Overtime Rule Goes to OMB, 13.5 Million Americans Could Soon See Higher Wages

Overtime Rule Goes to OMB, 13.5 Million Americans Could Soon See Higher Wages

President Obama’s proposal to restore overtime benefits to millions of hardworking Americans cleared another hurdle last night when after months of considering public comments, the Department of Labor (DOL)  transmitted the final rule to the Office of Management and Budget . We don’t know exactly what’s in the final rule, but there’s been no indication from the administration that the details have substantially changed. If approved as proposed, the income threshold above which salaried employees are exempt from time-and-a-half pay for every hour worked over 40 hours a week would more than double, from $23,660 a year to $50,440. According to an analysis from the Economic Policy Institute, 13.5 million Americans would directly benefit from the new rule. Overtime pay is like a minimum wage for the middle class. And just like the minimum wage, the overtime threshold has been allowed to erode away for decades: Back in 1975, 65 percent of salaried workers qualified for overtime; today only 11 percent do. But unlike the minimum wage, the Obama administration has the power to raise the overtime threshold without congressional approval through the DOL’s rule-making authority. It’s a long and drawn out process, but it looks like it’s on track to be completed by the end of summer. No doubt a Republican president would reverse this rule — something middle class voters might be thinking about when they cast their ballots in the fall.

It’s Ok, New York—Seattle’s Still Standing

It’s Ok, New York—Seattle’s Still Standing

Dear New York City, I know that recently a  certain Murdoch-owned newspaper  may have tried to scare you about the potential minimum wage increase that Governor Andrew Cuomo is proposing. To make their point, this Paper Who Must Not Be Named pointed to Seattle, the land of ever-increasing rents and tall trees, as an example of a city that raised their wage and is now paying dearly with job losses that, to hear them tell it, make it sound like we’re living in a wasteland with a busted Space Needle and not a single barista in sight. But I want to tell you, from here on the ground and with statistics and studies in hand: It’ll be ok. When the Seattle City Council passed a $15 minimum wage 2014, they were fully aware that other cities and states would be looking to it as a model—would this grand experiment called Paying People Even A Fraction of What Their Time is Worth end poorly? And of course, it depends on who you ask; those who are fundamentally opposed to minimum wage increases—like, for example, the American Enterprise Institute, who you may know as the sole citation of That One Newspaper’s op-ed— have found models that work for their narrative , while others, like  a state economist , our own Office of Economic Development , and basically anyone else , have actually shown quite a bit of job growth. It’s important to point out two things, though: First, that we’re not even a full year into this experiment yet. As I’ve written before , it’s just too soon to really see the impacts—positive or negative—of the new minimum wage because not even a complete 12 months has passed since workers saw a boost to their pay checks. And second, while the job losses or gains may all be hypothetical at this point, what is real is the higher earnings of thousands of workers in the city . Seattle’s job market may be cooling just like the rest of the country , or it may be booming thanks to tech jobs , or it may be a fiery hellscape of unemployed
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Daily Clips: March 14th, 2016

Daily Clips: March 14th, 2016

Tweet of the day: Marco Rubio sounds like a really, really nice guy. Christian values and all. Marco Rubio sounds like a great guy pic.twitter.com/UMaKVQbezf — Brian Gaar (@briangaar) March 14, 2016 The hard power of “soft” voter-ID laws:  “States are passing special measures to head off attacks on the constitutionality of strict voter-identification requirements. But such measures are often just as disenfranchising as the laws they shield.” Progressives also have an identity crisis on their hands:  “The strength of Bernie Sanders’s challenge to Hillary Clinton from the left, like the radicalization of American conservatism, is a symptom of the decay of a moderate brand of progressivism that rose in the 1990s when Bill Clinton was president and Tony Blair was Britain’s prime minister. Its ideology was rooted in a belief that capitalism would deliver the economic goods and could be balanced by a ‘competent public sector, providing services of quality to the citizen and social protection for those who are vulnerable.'”

Donald Trump Was the Dominant Chimpanzee at the GOP Debate

Donald Trump Was the Dominant Chimpanzee at the GOP Debate

Here’s Jane Goodall talking about chimpanzee aggression: I listened to this today because it reminds me of last night’s Republican debate. Those pundits who rank Republican debates for “winners” and “losers” are missing the point: Donald Trump is dominating these debates completely. At the opening of every debate Trump plays the music, and then the other candidates dutifully dance along to it. The debate two weeks ago saw Trump lead the way with attacks and bravado, and then every other candidate joined him in a brutal screaming match. Last night’s debate delivered a more subdued Trump who talked about issues and tried to seem presidential, and Rubio, Cruz, and Kasich mimicked him step for step. Experts like Goodall will one day be able to examine these debates as a perfect example of primate dominance. Nobody else can “win” these debates because Trump “wins” them as soon as he walks on stage. He sets the rules, he creates a favorable situation for himself, and then he proceeds to meet the expectations he’s set. When you’re the competitor, the host, and the referee, odds are good you’re going to win the game. At the same time, Trump’s more subdued tempo last night unveiled some fairly horrific facts about the field of Republican nominees. Turns out, when Republicans are not screaming their policies—when they’re saying them in a normal voice—everything is much more horrifying. USA Today , PBS NewsHour , and the Associated Press all published long lists of untruths and misconceptions shared by the candidates last night. It’s fair to say, I think, that absolutely no policy was un-mangled, from Social Security to Obamacare to Trump’s admiration of China. Trump’s refusal to disavow the violence at his rallies was perhaps the nadir of a pretty roundly low evening. The primary narrative out of every single Republican debate has remained the same: the GOP is the
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$15 Minimum Wage Would Boost Employment in New York State, Study Concludes

