WASHINGTON– In this week’s address, President Obama told the American people that although the United States leads the world in new ideas, innovative businesses and creative entrepreneurs, too many Americans are still struggling to get by. It is time for Congress to act on the President’s proposals, including extending the payroll tax cut, cutting red tape, and getting our construction workers back to work, so that we can get our economy on firmer ground and ensure that anyone who wants a job can find one. President Obama believes the American people deserve more than political brinksmanship, and urges anyone who is frustrated by the gridlock in Washington to let their elected officials know that it is time to put aside partisanship and act in the best interests of the country.
Category Archives: Congress
WASHINGTON—In this week’s address, President Obama called on Democrats and Republicans to work together to grow the economy and get Americans back to work. The President has outlined a number of steps Congress can take right now to spur growth and create jobs, including extending tax cuts for working and middle class families, cutting red tape to encourage new businesses to grow and hire, passing trade deals that will support tens of thousands of jobs, and giving our out-of-work construction workers opportunities to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure.
For the moment we have put the debt crisis behind us. That is small comfort as the economy at large, the job situation, the housing market, and the financial markets continue to suffer. The Tea Party in Congress and its enablers should never have been allowed to threaten America’s good name in order to advance their view of a diminished government and trickle-down economics. They should never have been allowed to force a closed-door, hurried revision of our entire economy. And they certainly should never have been able to get away with a deal that increases inequities in our society and our economy. You, like most Americans, may have watched in dismay—or even in disgust—as Washington fumbled the self-imposed crisis.
Putting aside the distasteful process and the worrisome prospect that government by hostage-taking will continue, this week I had to face the immediate questions: Was the resulting deal going to help the economy? Would it create jobs? Would it reduce the crippling inequities in our economy and society? Would it bring down the deficit, as was the ostensible goal? On all counts my answer was “No,” and I voted against the resolution on the House floor.
I am pleased that we as a country are paying our debts, but I lament the damage done to the institutions of government and the good name of the United States as the most reliable, most creditworthy entity in the entire financial world. I lament especially the damage done to our view of ourselves. The negotiations were based on Tea Party premises: that our deficit is the principal concern facing us, that America is a pitiful debtor nation, that we must lower our sights, that we must end the quest to free our people from want and inequalities, that we cannot afford any longer to be the nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all are created equal. Are we no longer the America of the 1940’s that paid for millions of GI’s to go to college and buy homes, while rebuilding ourselves and Europe, when we were faced with a national debt much greater than today?
The deal this week may have the beneficial effect of showing that in the long run the United States intends to bring expenditures more in line with revenues. In the short term, though, the deal is a downer. It not only avoids dealing with today’s principal needs—job creation and economic growth—it actually will cost jobs and preclude any economic stimulation. At a time when clearly the economy is shaky, it is a mistake to declare, as the deal effectively does, that the federal government will have no direct hand in getting the economy moving. To meet next year’s target of spending reductions will require cuts equivalent to the budgets of all the following government operations combined: the EPA, the National Park Service, the Small Business Administration, FEMA emergency and firefighter grants, and the Women-Infants-and-Children food grants. In subsequent years, the cuts would be even ten times larger. Why should we rally to the cry, “No, We Can’t?” Have we forgotten that barely a decade ago we paid down the deficit with strong economic growth, job creation, and budgetary discipline without resorting to gimmicks, triggers, or Balanced Budget Amendments?
I would have liked to vote on a plan that protected the major functions granted to Congress under the Constitution rather than turning them over to an undemocratic, isolated committee of twelve. I would have liked to vote on a plan that would have accelerated withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, saving lives and dollars, and that would have produced savings in our healthcare costs and dealt with the looming loss of 30 percent of doctors’ reimbursement under Medicare. Instead, the plan that was presented was negotiated on the turf of the Tea Party, which seems to think that it is anti-capitalist to ask those individuals and companies doing well in this economy to bear some of the load, even though the one or two percent of people with the highest income have seen their income grow by about 25 percent while everyone else has seen an effective decline and America’s largest corporations have reaped immense profits by using loopholes and offshore tax havens to avoid paying taxes.
