More than 300 progressive activists and labor leaders on Wednesday embraced “raising wages” as the theme of a series of battles in 2015 to reverse policies that have led to record levels of income inequality and a shrinking middle class. “We are tired of people talking about inequality as if nothing can be done,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka at the “Raising Wages” summit in Washington. “The answer is simple: Raise the wages of the 90 percent of Americans whose wages are lower today than they were in 1997.”
Obama Cheerleads Economy As Warren Warns
Obama talks up economic progress in Detroit as argument to do more for middle-class. W. Post:“…it’s important for us to hear some good news, not to make us complacent, but to give us confidence that if we work harder we can make even more good news.”
While Sen. Warren tells AFL-CIO “wage summit” that “middle-class is in deep trouble”:“The trickle-down experiment that began in the Reagan years failed America’s middle class … We need to talk about how to build a future … We believe in making investments – in roads and bridges and power grids, in education, in research … [And] make sure that we pay—and corporations pay—a fair share to build a future for all of us.”
Check out video and transcripts from AFL-CIO National Summit on Raising Wages.
Obama’s Michigan audience worries about trade agreements. Reuters:“…his push for new trade agreements is controversial in Michigan, where advocates and local officials say a Korean free trade agreement has helped that country’s auto industry significantly more than the U.S. sector.”
Obama To Announce New Mortgage Policy
Obama to speak on housing policy today. AZ Republic:“President Barack Obama will announce Thursday in Phoenix a plan to cut the mortgage insurance in half for most first-time homebuyers and some existing owners [which is] expected to save the typical buyer $900 a year in mortgage insurance costs, and allow 250,000 more families buy their first U.S. home…”
Too modest, say critics. NYT:“The president is only tinkering around the edges, said Stan Humphries, chief economist at Zillow, the real estate website. Mr. Obama’s new proposal and others like it will have little impact until incomes rise more broadly, savings expand and young adults dump their roommates and move out of their parents’ houses.”
Congress Moves To Weaken Obamacare
House to vote on making it easier for employers to skirt health insurance mandate. Politico:“The House will vote again on Thursday to lengthen Obamacare’s full-time workweek definition to 40 hours, but the Senate has work to do … Lobbyists backing the workweek bill said they haven’t yet lined up the 60 votes … many Democrats and even some prominent conservative policy experts say the change will do more harm than good … Millions more people work a traditional 40-hour workweek than the 30-hour range, so putting the cutoff at 40 may give employers an incentive to game the hours of a much larger group of workers.”‘
Obama would veto reports USA Today.
Cost growth of premiums has slowed. McClatchy:“Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia saw slower growth in job-based health insurance premiums after the Affordable Care Act became law … But because of slow wage growth, average annual health insurance premiums ate up 20 percent or more of household income in 37 states in 2013 … Of the 31 states that saw a slowdown in premium growth, 12 experienced declines of three percent or more…”
GOP Short Of Votes On Keystone
Keystone short of veto-proof majority. Politico:“That requires a hefty 67 votes in the Senate, and so far, the bill has an estimated 63 supporters. Corralling four other ‘yes’ votes will prove to be a difficult, and perhaps impossible, task.”
First offshore wind project suffers blow. NYT:“Cape Wind, a massive wind farm proposed in Nantucket Sound, has been dealt a setback that threatens its finances … NStar and National Grid, the two largest utilities in Massachusetts, which had agreed to buy three-fourths of the wind farm’s power, said late Tuesday that they were canceling their contracts because Cape Wind had failed to meet a Dec. 31 deadline to complete financing and begin construction.”
EPA has plan for states that don’t comply with climate regs. NYT:“The Environmental Protection Agency will force states to comply with a federal ‘model rule’ to cut their carbon emissions if the states do not submit customized plans under the Obama administration’s new climate change regulations…”
“Much of world’s fossil fuel reserve must stay buried” reports The Guardian:“Vast amounts of oil in the Middle East, coal in the US, Australia and China and many other fossil fuel reserves will have to be left in the ground to prevent dangerous climate change, according to the first analysis to identify which existing reserves cannot be burned.”
Momentum For Gas Tax Hike
Another GOP senator opens door to gas tax hike. The Hill:“Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) defended the gas tax and said that it is one of the methods on the table as the Environment and Public Works Committee figures out how to better fund infrastructure projects … ‘It’s not a tax. It’s a user fee,’ he said. ‘A user fee is different from taxes.’”
Top Senate Dem agrees. Politico:“‘Now’s the time do it. But we ought to do it in a thoughtful way,’ [Sen. Dick] Durbin said, adding that the regressive nature of the gas tax must be confronted to shield lower- and middle-income drivers. ‘We’ve got to find some tax relief for them.’”
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