Obama: Here’s Your To-Do List, Part 2

President Obama has four more years in the White House, and he has to fill them up somehow. Here, in no particular order, are three financial priorities he should focus on — some of which he had promised to take care of in his last term. (For Part 1 of this series, click here.)

1. Minimum Wage

When he campaigned for the presidency in 2008, Barack Obama promised to increase the minimum wage to $9.50 and “index it to inflation,” Politifact reports. And yet, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. Some states have higher minimums; they aren’t allowed to have a lower one.

Indexing the minimum to inflation is important. If the minimum wage had been indexed to inflation over the last 40 years, it would be up to $10.55. In real dollars, it is worth significantly less than it used to be and than it was intended to be.

According to Raise the Minimum Wage, a full-time minimum-wage worker cannot afford the rent on a two-bedroom apartment in any state in the union. 64 percent of minimum-wage workers are women.

It is vital to the working poor that Obama keep his promise to raise the minimum wage and to index it to inflation. He might even consider raising it higher than $9.50 so it is worth as much as it was 40 years ago.

2. Labor Unions

“The declining power of American labor unions — and the related rise in economic inequality — are among the most important stories of Obama’s first term,” writes In These Times. In addition to raising the minimum wage, Obama made another promise that might have countered these trends: the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). The EFCA would help unions gain bargaining rights.

Right now, if 30 percent of employees in a workplace sign a card supporting the union, they can hold an election to decide whether to unionize. Under the EFCA, if 50 percent of employees signed a card in support of the union, the workplace would automatically be unionized and the workers would gain collective bargaining rights. As a senator, Obama co-sponsored the Act, but during his presidency the EFCA died in a Republican filibuster. It is time for Obama to revive and champion it.

Obama promised another measure that would have helped slow the increase in economic inequality: banning the permanent replacement of striking workers. Without this protection, workers can’t “stand up for themselves without worrying about losing their livelihoods,” notes Politifact. If Obama doesn’t keep this promise, unions’ most important leverage — the threat of a strike — will remain severely weakened.

3. Social Security

Politicians fret about whether Social Security will run out of cash, but so far Obama and his colleagues in governance have failed to take one simple measure that would significantly increase the amount of money flowing into the Social Security fund.

Payroll taxes fund Social Security, but not all pay is taxed. Social Security taxes are taken out of the first $110,100 a worker earns in one year, according to CBS News. Any earnings after that are free and clear of Social Security withholding.

Obama promised to lift that cap so that earnings above $250,000 are also subject to taxation for Social Security. Senator Bernie Sanders introduced legislation to implement Obama’s idea, and said that the change would keep Social Security in the black for 75 more years. Alas, the Senator’s bill never became law. Obama has yet to make good on this promise.

There is much work to be done even after the President and Congress somehow pull themselves back from the looming “fiscal cliff.” President Obama will have our support if he takes measures to right some of the most pressing financial wrongs facing our nation and to get money into the pockets of those who need it most.


Related Stories:

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Susan Allen
SusanAWAY Allen6 years ago

Sarah H. writes "The labor unions are part of the problems in this country, especially the public ones. Governments can't afford what the unions are demanding. They are going broke all over the country so they can't afford to give the world. There is a problem when public workers make much more than those who pay their salaries (the tax payers)." You could not be more wrong. Unions are one of the most important assets that any worker in this country has going for them. You need to look into the history of unions and see what they have and continue to do for workers. It isn't so much about wages as it is about working conditions, particularly in the government sector. Many government sector unions can't even bargain over wages, but they could, for instance, bargain over whether a teacher has 50 students in a classroom without a TA or having 25 students with a TA. If it weren't for unions, there would be no such thing as a 40-hour a week job being the norm. I could list a multitude of things unions have done, even for you, Sarah, who hate them. It burns me up to hear someone like you, bad mouth something you obviously have not one tiny clue in the world about. And the last comment you made makes it sound like you are so ignorant as to believe that government workers are not also tax payers. Government workers used to be referred to as civil servants, because that is what they do, serve the people, all the people; yes, even you Sarah! Also, government workers should n

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill6 years ago

Do we really think he's going to tackle these concerns? I don't.

The labor unions are part of the problems in this country, especially the public ones. Governments can't afford what the unions are demanding. They are going broke all over the country so they can't afford to give the world. There is a problem when public workers make much more than those who pay their salaries (the tax payers).

Dorothy N.
Dorothy N6 years ago


Last month, Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) introduced a new bill to the House of Representatives, aiming to raise the federal minimum wage from the current $7.25 per hour to $9.80 per hour by 2014. The upshot: Three years from now, the kid you hire to mow your lawn could be raking in the hourly equivalent of a $20,000 salary. And if that seems generous, then get a load of this...

