likely that Pres. Obama may make raising the minimum wage a top priority since it would have a direct impact on aiding those with the lowest incomes (and reducing the cost to the government and taxpayers for subsidizing those low wages of greedy corporations) and make for a better economy. What else can Obama support and take action on when it comes to income inequality?

Tax policy. The revisions to tax policy Pres. Obama and the Democratic Congress pushed through last year were a step in the right direction but so much more needs to be done. Taxes are the one tool that can directly address income inequality and return the unfair gains of the wealthiest to support the programs and tax breaks that benefit 99% of Americans.

Some alleged Democrats, especially those emoprogs who have been as anti-Obama as the Tea Party, continue howling against Obama making any deals on Social Security or Medicare because they think he is willing to sell seniors out for some reason.

First, no, he has never displayed an interest in destroying the income and medical care for seniors. What he has shown is a willingness to compromise on minimal reforms…in exchange for higher taxes on the wealthy and ending subsidies for billion dollar industries. In particular, he has mentioned the possibility of supporting Chained CPI for Social Security cost of living increases but only if the Republicans supported higher net taxes on the wealthy and subsidy reform.

The big picture is always the most important one to view. Looking solely in the short term, it would seem like agreeing to any reduction in cost of living increases, which chained CPI would cause for Social Security recipients, is a bad thing (it is a disconnect though how Social Security COLA increases are seen as critical but COLA raises for minimum wage don’t even exist). For the record, Social Security increases…not the benefits earned and paid but COLA increases that may or may not occur in one year or another based on inflation, could be $3 a month less in those years due to Chained CPI.

However…if such a change was part of tax reform and didn’t go into effect until those currently working went on Social Security, it could be a big win for Americans. That is, if those in the 99% had their income taxes lowered while the wealthy and corporations had their net taxes increased (actual rates could be reduced for all but removing tax breaks for the wealthy would result in higher taxes paid), future seniors could be bringing in ten times or more than the $3 per month in SS increases they wouldn’t have in the future (in some years but not all). All that future seniors would need to do is to put aside $6 a month of their increased income into savings and they would have double the amount they would have received in SS raises if Chained CPI wasn’t implemented. So they will be better off by far, especially after such a deal increased their monthly income, recharged the economy, created more jobs, lifted wages and improved the government’s ability to pay for social services.

And there can be efforts that are tangential to income inequality, issues caused by the unjust enriching of the the wealthy, that Pres. Obama can address. He can stand up against the Keystone Pipeline which could put hundreds of millions in the Koch Brothers’ pockets but end up polluting our nation and poisoning the ground water of the Midwest. That would hammer citizens in that region with huge monthly increases in their expenses to pay for potable water and drastically raise the cost of water across the country. He can promote voters’ rights actions by the Department of Justice and press a vote in Congress to update and repair the Civil Rights act so that the politicians who are elected to vote on economic issues are put there by the people to represent them and not the wealthy. Pres. Obama can also seek additional tax breaks for Americans who struggle with the costs of their own or their children’s education. There are indeed numerous actions and approaches he could take to better the economic picture for the 99%.

One would expect President Obama to address many issues in his SOTU speech tomorrow night, both domestic and international. Economic injustice is not the only pressing issue but it does seem to be pressing hardest on the majority of Americans and in all directions. It will be very interesting to see and hear what exactly Pres. Obama’s plans are to confront it and if it will indeed be the central issue of his final term in office.

Any other issues that you think President Obama will or should discuss in his SOTU address?

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Kalima
Admin
Nirek
Member

Kalima, raising the minimum wage has never hurt the economy. It should be done each year to keep up with inflation. IMO. Similar to the COLA for Social Security.

Fergie1
Member
Fergie1

And excuse me folks for being a bit flip here! But I would like to know why I pay 25.5% income tax on my pro rata Soc.Sec. benefits?!
It’s taken out of my payment before it sees the light of day. I can’t apply for a refund and I am not entitled to Medicare (naturally). But for the life of me I cannot understand why this is the case. And the Soc. Sec. office can’t tell me either. And by the way the U.S. Gov’t has outsourced overseas Soc. Sec. dealing to the Philippines! It takes a long distance phone call to Manila to apply!
I was pretty shocked by that and it’s also used for the DVA.