$15 Minimum Wage Would Boost Employment in New York State, Study Concludes

A new study from UC Berkeley’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment concludes that raising the minimum wage in New York City to $15 by 2018 and in the rest of the state by 2021, would actually result in a net increase of jobs : Our estimate projects a cumulative net gain in employment of 3,200 jobs by mid-2021, which corresponds to 0.04 percent of projected 2021 employment. Sure, 3,200 jobs is a tiny gain within the context of a giant economy like New York’s, but the point is it’s not the catastrophic loss that the naysayers warn of. It’s not any loss at all. In fact, it’s the opposite. But more important is the “23.4 percent average wage increase for 3.16 million workers” in New York State. As The Donald would say, that’s yuuuge! How is this possible? “How can such a major improvement in living standards occur without adverse employment effects?” Simple, the researchers conclude: While a higher minimum wage induces some automation, as well as increased worker productivity and higher prices, it simultaneously increases worker purchasing power. In the end, the costs of the minimum wage will be borne by turnover reductions, productivity increases and modest price increases. As we’ve been saying all along: When workers have more money, businesses have more customers and hire more workers. Pretty obvious, right?

Daily Clips: March 11th, 2016

Daily Clips: March 11th, 2016

Louisiana will tax its poor to fill budget hole caused by tax cuts for the rich: But I thought tax cuts for the rich would lead to an economic boom?! In order to fill the budget gap, the state is raising the sales tax by 25 percent. Unfortunately, such a policy maneuver puts an uneven burden on lower income households. Because the sales tax applies to consumption rather than income, the hike Louisiana lawmakers agreed to will be regressive : While people in the top 20 percent of the income distribution will pay 41 percent of the total cost of the tax hike according to the Louisiana Budget Project, the sales tax mechanism takes a bigger bite out of a poor family’s income than a rich one’s. Politicians are making poor people shoulder a load caused primarily by ex-Gov. Bobby Jindal’s (R) tax breaks for the rich. Trade and tribulation: Paul Krugman opens up his latest column by asking “Why did Bernie Sanders win a narrow victory in Michigan, when polls showed Hillary Clinton with a huge lead?” Study sees positive impact of raising New York’s minimum wage to $15 an hour The false promise of last year’s wage gains: A new report from Economic Policy Institute “suggest that an apparent boost in buying power was really just the product of a dip in inflation.” A seniro economist at EPI and the paper’s author, Elise Gould, argued “that while shifts such as lower oil prices certainly helped middle-and lower-income households stretch their paychecks further, locking in the benefits of such boosts would require that inflation rates remain near zero for a prolonged period—which is quite unlikely in the long run.” Kenneth Copeland says Ted Cruz has been “called and anointed” by God to be the next POTUS: This video is beyond creepy. Side point: Why do pastors always take such long pauses?

Three News Stories the Candidates Should Discuss at Tonight’s GOP Debate

Three News Stories the Candidates Should Discuss at Tonight’s GOP Debate

Tonight, as has been a Thursday tradition for over 10,000 years, Republican presidential candidates will gather in Florida to yell over each other and make thinly veiled references to their own genitalia. (I’ll be live-tweeting the debate from @civicskunkworks starting at 5:30 Seattle time.) But what else will they discuss, after all the insulting nicknames have been shouted? Here are three big, current news stories that CNN’s moderators should bring up to the candidates. Topic 1: Our deteriorating discourse. Everyone is talking today about the white Trump supporter who sucker-punched an African-American man at a rally. The man, John McGraw, later told Inside Edition that he punched the protester because”…we don’t know if he’s ISIS. We don’t know who he is, but we know he’s not acting like an American, cussing me…” McGraw also said the man “deserved it. The next time we see him, we might have to kill him. We don’t know who he is. He might be with a terrorist organization.” Questions for all the candidates: Is a candidate responsible for his supporters? Is it okay to punch another human being without provocation? Do you reject McGraw’s actions and statements? Has the discourse become too divisive? If so, what will you do about it? Topic 2: Global warming. Earlier this month, global temperatures reached what Slate referred to as a “Terrifying Milestone.” As of Thursday morning, it appears that average temperatures across the Northern Hemisphere have breached the 2 degrees Celsius above “normal” mark for the first time in recorded history, and likely the first time since human civilization began thousands of years ago.* That mark has long been held (somewhat arbitrarily) as the point above which climate change may begin to become “dangerous” to humanity. It’s now arrived—though very briefly—much more quickly than anticipated. Questions for all the candidates: Is global warming real? If so, what should we
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Daily Clips: March 10th, 2016

