Background on Jobs
Jobs issues in 2016 election cycle
- Unemployment Rate:
- People who are jobless, looking for a job, and available for work are unemployed (the unemployment rate only counts people who are looking)
- The labor force is made up of the employed and the unemployed; people who are neither employed nor unemployed are not in the labor force (the labor participation rate does not count people who are not looking).
- Underemployment measures whether the labor force is being fully utilized in terms of skills and experience: additionally counting highly skilled workers in low skill jobs and part-time workers that would prefer to be full-time. The official unemployment rates do not count underemployment.
- Minimum Wage:
- The minimum wage is currently $7.25, increased from $5.15 in 2009, by an act of Congress.
- The last increase took place in three stages over a period of years; another increase will require another act of Congress.
- Some candidates want to increase it again now, and automatically increase it to keep up with inflation (known as "indexing").
- President Obama has proposed (and by 2014, some states have already adopted) a new minimum wage of $10.10 per hour.
- Pay Equity:
In 2015, female full-time workers made only 79 cents for every dollar earned by men doing equivalent work, a gender wage gap of 21%. Pay equity may be affected by the segregation of jobs by gender: jobs predominantly done by women pay less on average than comparable jobs predominantly done by men. The gender gap widens further for minority women.
Jobs issues from 2014 election cycle
- Card Check: refers to a unionization process where potential union members sign (or check off) a card indicating they would join the union. When a majority of workers have checked their cards, the union forms. Most Republicans argue that Card Check inappropriately replaces a secret ballot process, and is inherently coercive. Most Democrats argue that Card Check protects workers from corporate anti-union tactics during unionization efforts.
- Right-to-Work: refers to a state law against requiring union membership. The opposite is a "union shop" (or "closed shop"), where employees are required to pay union dues as a condition for working. 22 states are "right-to-work" states (mostly in the South and West) and 28 are not. A "national right-to-work law" would abolish union shops, and convert them all to "open shops," where employees may join the union voluntarily but are not required.
- American Jobs Act: refers to a series of legislative proposals made by President Obama beginning in Sept. 2011. Initially, the legislation was proposed as one large bill (S. 1549 and H.R. 12), but the bill stalled in Congress. Hence Obama broke up the bill into numerous smaller pieces. The key components are:
- $245 billion for Payroll tax cut extension (maintaining a reduction in the Social Security FICA deduction).
- $57 billion for extending unemployment benefits
- $65 billion for direct hiring of municipal employees, focusing on teachers, police, and firefighters
- $65 billion for infrastructure construction.
- The term "shovel ready" refers to the previous round of stimulus bills, which focused on projects which could start immediately.
- “Job Creators” is the 2012 campaign’s term for business owners and other wealthy people who “create jobs.” Generally, conservatives refer to “job creators” as a euphemism for cutting taxes for the wealthy, based on the “trickle-down” theory that doing so will create jobs. Liberals use the term “the Top 1%” as an opposing euphemism, implying that the wealthiest top 1% should pay more taxes than the rest of the 99%.
- Unemployment insurance is paid by all employees as "state UI taxes", at a rate of 0.8% of income for the first $7,000 of annual income.
- As a result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed by Congress in February 2009 (known as "The Stimulus Bill"), many unemployed people can receive up to 99 weeks of unemployment benefits.
- Normally, unemployment payments are taxable income; but the Stimulus Bill exempted the first $2,400 worth of unemployment income received during the 'tax year' of 2009 will be exempted from being considered as taxable income on the Federal level, when American taxpayers file their 2009 IRS tax return paperwork in early 2010.
- Many candidates in 2011 push for extending unemployment benefits beyond 99 weeks, since 7 million people have maxed out (known as "99ers").
- Total union membership stands at about 16 million workers, or 14% of the workforce.
- Union membership has been falling steadily since 1958, when it stood at 35% of the workforce.
- 22 states in the US are right-to-work states.
In the other 28, if a business is a union shop, you have to join the union if you want to work there.
There is no federal right-to-work law; it's determined by each state.
- H-1B Visas, a key issue in the immigration reform debate, refer to visas for "specialty occupations."
Generally, H-1B visas are issued in the fields of science, technology, engineering, or other professional services.
H-1B visa holders are non-residents but may apply for permanent green cards.
- Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) pushed a “union-busting” bill in early 2011, restricting collective bargaining rights of all public employees, including teachers. The bill passed, but large-scale protests led to a recall election in 2012. Gov. Walker survived the recall, and got re-elected in 2014. In July 2014, the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld the law.
Casino regulations are made by states, not by the federal government. Casino gambling is an interesting issue because politicians determine their issue stances on any of several different grounds:
- Morality: casinos are wrong because they prey on poorer people.
- Economic: casinos earn tax revenue for the state and the gambling would take place anyway, somewhere else.
- Employment: casinos create jobs during their construction, and create permanent jobs to operate the casino.
- Local development: Often a state will seek a casino because a neighboring state has one, with revenues lost to the home state,
The Farming Crisis
- The U.S. agricultural sector faced strong foreign competition in a weakened global trade setting from the 1990s into the new millineum.
The value of U.S. agricultural exports has been reduced, falling from a record of almost $60 billion in fiscal 1996 to $51 billion in 2000.
Exports recovered to over $60 billion by 2004 and increased to $136 billion in 2011.
- Farm income has fallen: Although somewhat buffered from further declines by increases in government payments (counter cyclical marketing loan benefits and emergency/disaster assistance payments), net farm income fell from $55 billion in 1996 to $40 billion in 2000; but recovered since then. USDA-reported growth in gross farm income and net income are:
The Farm Bill
- The annual Farm Bill provides for numerous subsidies to numerous classes of farmers. The Farm Bill is heavily supported by Senators from farm states.
- Since 2000, the farm bill has cost taxpayers more than $168 billion per decade,
using loans, price supports, and payments to protect family farmers from fluctuations of weather, price, and economic conditions.
One of its controversial programs pays farmers NOT to grow crops -- to avoid over-supply which would drive down prices.
- About 75% of farm subsidies go to the biggest 10% of farming companies, such as Archer-Daniels-Midland (ADM), a major employer in farm states.
- Farm subsidies originated during the Great Depression in the 1930s, when Pres. Roosevelt initiated the Agricultural Adjustment Act. Its original intent was a temporary solution for the Dust Bowl crisis, but it was made permanent in 1949 and has been renewed for six decades since.
- In 1996, the Freedom to Farm Act proposed removing price supports and letting the free market determine prices. But the farm lobby -- big agribusiness like ADM who contribute generously to congressional campaigns -- has stopped Congress from killing the subsidies.
- The farm lobby primarily funds Republican Party candidates, but Democrats also support the farm bill because it contains food stamp funding. In 2013, Republicans attempted to separate food stamps from the farm bill but Pres. Obama threatened to veto any farm bill which did not include food stamps.
Foreign trade and import regulations are covered on the Free Trade page.
Corporate welfare issues are covered on the Government Reform page.
Earned-income Tax Credits are covered on the Tax Reform page.