Paul Giorgio: The State of Disunity
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
His goal is simple enough–raise the living standards of the working poor and the middle class-and in doing that he hopes to raise a generation of Americans out of poverty.
We have a disparity of wealth in this country, where the top one percent controls 40% of the nation’s wealth, while the bottom 80% control just 7%. In most of the world, that would be called an oligarchy. That is wrong. I am not against wealth. It is just that this country cannot survive or thrive if this continues.
Unemployment and minimum wage
So what are President Obama’s goals for the coming year? They are to raise the Federal minimum wage, which is currently $7.75 per hour or $310 per 40 hour work week, and below our state wage of $8.00. The second goal is to extend unemployment benefits to millions of American who had them cut at the end of 2013. The third goal is to provide access to a college education for more of our young people.
These are laudable and simple goals to achieve. But not with a Republican controlled House of Representatives and a Senate where every action is blocked by Mitch McConnell. McConnell, the Republican Leader, said when President Obama was sworn in that his “only goal was to block anything this president tried to do.”
McConnell has kept his word, and, in doing so, has hurt countless Americans.
Barack Obama inherited the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression of the 1930’s. He has steadily worked to bring the economy back, without the help of the Republicans and without what Franklin Roosevelt had-World War II. Five years into his presidency, the economy is stronger, unemployment is dropping and the Dow Jones is at 16,000 up from the7949 on January 20, 2009.
How have the Republicans helped the situation? They voted against the jobs bill and the economic recovery act, then complained that unemployment was too high, then voted against extending unemployment benefits.
Will the Republicans reach across the aisle to help their fellow American and President Obama achieve his goals? I think not. They are already warning the President that if he tries to go it alone he will sacrifice whatever he hopes to accomplish. This is a damned if you do and damned if you don’t situation.
Executive action to help average Americans
President Obama has told us that he will use executive action, wherever and whenever it is permitted, to help average Americans. On Tuesday morning he raised the Federal minimum wage on all Federal contracts. More such extraordinary action is planned.
How have the Republicans shown that they want to help their fellow countryman and work with the President? In the days proceeding, last night’s Sate of the Union address, they are proposing an $8 billion cut in the food stamp program.
Cutting food stamps hurts the poor. But it also hurts farmers, farm supply companies and retailers just as hard. There is a multiplier effect to that money.
President Obama can thank the American Public when his plan succeeds, because they actually get it. They see the poverty around them. They see the disparity in wealth.
As usual, the President ended his speech with the words “The State of the Union is fine.” But we do need Congress to act to make the State of our Union great and fair.
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