The ink is barely dry on the report from President Obama’s election administration commission and states are already disregarding its blue-ribbon recommendations, namely around early voting. The endorsement of expanding the voting period before Election Day was one of the strongest components of the bipartisan commission’s report. But yesterday Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted released a new voting schedule that deletes both pre-Election Day Sundays from the early voting formula. Under the new rules, people can vote in the four weeks before Election Day, Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and on the final two Saturdays before Election Day.
For hundreds of thousands of low-paid employees of federal contractors, the executive order President Obama announced in his State of the Union address will make a important difference in their incomes and lives. While the president cannot unilaterally raise the minimum wage for all working Americans (only Congress can take that action—and they should) he is exercising the executive power he has to mandate that federal contractors pay employees doing the public’s business at least $10.10 an hour as new contracts are negotiated and old ones come up for renewal.
In response to a declining voter turnout rate, California recently implemented big reforms to help boost the turnout rate: online registration, same day registration (SDR), and relaxing the vote-by-mail deadline. A recent report by the Public Policy Institute of California analyzed the impact of the changes and claims that while online registration and the relaxed vote by mail deadline were worthwhile reforms, SDR might not be. The SDR analysis in the PPIC report, however, is flawed in fundamental ways that negate its conclusions about SDR.
In the State of the Union address, Obama revealed that he will be implementing a myRA plan, which is basically an Individual Retirement Account administered by the government. Savers will put the money in after-tax (like a Roth IRA), the accounts will be small (capped at $15,000), and the returns will be modest but guaranteed.
Sometimes in America, when low-paid workers stand up and speak out, even the President of the United States takes notice. This is one of those moments.
This morning, the White House announced that President Obama will sign a “Good Jobs” Executive Order requiring government contractors to raise the minimum wage for their lowest-paid workers to $10.10 for all new and renegotiated contracts. The president will include this announcement in his State of the Union Address tonight.
I fear that John Boehner is not going to raise the minimum wage.
It doesn’t matter that 76 percent of Americans support a wage hike, or that studies indicate that the minimum wage reduces poverty and that raising it would boost our economy and create jobs. And I’m worried that if, in his State of the Union Address next week, President Obama again calls on Congress to raise the minimum wage, even in the most powerful and evocative terms, that won’t move Boehner to act either.
In yesterday's post, I wrote about the broad history of inequality under capitalism. In many countries that have undergone capitalist development, inequality has moved in three stages. First, inequality rapidly escalates. Second, the rise in inequality slows down and actually reverses. Third, inequality shoots up once again.
Staging imaginary competitions between cities and their elected leaders certainly makes for catchy headlines: “Step Aside, New York City. Los Angeles's Populism Is for Real” asserts the title of Nancy L. Cohen’s recent piece in The New Republic. “Later this month,” Cohen explains, “two [Los Angeles] City Council members will introduce a motion to raise the minimum wage to a nation-leading $15.37 an hour for hotel workers—nearly double the California minimum wage of $8.” Very welcome—but that’s just hotel workers. In Seattle, meanwhile, Mayor Ed Murray is vowing to start paying all municipal employees at least $15 an hour, and told Salon’s Josh Eidelson that “I think that we are gonna get to $15” for all of Seattle’s private sector workers as well.
Oddly enough, there is a gang of Republicans who have recently taken up the mantle of poverty. With the exception of Mike Lee, who has proposed to increase the Child Tax Credit, none of the people in this gang has come out with anything remotely interesting or worthwhile. Gang member Marco Rubio recently stepped out of his study, revealing that he had determined the old conservative marriage arguments are still the way to go:
I've long held that what William Goldman said about Hollywood—"Nobody knows anything"—is equally true of Washington. At the same time though, people in politics are particularly adept at finding those who know even less than they do, and scamming them into giving over their political support or their money, or both.
I thought of this when reading the long investigation the Washington Post published the other day on the byzantine network of organizations the Koch brothers have established or funded to funnel their ample resources into politics.
Today, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Representative Rosa DeLauro introduced the Family Act, a bill that would grant every employee in the country access to up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave. It’s a move that’s been long in coming. Really long.
When I was 18, I spent a year and change flipping burgers in one of those restaurants where customers eat from a tray balanced across their car windows. It was one of the three jobs I held at the time, affording a simple budget and enough left over to save up to go to college after a couple of years. I put in hard hours for my employer and it eventually worked out just fine for me. It also makes for a nice story, but one that is embarrassingly dated. The fast food industry in which I worked is not the fast food industry of America today—just ask the thousands of workers on the streets, standing up for same opportunity to get by and get ahead that built the American Dream.
Strikes at fast food establishments are set to sweep the nation today as part of an organizing effort that has been under way for more than a year. We should all know by now what the main concern of striking workers is. They get paid very little and that makes for a really poor existence. Although we have gotten some specific stories here and there, few have actually undertaken to systematically describe what it is like to live this kind of life. A new book just out by Jennifer Silva called Coming up Short takes on exactly this task.
To the Republican supporters of laws that would treat the poll booth like an exclusive nightclub that asks for photo ID and other qualifications before allowing entry, the answer to why anyone would oppose this is simple: They must not want to vote badly enough.