Maybe this comment should go in the O/T but I saw some Soc. Sec. comments here so thought it might be ok. Apologies for the personal question.

Fergie1
Member
Fergie1

Excellent AdLib. Income disparity to the degree that it has existed for eons is beyond a disgrace. The argument that raising the minimum wage will produce more unemployment is fatuous in the extreme. It would be more honest to say that the outrageous packages paid to CEOs, including golden parachutes or golden handshakes reduce the hiring ability of many companies. These “packages” are paid out not only to CEOs and other executives who are successful, but in fact to those who are quite the opposite. Examples are CEOs from several Airline Companies, who, God knows how, manage to run a company into the ground, get a massive payout and become a CEO of another airline! All the while getting the employees to take salary reductions, use their pensions to prop up the company. At one particular airline, they introduced an ‘A’ and ‘B’ salary scale. Not so long ago a Reservation Agent working in San Francisco was expected to work for $1,000 a month. This may seem like a large amount but it works out to about $6.25 an hour before taxes.

I know, strictly speaking, this isn’t pertinent to the SOTU address, but is simply shown as an example of how wage disparity is out of control. The CEO walked away with MILLIONS.

I believe that this topic of the minimum wage should be hugely high on The President’s agenda.

Gun control would be excellent but sadly I see no progress on that issue. As well as mental health. It is sickening and oh so sad to hear about all the shootings happening all over the U.S.

Nirek
Member

Fergie, you hit on one of my pet peeves “golden parachutes” for those executives who ruined their company. Even for some who did a “good” job, it is stupid.
They argue that it takes a deal like that to keep “talent” !?!
I disagree with the concept.

choicelady
Member

What time are we starting the live chat tomorrow?

MurphTheSurf3
Editor

Comprehensive and undoubtedly very much on the mark.

Let me add this:

THE topic of the SOTU 2014 will be- Who Do You All Want to Be in Control of this Nation’s Federal Government in 2015 and 2016? This is about who holds the Senate and the House after the midterms. That’s the whole game, the big enchilda. Whether he is the lamest of lame ducks depends on how much or how little influence he has on Capitol Hill.

SO….everything tomorrow will be about electability of Democrats and undermining Republicans…..

Animate OUR base, enrage theirs, push every hot button you can reach.

Bring it on, baby Bring it on!

Fergie1
Member
Fergie1

Absolutely a hot button issue Murph, but somehow I don’t think that the Prez will mention this in the SOTU. As I have written in another discussion here and over and over at that place which shall not be mentioned, the 2014 Midterms are crucial. Any Dem who is ‘disappointed’ that every wish and dream has not been fulfilled by President Obama and uses that as an excuse not to vote in the Midterms are lazy both intellectually and physically.

Along with this, the right to vote should be addressed now, not in September or October but now!

MurphTheSurf3
Editor

Oh…I don’t expect him to say this out loud. But, I believe it will be the subtext for every item on his list, for every rhetorical flourish, for every guest introduced, for every standing ovation and every refusal to even politely applaud.

choicelady
Member

I LOVE it when you talk rough!

LOL!!

Totally agree with everything you said. Let ‘er rip!

MurphTheSurf3
Editor

Maybe I will do it more often!

Made me laugh. Thanks.

funksands
Member

*Breaking* There will be FOURTH response to the President’s state of the union speech. Sen. Flesh-Eating Bacteria (R) will draw the privilege of speaking for his Streptocaucus.

kesmarn
Admin

Eeeek! Oh, lie!

Otherwise known as e-coli.

funksands
Member

Great article Ad, I do indeed think that the minimum wage will be a significant topic in the speech. If the President is smart (and I think he is) this will be the launch of a mildly populist agenda that all the Democratic candidates for Congress can digest and run on in their home states. While not as radical as it needs to be, it will be enough to draw some very clear distinctions between the GOP candidate and their opponent.

