Low Wages? Low Sales.


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The Middle Class Squeeze Is Worrying Big Retailers, Too

Earlier this month, CAP released a report highlighting how squeezed middle-class Americans have become. That report showed that while the cost of attaining middle class security has increased by over $10,000 since 2000, wages for most Americans have remained stagnant.

The cycle of economic stagnation—low wages, leading to weak demand, leading to slow growth, leading again to low wages—is not only hurting America’s hard-working citizens, but it is also hurting businesses where those workers might spend their money and in turn boost the entire US economy. Wall Street is finally starting to get it: Standard & Poor’s has issued a report saying that inequality is holding back economic growth and Morgan Stanley has warned investors that stronger wage growth is critical to our economic growth.

A new CAP report released today provides further evidence that this squeezed middle class weakens our entire economy, hurting both businesses and the consumers who support them. The report, ”Retailer Revelations,” looked at the financial reports of the top 100 retailers in America and statements of Wall Street’s top economists about the outlook for the country’s biggest retailers. The consensus: trickledown economics is not working.

It has taken more than five years for retail spending per person to reach its prerecession level in the United States and business have begun to realize the impact that is having on their bottom line. Using new information to show the impact middle-class stagnation has had on the economy, the report demonstrates that businesses’ support for economic policies that grow the middle class would directly benefit their own business.

Here are some key findings:

  • Eighty-eight percent of the top 100 US retailers consider weak consumer spending a risk to their stock price.
  • Sixty-eight percent cite falling or stagnant incomes as a risk to their stock price — roughly double the percent that cited them in 2006.
  • Fifty-seven percent cite rising costs of essentials like housing, healthcare and energy, as risks to their stock price, further showing the middle class squeeze.
  • Wall Street economists even argue that low wages drive low demand and high unemployment.
  • Retailers could see their bottom line increase by supporting a growth-oriented agenda with policies such as a minimum wage increase.

BOTTOM LINE: America’s biggest retailers have realized that when the middle class loses, everyone loses. It’s time conservative lawmakers and pundits realized it too. An economy that works for everyone is an economy that grows from the middle out.

Cooking The Books


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Two Seemingly Tiny Rule Changes By House GOP Will Rig The Game For The Rich

The new Republican Congress is wasting no time on high-profile political maneuvers to prove their right-wing agenda. Yesterday, the House GOP, bucking some of its own, took its 54th vote to dismantle the Affordable Care Act by voting to redefine full-time as a 40-hour work week (the move would leave up to 500,000 without insurance and increase deficits by $53 billion over ten years). Today, it passed legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline instead of working to create clean energy jobs and protect public health. And next week, it is expected to use the need to fund the Department of Homeland Security as a chance to please their far-right anti-immigrant base by defunding the president’s recent common-sense executive actions on immigration.

House Republicans, however, did something else this week that may be getting less attention, but is no less important: They passed the new rules package for the 114th Congress. And two of these little-known but significant rules speak volumes about the broader Republican agenda to favor the wealthy and corporations at the expense of everyone else.

A budgeting method that means a return to failed trickle-down economics

An important part of the lawmaking process is the evaluation of the potential law’s fiscal impact — how much it is projected to change federal spending and revenues. In the first rule change, the House GOP now directs Congress’s nonpartisan scorekeepers to use a new system called “dynamic scoring” when evaluating some proposed legislation: a move that will make it easier to cut taxes.

While the details are quite technical, what Republicans are attempting to do amounts to fuzzy math. Take this example: Republicans propose a tax cut. Scorekeepers have to evaluate how much it will cost. The new rule requires them to predict how the tax cut will affect the overall economy in the future–something that requires a lot of speculation, and could give the impression of reducing how much a tax cut would cost. Now say Democrats propose an investment in education or infrastructure. The rule does not allow scorekeepers to apply the same potentially beneficial predictive speculation to appropriations bills, where these investments are generally made.

This is in effect cooking the books in favor of tax cuts and trickle-down economics. We’ve seen very well how that went under President George W. Bush, whose massive tax cuts in 2001-2003 irresponsibly skewed the tax system in favor of the wealthy and subsequently forced dramatic cuts in important safety net programs. And more recently, Kansas has made the point again. With the promise of a “shot of adrenaline” for the state economy, the state passed massive tax cuts favoring the wealthy; instead, it has gotten a gaping hole in the budget and an under-performing state economy.

