28 September 2013

Obama's Debt Ceiling Red Line: No Deals 27SEP13

THE repiglicans and tea-baggers are willing to trash the nation for the economic benefit of the plutocracy. The believe it is OK to hold the financial health of the nation hostage to get the legislation their corporate masters want but don't yet have the political power to get passed. Their agenda, their goals, their policies are set by those who have bought and paid for their seats in Congress, and as far as they are concerned the country can go straight to economic hell if they don't get their way. From Mother Jones.....

The president says he won't negotiate. John Boehner says he has to. Who blinks first?

| Fri Sep. 27, 2013 3:00 AM PDT
With the Washington crisis of the week not yet resolved—whether the US government will shut down on Tuesday because GOPers block legislation funding federal agencies—President Barack Obama, at a rally in Largo, Maryland, promoting Obamacare, looked ahead on Thursday morning to the next showdown and issued a hard-and-fast proclamation: "I won't negotiate on anything when it comes to the full faith and credit of the United States of America." Obama was referring to raising the debt ceiling, which will have to be done in the next few weeks (or the US government will default and possibly trigger a financial crisis that could go international). To emphasize that Obama was drop-dead serious about not responding to Republican threats to hold the debt ceiling hostage once again, the White House immediately tweeted out that sentence. The message: This was no off-the-cuff rhetoric.
Earlier in the day, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who's busy trying to concoct a strategy for the more immediate budget crisis, did respond to Obama's no-deal position on the debt ceiling: "I am sorry, it just doesn't work that way." So though it seems at the moment that a government shutdown might be averted next week—if only by a bill that provides for the temporary and short-term continuation of appropriations for the government—a titanic confrontation is looming over the debt ceiling, with the GOPers angling to prevent an expansion of the government's borrowing authority unless Obama agrees to accept deeper spending cuts, defund Obamacare, approve the Keystone XL pipeline, or whatever. This is a fight with higher stakes; a global financial crisis would cause more economic chaos than a short government shutdown. And Obama has been planning for this stare-down for two years, saying publicly and privately that he will not blink. 

In 2011, when the Republicans first seized the debt ceiling as a political hostage, Obama and his economic team felt compelled to negotiate a settlement, out of fear that a default could be a death blow to the slowly recovering economy. Eventually, they settled on a compromise that included spending cuts that included the now infamous sequestration. But at the time, Obama was more eager to draw a line in the sand than his advisers. And his takeaway from the episode was this: never again. He would not let the opposition party blackmail a president in this fashion.
This conviction was evident last year, when the debt ceiling was part of the so-called fiscal cliff. In December, as that tussle was underway, I wrote about the president's thinking on this front:
During a Wednesday morning meeting with business leaders, Obama was blunt: "I want to send a very clear message to people here. We are not going to play that game next year. If Congress in any way suggests that they're going to tie negotiations to debt ceiling votes and take us to the brink of default once again as part of a budget negotiation, which, by the way, we have never done in our history until we did it last year, I will not play that game."
The public comments from [then-Treasury Secretary Timothy] Geithner, Treasury, and the president do not fully reflect how passionate Obama is on this matter. "He really means it," a senior administration official insists. And Obama's top aides have seen him in private display fervor regarding this issue. During a meeting with his senior aides in the middle of the prolonged and heated negotiations in the summer of 2011, Obama let them know that he believed the debt ceiling face-off was in part a fight to save his presidency and those of future chief executives.
At that time, Obama was holding daily bargaining sessions with Republican and Democratic congressional leaders to resolve the debt ceiling crisis and possibly to craft a "grand bargain" budget agreement that would include tax revenue hikes, spending cuts, and reductions in entitlement programs. But with the talks not yielding much progress, Republicans—and some Democrats—were raising the prospect of proceeding with a short-term extension of the debt ceiling. On July 13, 2011, as Obama gathered in the Oval Office with Geithner, then-budget chief Jack Lew, senior economic adviser Gene Sperling, and other aides to prep for the next meeting with the legislators, he drew a line, telling his advisers, "I want to make something clear. I'm not going to accept a short-term extension of the debt." There was no way, he insisted, he would go through this again in 3, 6, or 12 months—certainly not before the next election.
Obama's aides empathized with him but explained that the president might have to yield on this to secure a deal that dodged a default. "I'm not doing it again," Obama said. "This is wrong."
Obama believed a constitutional principle was at stake: If the Republicans could threaten default to get their way on budget issues, it would distort the separation of powers. This was not what the framers of the Constitution intended, he believed. Moreover, it was embarrassing for the United States. He was determined to prevent this scenario from occurring again.
His aides could see that Obama would not bend. He was willing to go to the brink. Toward the end of that day's meeting with Hill leaders, when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor raised the idea of a short-term extension, Obama angrily said, "I'm not going to do it. We're not putting the country through this again. Don't call my bluff."
Through the summer 2011 negotiations, Obama stubbornly held to this position—no repeats of this debt ceiling dance—and the final deal avoided a short-term extension of the debt ceiling. During the fiscal-cliff negotiations at the end of 2012, Obama adopted the same stance, but no all-out battle occurred. The White House and Congress, without much fuss, eventually agreed to a temporary suspension of the debt ceiling. But now the reckoning has returned, and GOPers who fear they may have the weaker hand in the government-shutdown clash are pumped up for another debt ceiling throw-down. Not surprisingly, the Rs are enthusiastically citing polls showing that voters don't support increasing borrowing authority without accompanying spending cuts. But as the 2011 mess demonstrated, Obama was able to shape public opinion by calling out GOP hostage-taking, and at the end of that self-inflicted crisis, which led to the downgrading of the US credit rating, the Republicans fared worse in the polls. No doubt, Obama now thinks he can outmaneuver the Republicans once more. But for Obama this is a rather fundamental fight that he believes must be waged for the benefit of future chief executives and to protect the integrity of the nation's political system.
So is the final confrontation at hand? Obama has stated clearly he will not negotiate with political extremists who would hold the US government and economy hostage. Boehner, who leads a Republican caucus craving confrontation, has proclaimed he expects the president to deal. Something—or someone—has to give. Or not.

