Barack Obama on Jobs
Democratic incumbent President; IL Senator (2004-2008)
America, for all that we've endured; for all the grit and hard work required to come back; for all the tasks that lie ahead, know this: The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong.
At this moment--with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, and booming energy production--we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth. It's now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next fifteen years, and for decades to come.
Of course, nothing helps families make ends meet like higher wages. That's why this Congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work. Really. It's 2015. It's time.
And to everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.
FactCheck: That's true, but it's also not the whole story. First, the good news: the unemployment rate currently sits at 5.6%. That's the lowest level since June 2008. Unemployment peaked at 10% in October 2009, and has been gradually falling since.
But it's not all good news. The unemployment rate tallies the percent of people who are both out of a job and actively looking to get one. So there are two ways to leave the legion of unemployed: One can get a job, or one can quit looking all together. In June 2008, the labor force participation rate was 66.1%. In December 2014, that rate sat at 62.7%. And if the same percentage of Americans were competing for jobs today as were in 2008, the unemployment rate would be much higher.
THE FACTS: This would be a hefty boost in the federal minimum wage, now $7.25, but not many would see it.
Most employees of federal contractors already earn more than $10.10. About 10% of those workers, roughly 200,000, might be covered by the higher minimum wage. But there are several wrinkles. The increase would not take effect until 2015 at the earliest and it doesn't apply to existing federal contracts, only new ones. Renewed contracts also will be exempt from Obama's order unless other terms of the agreement change, such as the type of work or number of employees needed.
Obama also said he'll press Congress to raise the federal minimum wage overall. He tried that last year, seeking a $9 minimum, but Congress didn't act.
It won't happen right away, and we won't agree on everything. But what I offer tonight is a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class. Some require Congressional action, and I'm eager to work with all of you. But America does not stand still--and neither will I. So wherever & whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that's what I'm going to do.
In the year since I asked this Congress to raise the minimum wage, five states have passed laws to raise theirs. Many businesses have done it on their own. To every mayor, governor, and state legislator in America, I say, you don't have to wait for Congress to act; Americans will support you if you take this on. And as a chief executive, I intend to lead by example. I will issue an Executive Order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally-funded employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour--because if you cook our troops' meals or wash their dishes, you shouldn't have to live in poverty.
Of course, to reach millions more, Congress needs to get on board. Today, the federal minimum wage is worth about 20% less than it was when Ronald Reagan first stood here. So say yes. Give America a raise.
Overall, there has been a net loss of more than 600,000 manufacturing jobs since Obama took office in January 2009, and manufacturing job growth during his tenure has stalled since reaching a peak of nearly 12 million jobs in July 2012.
Over the past three years--since January 2010--the U.S. economy has added 490,000 manufacturing jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 11,950,000 manufacturing jobs in January 2013--up from the 11,460,000 jobs recorded in January 2010. However, there were 12,556,000 manufacturing jobs in January 2009. So overall, there has been a loss of 606,000 jobs since Obama took office. More recently, "manufacturing growth has been stuck in neutral," as the National Association of Manufacturers said in a Feb. 12 press release.
There are things we can do, right now, to accelerate this trend. Last year, we created our first manufacturing innovation institute in Youngstown, Ohio. There's no reason this can't happen in other towns. So tonight, I'm announcing the launch of three more of these manufacturing hubs, where businesses will partner with the Departments of Defense and Energy to turn regions left behind by globalization into global centers of high-tech jobs. And I ask this Congress to help create a network of fifteen of these hubs and guarantee that the next revolution in manufacturing is Made in America.
Working folks shouldn't have to wait year after year for the minimum wage to go up while CEO pay has never been higher. So here's an idea that Governor Romney and I actually agreed on last year: let's tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on.
America is not a place where chance of birth or circumstance should decide our destiny. And that is why we need to build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class for all who are willing to climb them.
ROMNEY: The place where we've seen manufacturing go has been China. On day one, I will label China a currency manipulator, which will allow me as president to be able to put in place tariffs.
OBAMA: I want to close loopholes that allow companies to deduct expenses when they move to China; that allow them to profit offshore. Now, Gov. Romney actually wants to expand those tax breaks. One of his big ideas when it comes to corporate tax reform would be to say, if you invest overseas, you make profits overseas, you don't have to pay US taxes. It's estimated that that will create 800,000 new jobs. The problem is they'll be in China. Or India. Or Germany. That's not the way we're going to create jobs here. The way we're going to create jobs here is not just to change our tax code, but also to double our exports. That's why we've kept on pushing trade deals, but trade deals that make sure that American workers are getting a good deal.
At the time of Caterpillar's innovation in labor relations, Obama was a community organizer in Chicago and visiting fellow at the University of Chicago Law School. He must have been reading the Chicago Tribune, which ran a careful study in these events. They reported that the union was "stunned" to find that unemployed workers crossed the picket line with no remorse.