If wages had grown at the same pace as cop orate profits since the 50’s, the minimum wage would now be $17 an hour.

KillgoreTrout
Member

Hey Ad, this is a well researched article. I also see immigration reform as another step towards improving our economy. If we bring millions of people out of the shadows and make them legitimate wage earners, their taxes would contribute quite a bit to our economy. Their taxes would also help to increase the SS trust fund.

I also would like to see the president talk about any future plans for Afghanistan. I would love to see him talk about a measured and safe withdrawal from that country. We’ve been there over ten years now and any progress made has been minimal. That “war,” is a constant drain on America’s resources.

I would also like to see the president talk about the Supreme Court’s ridiculous ruling on Citizen’s United. That ruling is harmful to the very core of our democracy.

Nirek
Member

Excellent point , KT!
The employers of the “illegal” workers are criminals in my mind. They under pay and over work people wrongly.

choicelady
Member

Hi KT – yes, and I am unendingly peeved that ACLU supported it and continues to defend it – but think about this: they did great in 2010 but NOT in 2012. For the $400 MILLION they threw at so many campaigns, they lost the White House, several House seats, and lost the Senate outright.

VOTE folks. Money cannot trump democratic engagement. It never has. Only thing that ruins democracy is our passivity and failure to vote. GOTV is THE issue in 2014 as it was in 2012. We cannot be indifferent. EVER.

KillgoreTrout
Member

Absolutely CL. People have to be reminded or taught anew that a successful democracy requires participation. I mean, how much of a strain upon people is it, to ask them to get out of the house and down to the polls, once every two years? It is mind boggling that anybody could see this as a burden to their everyday lives. It’s really beyond pitiful that anybody would see it as such. There is soooo much at stake.

People who volunteer for military service sacrifice so much more on a daily basis. How pitiful it is for spoiled citizens that choose to stay home and let others carry the load?

EXFANOFARIANA
Member
EXFANOFARIANA

I joined the live chat as well.Extraordinary points you make here, A.L.XX

kesmarn
Admin

A great summary of the important issues of the day that the President should address tomorrow night, AdLib. As you and the President have pointed out, income inequality is at the top of the list.

A couple of weeks ago, I got a call from the Gallup polling people asking my opinion on all sorts of issues/people (Fun, because about half of my family have started rolling their eyes when I start opinionating. The Gallup people actually wanted to know!) When they asked what I thought was the most important issue the country was currently facing, I too said: income inequality. It has been for quite a long time, no?

The NY Times featured a wonderful article by Sam Polk, a reformed Wall Street trader, who views the destructive mindset of the top 1% as an addiction disorder. And he spells out the consequences as follows:

Wealth addiction was described by the late sociologist and playwright Philip Slater in a 1980 book, but addiction researchers have paid the concept little attention. Like alcoholics driving drunk, wealth addiction imperils everyone. Wealth addicts are, more than anybody, specifically responsible for the ever widening rift that is tearing apart our once great country. Wealth addicts are responsible for the vast and toxic disparity between the rich and the poor and the annihilation of the middle class. Only a wealth addict would feel justified in receiving $14 million in compensation — including an $8.5 million bonus — as the McDonald’s C.E.O., Don Thompson, did in 2012, while his company then published a brochure for its work force on how to survive on their low wages. Only a wealth addict would earn hundreds of millions as a hedge-fund manager, and then lobby to maintain a tax loophole that gave him a lower tax rate than his secretary.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/19/opinion/sunday/for-the-love-of-money.html?smid=tw-share&_r=0

Increasing taxes on the mega-rich and raising the minimum wage are a great place to start fixing this. Now if we can just get a Congress that’s capable of comprehending that…

Nirek
Member

Ad, I’m on Social Security and would go without a COLA raise if the rich would pay their fair share of taxes.