Papa John doesn't know the half of it
Last week, the Twittersphere was all a-quiver over a comment by Papa John's (Nasdaq: PZZA ) CEO John Schnatter warning that Obamacare could add $0.14 to the cost of a large pizza at his delivery chain. ...

(That kid mowing your lawn would get - what $10 a week from you? - and you'd STILL be earning poverty wages at your full-time minimum wage job that's all that you can find these days, but you'd not be quite as malnourished...)

Dorothy N.
Dorothy N6 years ago


“This legislation is long-overdue and sorely needed," said Conyers. "More than 30 million Americans would see their wages increased, which would provide an immediate boost to the economy."

Congress hasn't passed legislation raising the minimum wage since 2006, when it put in place a series of increases that ended in 2009.

Consumer advocate and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader helped announce the legislation at the Wednesday press conference.

"At a time when the issue of income inequality has been elevated in political discourse, it is surprising that a plight of millions of workers throughout the country hasn’t been addressed," he said. "A single Wall Street executive's compensation of $15 million would pay the annual wages of over 700 workers working at a minimum wage of $10 per hour."

Two thirds of the American public -- including a majority of Republicans -- supported raising the minimum wage in a October 2010 poll by the Public Religion Research Institute. ...


Do you love your job? Would you love it just a little bit more if the boss gave you a 35% raise? If some members of the U.S. Congress have their way, you just might get your wish.

Last month, Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) introduced a new bill to the House of Representatives, aiming to raise the federal minimum wage from the current $7.25 per hour to $9.80 per ho

Dorothy N.
Dorothy N6 years ago


It shouldn't be controversial to say that if you work, you shouldn't be poor. But to today's Republican Party, that counts as a radical statement.
Speaker Pelosi project bug

Raising the minimum wage won't even come up for a vote in Speaker John Boehner's House. We need a Democratic majority and Speaker Pelosi for that, just as we did in 2006 when Republicans had been blocking minimum wage increases for years. If ever you're tempted to think there's not enough difference between Democrats and Republicans to bother voting, remember that Democrats are the ones trying to give 28 million workers a raise in a way that will stimulate the economy. ...


The minimum wage hasn't kept pace with inflation, according to three Democratic U.S. Congressmen. They want to correct the situation by boosting the federal standard to $10 an hour.

Reps. John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-Ill.) and Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) announced the introduction of The “Catching Up To 1968 Act of 2012” at a press conference in Washington, D.C., Wednesday. The proposed bill would bump the minimum wage up from $7.25 an hour and require an annual increase tied to inflation.

The congressmen said that even at $10 an hour, the minimum wage would still be below 1968 levels when adjusted for inflation.

“This legislation is long-overdue and sorely n

Dorothy N.
Dorothy N6 years ago


Fri Jul 27, 2012
Democrats introduce bill to raise minimum wage to $9.80

by Laura Clawson for Daily Kos Labor

More than 100 House Democrats introduced a bill Thursday to raise the minimum wage. Rep. George Miller's proposed legislation would raise the minimum wage to $9.80 over three years, 85 cents per year, then link it to inflation, so that raising it wouldn't have to be a giant political fight every few years. Tipped workers, who haven't seen their $2.13 minimum wage increased since 1991, would get 85 cent raises until the tipped minimum was 70 percent of the full minimum wage.

"Anyone who works hard and plays by the rules should not live in poverty. Yet 47 million Americans now qualify as the working poor. Raising the minimum wage helps families make ends meet," Miller said in a statement accompanying the bill.

If you work at the current minimum wage for 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, with no time off at all, the $15,080 you earn puts you $50 below the poverty threshold for a family of two. That—and the fact that many minimum wage employers keep workers at part-time levels—is why so many working people are forced to rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Medicaid and other aid programs. It shouldn't be controversial to say that if you work, you shouldn't be poor. But to today's Republican Party, that counts as a rad

Robert H.
Robert Hamm6 years ago

THis president doesn't cal them entitlement. The republican congress does

Margaret Paddock
M A Paddock6 years ago

Minimum wages needs to go up but our dollar was just devalued again because of the outrageous spending. It will continue to do so.

Union can take care of themselves. The thugs always have, always will. They steal the workers money to donate to campaigns of those they think they will get the most deals from.

social security: it would be better if he didn't steal the 40 million he is going to under the health care act then make Congress find a way to replace all the money they have put in the general fund and spent. And by the way tell this president that social security and medicare are not entitlements - they are paid for.

Duane B.
.6 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Alexandra Rodda
Alexandra Rodda6 years ago

Curiously, Americans elected more Republicans than Democrats for Congress. How is Obama going to get around this? It will be interesting to watch, like a horror movie.