The Facts:McCain is referring to a plan supported by labor unions. Currently, workers must get at least 30% of their colleagues to sign an authorization form to ask for union representation--then hold a secret-ballot vote to finalize it. The change Obama supports, part of the Employee Free-Choice Act, would let a union be recognized by the National Labor Relations Board immediately after the majority signs the authorization. Supporters of the change say it would cut down on the ability of employers to pressure their workers to vote against a union.
The Verdict:True. McCain accurately represents Obama’s stance, although they disagree on the merits of the plan. Organized labor backs Obama’s position, while business groups & some non-union workers support McCain’s.
The Facts:All US corporations are required to pay a 35% tax on income, but US companies are allowed to defer paying taxes on income earned abroad as long as that money is being used by the company overseas and remains “unrepatriated income.” That can amount to an indefinite deferral, and does offer an incentive for US companies to do business abroad.
Obama cites 3 Senate votes by McCain, from 1995 to 2005, against repealing overseas tax deferrals. The McCain campaign supplied CNN with material arguing that the loss of US jobs to overseas operations can’t be linked directly to the tax rules.
The Verdict:Misleading. While McCain is on record voting against changing the tax deferrals, he has not said he “wants to keep giving tax breaks,” as Obama stated. Obama’s statement also oversimplifies the complexities of taxes and US jobs moving overseas.
OBAMA: What I do is, I close corporate loopholes, stop providing tax cuts to corporations that are shipping jobs overseas, so that we’re giving tax breaks to companies that are investing here in the US. I make sure that we have a health care system that allows for everyone to have basic coverage. Those are pretty important priorities. I’d pay for every dime of them. When you look at your tax policies that are directed primarily at those who are doing well and you are neglecting people who are really struggling right now, I think, that is a continuation of the last eight years. We can’t afford another four.
Source: Obama for Beginners, by Bob Neer, p. 20 , Apr 1, 2008
A: I actually believe that China will modify its behavior if we actually are tough in our negotiations. Look, we are the biggest market for China. They can’t afford to just say, “See ya later.” They’re going to have to sell here. And if we tell them you have to meet certain safety standards, that you have to enforce certain labor and environmental agreements, they will meet them. Now, could there potentially be some higher costs in the front end? Probably. But I guarantee you I don’t meet a single worker in Iowa who’s been laid off who says, “I wouldn’t rather pay a little bit more for sneakers at Wal-Mart but still have a job.”
Making it Easier for Firefighters to Get the Benefits They Deserve
More than 40 states have laws that make it easier for firefighters to prove their heart disease, lung disease, or cancer is related to the everyday hazards of their dangerous work. However, federally-hired firefighters have a very high burden of proof to document specific exposures to hazardous substances. Obama wants to reform federal workforce laws so that firefighters who got sick on the job can get the disability pay they deserve.
A: Absolutely, it was the right call because it put a whole bunch of Illinois folks to work, strong labor jobs were created in this stadium, and at the same time, we created an enormous opportunity for economic growth throughout the city of Chicago. And that’s good for the state of Illinois.
OBAMA: Well, we can afford to work for the minimum wage because most folks on this stage have a lot of money. I mean, we don’t have Mitt Romney money, but we could afford to do it for a few years. Most folks can’t. And that’s why we’ve got to fight and advocate for.
The troubles, the difficulties, the burdens of globalization are going to be placed on the backs of workers. But there’s always been another vision that says we’re in it together and that the burdens and benefits of this new economy have to be spread evenly across the economy, and nowhere do we see that more than in the issue of health care.
So I owe those unions. When their leaders call, I do my best to call them back right away. I do not consider this corrupting in any way; I do not mind feeling obligated toward home health-care workers or toward teachers. I got into politics to fight for those folks, and I am glad a union is around to remind me of their struggles.
However, there have been strains. I have proposed experimenting with merit pay for teachers, for example, and have called for raising fuel-efficiency standards despite opposition from the United Auto Workers. I like to tell myself that I will continue to weigh the issues on the merits. I hope I can always go to my union friends and explain why my position is consistent with my values and their interests.
Government policies can help, with little impact on market efficiency. We can raise the minimum wage. It may be true that any big jumps in the minimum wage discourage employers from hiring. But when the minimum wage has not been changed in nine years and has less purchasing power in real dollars than it did in 1955, so that someone working full-time today in a minimum wage job does not earn enough to raise out of poverty, such arguments carry less force. The Earned Income Tax Credit provides low-wage workers with supplemental income through the tax code should be expanded and streamlined so more families can take advantage of it.