Daily Clips: March 10th, 2016

Video compilation of Trump protestors being hit and ushered out of events:  Well, this is what you get when you incite hatred and contempt. You get your bone-headed supporters sucker punching black people, Secret Service slamming photographers to the ground, and general mayhem. r/politics is a joke: I am an avid redditor. I spend many hours of my day perusing the website, but I’ve gotten to the point where I simply cannot stand r/politics anymore. It has just become one entire Bernie lovefest. It’s sickening. Whether you like Bernie or not, the fact that 90% of posts are about the mistreatment of Bernie or what a lying scumbag Hillary Clinton is. Give me a break. The moderators of that subreddit have completely lost the plot. For shame. Who gets the blame for the slowing economy?  The New York Times has a (slightly) meandering opinion piece on the state of the economy and why there has been a “drag on growth.” The author, Steven Ratner, says that “governments alone are not to blame; the reasons for the sagging economies are multifarious and jumbled.” One reason is “depressed consumer spending” as well as “increased saving and growing income inequality, which has pushed more money into the hands of the rich, who are less likely to spend it.” David Brooks and the depths of the GOP’s delusions:  As the author correctly points out, “lost in the fiasco surrounding Donald Trump is that the so-called moderate Republican candidates are almost as bad.” Perfect. He then attacks a favorite target of mine (Brooks) and how he continues to be “in deep denial about the state of his party.”  

Local Radio Host Very Confused About the Minimum Wage

Local Radio Host Very Confused About the Minimum Wage

Eric Mandel, the “Digital Content Producer” at myNorthwest.com , reports that Seattle-area conservative talk radio host Dori Monson has some opinions about Raise Up Washington , the coalition fighting to raise Washington State’s minimum wage to $13.50 over four years. First of all, the column begins with a quiet little victory of its own. Monson, who has for years been an angry opponent of Seattle’s $15 minimum wage, seems to now be okay with $15. “Upping the minimum wage in Seattle is one thing,” Mandel says in a paraphrase of Monson’s argument, implying that he has come to accept the wage. He also seems to be taking it on faith that $15 is right for Seattle in this paragraph: “The cost of living in a place like Colfax is dramatically different from the cost of living if you are on Queen Anne or Fremont in Seattle,” [Monson] said. “It doesn’t make any sense to have a statewide minimum wage. The economies of rural Eastern Washington and urban cities in Western Washington are night and day, and (it’s not smart) to say a minimum wage should be one-size fits all.” So, yeah, it sure sounds like Monson might be a convert to $15. Welcome, Dori! It’s never too late to get right on an issue. But addressing Monson’s finer point in that paragraph: it’s perfectly okay to believe that the minimum wage should not be one-size-fits-all. That’s why, if Raise Up Washington’s initiative passes, the minimum wage will be $13.50 in rural areas by 2020, but in Seattle it will be more than two dollars higher than that in many cases , to account for the higher cost of living in Seattle. Problem solved! Monson’s other point is a common misconception about the minimum wage that gets repeated a whole lot: “Minimum-wage jobs generally are entry-level jobs,” he said. “They are jobs that you work while you’re finishing your college degree or while you
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Reflections On the End of the GOP

Reflections On the End of the GOP

The Republican Party is coming apart, and if this disintegration wasn’t endangering our country and the world, it would be amusing. Much has already been said and written about this, so I am aware that this rant may add nothing to the conversation. But I think this political event was more predictable and is easier to understand than most people realize. And I think that Donald Trump himself has far less to do with the fall of the GOP than the GOP itself. The end of the modern GOP should come as no surprise to anyone who was paying attention. Because from the point of view of the typical GOP voter — their 99% — the modern Republican Party has been one of the most epic failures of all time. The modern GOP as a political construct has principally been an alliance between two interest groups: urban economic elites and rural social conservatives. The reason the party is disintegrating is that it has over-delivered to the former, and completely failed the latter. If there is one thing the Republican Party stands for and has effectively delivered on, it is trickle down economics. Trickle down economics has three major elements — tax cuts for the rich, deregulation of the powerful, and wage suppression for everyone else — all in the name of “growth.” And the Republican Party (with unfortunate cooperation from some Democrats), has been extraordinarily effective in the promulgation of these ideas. Over the last 35 years, middle-class voters from both parties bought this scam hook, line, and sinker. Meantime, the Republican Party has theoretically represented the interests of social conservatives, fundamentalist religious types, and racists. And for this coalition, despite the rhetoric, the party has completely and utterly failed. Across any social issue, the country has lurched towards inclusion
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