Nevertheless, I am making it my job to beat back the pessimistic view in Washington that gave rise to this deal. We must not let this deal be the chart of our country’s future course. It is based on false premises that fail to recognize the inherent fairness that is characteristic of our people, the ingenuity and entrepreneurial energy that have sparked our economy for generations, and the unshakable American meliorism that says we can and must make life better for each succeeding generation. I think that now, more than ever, we must have a realistic view of our situation so that we can strongly defend equality and build a community that reinforces the opportunities for each individual.
Member of Congress
Unions and the rights of their workers are being trampled on, when is it going to stop? Maybe after work conditions and wages are returned to their pre-1920’s standing and the return of the “Robber Barons” who lined the pockets of political cronies to looked the other way.
By Ross Eisenbrey, Economic Policy Institute Vice President
posted from The Hill’s Congress Blog
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently filed a complaint against the Boeing Corporation based on evidence that Boeing moved work away from Washington State as punishment for the employees having exercised their legally protected right to strike. Politicians who either don’t know the law or don’t care about it have condemned the NLRB, including Mitt Romney and his fellow Republican candidates for President. They want to rile up the business community by painting the decision as the President’s, even though it was made by a career government employee on behalf of an independent agency outside the President’s control.
Various senators and congressmen are now trying to influence the Labor Board’s ultimate decision, which is not a policy decision but an adjudication. The law and policy were provided by Congress in 1935 when the National Labor Relations Act was passed by Congress and signed by Franklin Roosevelt. The NLRB’s only responsibility is to apply the law to the facts of this case, an undertaking that should be free from political influence or intimidation. And yet a growing number of legislators are threatening to slash the NLRB’s budget and punish its General Counsel if the case proceeds in the manner proscribed by statute.
This attack on the NLRB is political and self-interested. After all, the NLRB’s administrative law judge has not even held a trial yet. The only decision that has been made – and all legal scholars agree it was defensible – was by the General Counsel in response to a charge brought by the International Association of Machinists that there was good cause to believe that Boeing had violated the law. In other words, the union provided enough evidence of Boeing’s motivation that a trial in the matter is justified.
The members of the NLRB will not even review the case unless and until the trial judge’s decision is appealed. So all the howling about the NLRB’s assault on capitalism and free enterprise is premature, to say the least.
Sadly, the political pressure is having an effect already. Even Democrats are racing to say that, of course, business has the right to relocate anywhere it wants to, even to a so-called right-to-work state like South Carolina. And they’re right, up to a point.
Businesses are free to relocate to other states or countries. South Carolina has been a stop-over for businesses relocating from the north for decades; many companies, from textile manufacturers to furniture companies and paper processors, often go on to countries like China after absorbing the tax breaks and other subsidies South Carolina offers them. Unions are rare in South Carolina, but independent unions in China are actually illegal, and wages are even lower in Chinese textile plants than in Gaston or Winnsboro.
But the motive for a relocation matters. Moving for cheaper labor is legal. But closing a plant in Los Angeles and moving to North Dakota to avoid hiring Hispanics or African Americans is not legal. Shutting a factory in New York and moving it to South Carolina to avoid hiring Jews or Muslims would not be legal, either. One can imagine other illegal motivations, but the point is that we reasonably limit relocations when they violate laws. In Boeing’s case, the bad motive that has been alleged is a desire to punish the machinist union members for exercising their legally protected right to strike. E-mail traffic among Boeing managers is alleged to show that it was due to the desire to punish the Washington State Boeing workers for having engaged in lawful strikes that airline production work was transferred. Congress has prohibited job decisions based explicitly on unlawful animus, whether it’s hostility to blacks, women, Mormons, Muslims, Jews or unions. Instead of browbeating the neutral prosecutor and judge, why not let them do their jobs and apply the law to the facts? We used to call that due process.
Ross Eisenbrey is a lawyer and former commissioner of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Review Committee. He has been vice president of the Economic Policy Institute since 2003.
>President Obama’s Weekly Address 4/9/11: President Obama on the Budget Compromise to Avoid a Government Shutdown
>After weeks of negotiations, President Obama and leaders from both the Democratic and Republican parties in Congress found common ground in an agreement about the United States’ budget. This means the government will remain open to serve the public, including small businesses who need need loans to grow, families who’ve applied for mortgages and others who are visiting national parks and museums. It also means that hundreds of thousands of Americans – including brave men and women in uniform – will get paychecks on time.