Carter points out that the "Court flatly rejected this contention, writing [in "Youngstown Sheet & Tube Company v Sawyer"] that 'nowhere in the Constitution is the executive granted the right to seize power.' The Court continued, 'Congress has not granted the President the power to take possession of property, and the Constitution does not grant the President' that power"
What Obama did in the takeover was simple. He put the rights of the unsecured stakeholders--the United Auto Workers--ahead of the bondholders, whose rights were legally secured.
Fact Check: The president is cherry-picking a number that puts the improvement in the economy in the best possible light. The low point in jobs was reached in February 2010, and there has indeed been a gain of about 8 million jobs since then, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. (Obama, saying "businesses," appears to be referring to private sector growth of 8.2 million; adding government jobs reduces the total to 7.6 million.) But the data also show that since the start of his presidency, about 3.2 million jobs have been created--and the number of jobs in the economy still is about 1.2 million lower than when the recession began in December 2007.
Between Feb. 2010 & Dec. 2011, private sector employment climbed from 106,772,000 to 109,928,000. That's an increase of nearly 3.2 million jobs. And private sector employment increased by 1.9 million in 2011. That's the largest annual increase since 2.3 million jobs were added in 2005. There was also a net increase in manufacturing employment in 2011, when 225,000 jobs were added. The last time that happened was back in 1997.
But--what the president didn't mention--total employment remains nearly 1.7 million below where it was the month Obama took office, and more than 6 million below where it was at the best point in the Bush administration, in Jan. 2008.
I rejected this approach. We believed then as we believe now: it is small businesses--driven to innovate, invest and grow--that will regenerate the millions of sustainable jobs we so desperately need.
Pres. OBAMA: You're absolutely right that when I was sworn in the hope was that unemployment would remain around 8%. What ended up happening was that the job losses from this recession proved to be much more severe than anybody anticipated. We underestimated how severe the job losses were going to be. But those job losses took place before any stimulus, whether it was the ones that you guys have proposed or the ones that we proposed, could have ever taken into effect. Now, that's just the fact, Mike, and I don't think anybody would dispute that. You could not find an economist who would dispute that.
The 2 million jobs estimate comes from the latest report of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, which said the stimulus bill "has raised employment relative to what it otherwise would have been by 1-1/2 to 2 million." So his own economic advisers say the number could be as low as 1.5 million, but Obama took the higher number in their range. And the CEA report also cited estimates from others:
But Obama's numbers are not certain. The estimate of 3.5 million jobs is backed up by projections from different economists, but others downgraded his job estimate to 2.2 million once the stimulus legislation was finalized. It's worth noting that even Nobel-winning economists disagree sharply about macroeconomic projections. That's because macroeconomics is still a relatively new discipline. There is limited data, and even less agreement about what the available data actually mean.
OBAMA: I think everybody understands at this point that we are experiencing the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. And the financial rescue plan that Sen. McCain and I supported is an important first step. And I pushed for some core principles: making sure that taxpayer can get their money back if they’re putting money up. Making sure that CEOs are not enriching themselves thru this process. But what we haven’t yet seen is a rescue package for the middle class. So I’ve proposed four specific things that I think can help. #1, let’s focus on jobs. #2, let’s help families right away by providing them a middle-class tax cut. #3, Sen. McCain and I agree that we’ve got to help homeowners. #4, We’ve got some long-term challenges: We’ve got to fix our energy policy; our health care system; and invest in our education system.
A: Oh, come on, now. There’s a reason why I was here first. It’s because I’ve got a track record of working on these issues. If people are interested at the federal level, they can look at who was the chief co-sponsor of Illinois’ version of ENDA [the Employment Non-Discrimination Acts, focusing on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation], which we passed. If people are interested in my stance on these issues, I’ve got a track record of working with the LGBT community. What I have focused on and what I will continue to focus on is making sure that the rights that are provided by the federal government and the state governments and local governments are ones that are provided to everybody.
SUPPORTER'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING YES:Sen. ALEXANDER: Let me begin with this story. In March 2007, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued the Salvation Army for allegedly discriminating against two employees in a Boston area thrift store. What had the Salvation Army done to earn this lawsuit from the Federal Government? Well, it had required its employees to speak English on the job. The English rule was clearly posted, and the employees were given a year to learn it. But this lawsuit means that a small business in Missouri would have to hire a lawyer in order to make sure they have a clear business reason to require their employees to speak our common language on the job.
So I have an amendment to bring some common sense to this subject. It would be to take $670,000 used by the EEOC, which it is using to bring actions against employers who require their employees to speak English.OPPONENT'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING NO:Sen. KENNEDY: Let's look at what the law is and what the Alexander amendment provides. The law currently says that if there is a need to speak English on the job, fine; employers can require that. But employers cannot use English-only rules as an excuse when they want to fire minorities who are performing the job correctly. In this fact situation, those employees had performed the job correctly for 5 years.