A move to hold Social Security hostage

With the second rule change, the House GOP have added a restriction to Social Security that could jeopardize the trust fund and help Republicans in their efforts to cut benefits.

There’s a routine transfer that happens between the Social Security retirement trust fund, which is financially secure, and the Social Security disability program, which has been under more strain in recent years due to demographic shifts such as aging baby boomers. It’s happened 11 times. The new rule passed by House Republicans prevents this transfer, unless it also includes new revenues or benefit cuts. The disability program is expected to run short of money in 2016, which means that beneficiaries will face up to 20 percent cuts in their payments without a transfer between the trust funds. In effect, the rule holds Social Security hostage so that conservatives can extract more concessions in a potential entitlement reform.

BOTTOM LINE: While this week has had a number of high-profile legislative pushes, little-known rule changes have had big effects in revealing the backward priorities of the new GOP Congress. Dynamic scoring for tax cuts will make trickle-down policies that favor the wealthy easier than before. And a restriction on a routine Social Security transfer could mean more benefits cuts for working families.

the World must participate ~~ a better life, jobs, eduction, wages …


Weekly Address: America Is Leading the World In this week’s address, the President reiterated the forceful and optimistic message of American leadership that he delivered in his speech before the United Nations General Assembly earlier this week. America is leading the world against the most pressing challenges, including the fight to degrade and destroy ISIL, the effort to stop the Ebola epidemic, and the movement to confront the threat from climate change.

The world looks to America and its commitment to freedom in the face of uncertainty, and as the President said, it will continue to do so for generations to come.

Click here to watch this week’s Weekly Address.

Watch: President Obama delivers the weekly address.

Top Stories
President Obama on Climate Change: “We Have to Answer the Call”On Tuesday, at the U.N. Climate Summit, the President highlighted the ambitious clean energy investments and carbon emission reductions the United States has made. And while we’ve stepped up to act on climate change, President Obama made it clear that it’s time for our global partners to stand up too, because “no nation is immune to climate change.”

We have to answer the call. We know what we have to do to avoid irreparable harm. We have to cut carbon pollution in our own countries to prevent the worst effects of climate change. We have to adapt to the impacts that, unfortunately, we can no longer avoid. And we have to work together as a global community to tackle this global threat before it is too late.

Check out the chart below and see why we can’t wait to act on climate change:

Learn more about It's On Us.

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“We Choose Hope Over Fear”

On Wednesday, the President addressed the United Nations General Assembly in New York City to discuss matters that demand the urgent attention of our global partners.

During his address, he called on the U.N. to join the United States and reject the cancer of violent extremism. Here’s what the President asked of the international community:

  • Degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL.
  • We must bring the world together, especially the Muslim community, to reject the ideologies of terrorists, intolerance, and extremism.
  • We must address the cycle of conflict that creates the conditions terrorist prey upon.
  • We must ensure that Arab and Muslim Nations focus on the extraordinary potential of their people.

“We choose hope over fear,” the President said. “We see the future not as something out of our control, but as something we can shape for the better through concerted and collective effort.”

Watch the President's remarks at UNGA.

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Attorney General Eric Holder: “The People’s Lawyer”

On Thursday afternoon, speaking from the State Dining Room, the President announced that Eric Holder will be resigning from his current position as U.S. Attorney General. He applauded Holder’s passion and commitment to the American justice system and detailed the work he’s accomplished during his six-year tenure.

During his remarks, the President emphasized the superb job that Holder has done:

I chose him to serve as Attorney General because he believes, as I do, that justice is not just an abstract theory. It’s a living and breathing principle. It’s about how our laws interact with our daily lives. It’s about whether we can make an honest living, whether we can provide for our families; whether we feel safe in our own communities and welcomed in our own country; whether the words that the Founders set to paper 238 years ago apply to every single one of us and not just some.

President Obama announces Eric Holder's resignation.

President Barack Obama hugs Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., after statements announcing Holder’s resignation, in the State Dining Room of the White House, Sept. 25, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Holder will continue to serve as Attorney General until the President nominates his successor, and the successor is approved by the Senate.

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As always, to see even more of this week’s events, watch the latest West Wing Week.