In his Weekly Address, the President discusses the importance of the bipartisan budget agreement that represents both a significant investment in the United States’ future – and the largest annual spending cut in our history.
>The President explains his push for exporting American goods in Asia, and urges Congress to address earmarks as a signal of fiscal reform.
Congress last week passed legislation that will send an additional $685 million to New Jersey – $399 million in increased Medicaid funds and $286 million to save teacher jobs. If properly implemented, these additional federal funds will save jobs; help the state’s ravaged economy and protect services to the most vulnerable.
But New Jersey’s share of the Medicaid relief was $181 million less than lawmakers expected, and that could punch a substantial hole in the state’s already anemic revenues.
JOBS FOR TEACHERS – $286 million
The new $286 million in federal funds going directly to school districts will help retain existing teachers, rehire former teachers or hire new teachers. According to the U.S. Department of Education, these funds should protect the jobs of about 3,900 teachers in New Jersey. That is about a third of the teachers expected to lose jobs as a result of cuts in state aid to education this year.
Gov. Christie initially opposed the aid for more teachers, but shifted his position after learning the federal government would distribute the funds in New Jersey if the state did not. That’s water under the bridge. It is now important that the state Department of Education work with the districts to accommodate these funds in their budgets as soon as possible to avoid any unnecessary teacher layoffs.
FEDERAL MEDICAID FUNDS – $399 million
In an effort to help states weather the lingering recession, Washington has been providing extra Medicaid funds to help protect the neediest residents. New Jersey already has spent about $1.4 billion through May of this year and expects to receive about $800 million more through December. The problem is that Gov. Christie (and about 30 other governors) reasonably assumed these Medicaid funds would be extended until June 2011, to cover the second half of FY2011 and so they balanced their budgets accordingly.
New Jersey built $580 million from the relief program into its revenue estimates, but will only receive $399 million.
This money is needed to avoid further downward spiraling of the state’s economy. There is general agreement that the recovery will be slow, with the potential for a “double dip” recession. States are most at risk because traditionally state revenues don’t rebound until a year or two after national recovery sets in, largely because unemployment is the last area to improve when a recession ends.
The relief Congress approved, however, falls $181 million short of expectations. The shortfall won’t require an immediate budget adjustment, but if it isn’t made up by increases in state revenue collections, program cuts might be required.
The downsizing of Medicaid relief payments by one-third is the result of increasingly partisan political wrangling in Congress, where the legislation got bogged down in a false debate over deficit spending.
With only a few exceptions, Republicans were united in the Senate and the House against the bill. They argued the nation could not afford to provide the relief, even though the bill was fully funded by closing corporate tax loopholes and eliminating the current increase in food stamps by 2014. The bill, plainly speaking, would not have increased the federal deficit by one penny.
Gov. Christie was right to join other governors in urging Congress to pass this necessary fiscal relief measure, and all of the Democratic members from New Jersey did vote in favor of the aid. Unfortunately, the governor wasn’t as persuasive with the members from his own party. New Jersey’s five Republican members joined in the partisan bloc that opposed the relief for state budgets, even after it was scaled back.
The opposition is even more surprising given the blame assigned to the state’s Congressional delegation for New Jersey’s tepid return on its citizens’ investment in federal taxes. New Jersey lags almost every other state in federal aid received as a percentage of federal income tax paid. For every dollar New Jerseyans pay in federal taxes, they get back 61 cents, according to one estimate.
Perhaps that’s due, in part, to state budget writers leaving too much federal money on the table. (see chart)
There are several instances of substantial federal dollars being lost because of minor cuts in the state budget. Take, for example, health care. For every $1 cut from the state’s successful FamilyCare health insurance program for working families, the state lost a $2 federal match. The governor’s rejection of $7.5 million in funding for family planning clinics cost the state a $9 match for each $1 spent by the state. Given the state’s diminishing revenues and the governor’s insistence on no tax increases, it seems folly to turn down money from the federal government for new teachers, social safety net programs or health care for working families and young women.
The total in lost federal funds from all state program cuts in New Jersey was about $250 million, according to NJPP estimates. That loss will multiply itself in subsequent years if the cuts are not restored.