In addition, this amendment reduces the EEOC's ability to fight all forms of discrimination because it cuts the entire budget. That means race, age, religion, and disability cases will be harmed. I hope the amendment will be defeated.LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Amendment passed, 54-44
Proponents support voting YES because:
The principle at stake here is the freedom that all workers should have to organize for better working conditions & fair wages. There are many employers around the country who honor this freedom. Unfortunately, there are also many employers who do not. These employers attempt to prevent workers from unionizing by using tactics that amount to harassment, if not outright firing. In fact, one in five people who try to organize unions are fired. These tactics are already illegal, but the penalties are so minor, they are not effective deterrents.
Opponents support voting NO because:
Democracy itself is placed at risk by this bill. The sanctity of the secret ballot is the backbone of our democratic process. Not one voter signed a card to send us here to Congress. None of us sent our campaign workers out to voters' houses armed with candidate information & a stack of authorization cards. No. We trusted democracy. We trusted the voters to cast their ballots like adults, freely, openly, without intimidation, and we live with the results. But here we are, poised to advance legislation to kill a secret ballot process.
Let's be clear. Every American has the right to organize. No one is debating that. This is a right we believe in so strongly we have codified it and made it possible for workers to do so through a secret ballot.
Status: Cloture rejected Cloture vote rejected, 51-48 (3/5ths required)
Proponents support voting YES because:
We have waited for over 10 years to have a clean vote on the minimum wage for the poorest workers in this country Low-wage workers had their wages frozen in time, from 10 years ago, but when they go to the supermarket, the food prices are higher; when they put gasoline in the car, the gasoline prices are higher; when they pay the utility bills, the utility bills are higher; when their kids get sick, the medical bills are higher. All of those things are higher. They are living in 2007, but in their wages they are living in 1997.
Opponents support voting NO because:
This bill is marked more by what is not in the bill than what is in it. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy. They create two-thirds of our Nation's new jobs, and they represent 98% of the new businesses in the US. What protection does this bill provide them? None whatsoever.
We can do better. In the interest of sending the President a final measure that provides consideration for small businesses and their workers, the very men and women who are responsible for our economy's recent growth and strength, we must do better.
OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: Federal Aviation Administration Fair Labor Management Dispute Resolution Act of 2006: Prohibits the FAA from implementing any proposed change to the FAA personnel management system in cases where the services of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service do not lead to an agreement between the Administrator and FAA employees, unless Congress authorizes the change during the 60-day period. Requires binding arbitration if Congress does not enact a bill into law within the 60-day period.
SPONSOR'S INTRODUCTORY REMARKS: Sen. OBAMA: Because what air traffic controllers do is vital to our safety, I became very concerned by a letter I received from Illinois air traffic controller Michael Hannigan. He wrote that "the air traffic controllers are not being allowed to negotiate in good faith with the FAA."
What was clear in Michael's plea was the sense that he and his colleagues felt that they were being treated unfairly. I looked into it and came to the conclusion that if we did not restore a fair negotiation procedure, it would threaten agency morale and effectiveness.
The problem is this: the FAA Administrator currently has the extraordinary authority to impose wages and working conditions on her workers without arbitration. In order to do that, she merely has to declare an impasse in negotiations and if Congress does not stop her from imposing her terms and conditions within 60 days, the Administrator can go ahead and act unilaterally. That authority denies air traffic controllers and all other FAA employees the opportunity to engage in and conclude negotiations in good faith.
It is in the best interest of the agency and public safety to have management and labor cooperate in contract negotiations.
EXCERPTS OF BILL:
LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation; never came to a vote.
OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: A bill to provide for an increase in the Federal Minimum wage and to ensure that increases in the Federal minimum wage keep pace with any pay adjustments for Members of Congress.
SPONSOR'S INTRODUCTORY REMARKS: Sen. CLINTON: This legislation will raise the minimum wage over the next two years and link future increases in the minimum wage to Congressional raises. Today, working parents earning the minimum wage are struggling to make ends meet and to build better lives for their children. The Federal minimum wage is currently $5.15 an hour, an amount that has not been increased since 1997. Sadly, during that time, Congress has given itself eight annual pay raises. We can no longer stand by and regularly give ourselves a pay increase while denying a minimum wage increase to help the more than 7 million men and women working hard across this nation. If Members of Congress need an annual cost of living adjustment, then certainly the lowest-paid members of our society do too.
My legislation would increase the minimum wage first to $5.85 an hour, then to $6.55 an hour, and ultimately to $7.25 an hour within the next two years. In addition, my legislation then ensures that every time Congress gives itself a raise in the future that Americans get a raise too. This is the right and fair thing to do for hardworking Americans.
LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; never came to a vote.
A bill to provide for a program of temporary extended unemployment compensation. Provides for federal-state agreements under which a state will make temporary extended unemployment compensation payments to individuals who:
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