Barack Obama on Jobs
Junior Senator (IL); President-Elect
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.
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: 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.
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.
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:
|Other candidates on Jobs:||Barack Obama on other issues:|
Newly elected in 2008 & seated in 2009:
Newly appointed in 2009;
special election in 2010:
Announced retirement as of 2010:
Up for 6-year term in 2010:
(13 Democrats; 15 Republicans)
Senate Votes (analysis)