Washington Bureau Chief
David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief. For more of his stories, click here. He's also on Twitter and FacebookRSS | 

27 September 2013

Mission: Destroy Democracy - responds 22SEP13

I like , they are a small, bold progressive group that uses social media to challenge the greed of corporate America and promote social justice issues. They choose their campaigns wisely and provide the information and tools necessary for the progressive community to participate. Click the link above to go to their website and if you can make a donation, I did. Here is a bit about them....

Welcome to SumOfUs is a new world-wide movement for a better global economy.

Here’s what we stand for:
  • Governments that answer to citizens – not corporations
  • Fair treatment of workers and the right of every human being to make a living, safely and ethically, for themselves and their family;
The right of ordinary consumers to products that are produced and marketed ethically, sustainably and transparently;
  • The right of communities to manage and protect their own environment and natural resources;
  • Business models that put people and the planet first instead of being driven by shortsighted greed.
Yeah, take that deep breath, close your eyes and imagine what kind of a world that could be – and then crash back to this one.
We’ve witnessed again and again what happens when powerful corporations get their way:
  • Environmental and health catastrophes like Fukushima and the BP oil disaster;
  • A global financial crisis that destroys entire economies;
  • Rising food prices and starving children;
  • Families from Kalamazoo to Timbuktu losing their houses and land;
  • Poisons pouring into our air and water.
You name it, corporations are behind it. But rather than being held accountable – their CEOs are often walking away with bonuses. And these injustices are largely left to continue unabated.
But the world doesn’t have to be this way. And here’s the secret: We own the corporations that are causing all these problems. They rely on us to buy their products. They count on us to buy their stock. They need us to work for them. They need us to continue to elect governments that let them get away with murder.
We are, and we’re not going to take it anymore.

ROBERT REICH: Why won't Bill O'Reilly debate me? 26SEP13

ROBERT REICH is a progressive, not a communist. wimpy loud mouth bill o'reilly hides on his faux news show attacking many on the left as well as progressive, social justice programs and policies championed by the left and Democrats (and a few brave Republicans). Robert Reich wants to go on o'reilly's show to debate him about o'reilly calling Reich a communist and the whole issue of the state of politics in America, but o'reilly is afraid and will not have Reich on his show. Click the link and sign the petition to o'reilly telling him to man up and debate Robert Reich on his show.....
In case you missed it, Bill O'Reilly slammed me on Monday night for mentioning, in a New York Times op-ed, that he called me a "Communist" on his FOX News show.

In that op-ed, I referred to his "Communist" name-calling as an example of the kind of incivility that now passes for political debate in America -- of which O'Reilly is a part. O'Reilly took umbrage that I would even bring it up. Apparently he thinks it's perfectly fine to call me names but offensive for me to criticize him for doing so.

Yet O'Reilly refuses to have me on his show to debate any of this -- either his initial charge that I'm a Communist, or his indignation that I mentioned it in last weekend's op-ed. When he first claimed I was a Communist I challenged him to a debate -- a civil debate. He refused. He still refuses. He won't even debate the topic of my op-ed -- the increasing shrillness and divisiveness of Fox News and other media outlets, which are only adding to the vitriol of American politics.

Why won't O'Reilly debate me? What is he afraid of? I don't know but I need your help. Please sign my YouPower petition and tell Bill O'Reilly that instead of talking about me, he should have the courage and decency to debate me.

Democracy for America members like you can change the conversation in this country, as we did last night when I joined Howard Dean on a special DFA conference call about my new film "Inequality for All." I really enjoyed the call -- and especially the insightful questions asked by DFA members across America.

Help me keep up the momentum by signing this petition and sharing it with your friends today. 

Thanks for spreading the word,

Robert Reich
Former Secretary of Labor


MORE on the despicable, un-Christian vote by the US House to cut funding for food stamps / SNAP. This really is a new low for the repiglican tea-bagger controlled House, one that makes me furious because it is such a gross, blatantly hypocritical act by these politicians who use their faith to justify so much of what they do in Congress. See more on this in my earlier post 

Food Stamps Among The Most Effective Economic Stimulus & Right-wing Christians in Congress forget Jesus' rule of feeding the hungry 23&19SEP13

Dear Craig,
Last night, the House of Representatives did the unthinkable: They voted to steal food right out of the mouths of hungry children.
Conservatives pushed through $40 billion in cuts to food stamps (a.k.a. SNAP--the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).1
This bill is a huge blow to America's neediest families. If it becomes law, it would kick 4 million hungry people off of SNAP next year and force countless children to go to bed hungry.2
There's going to be a fight in Washington over whether to enact the House bill as it stands or whether it can be scaled back. To win this fight, we have got to get the word out about what these cuts mean for families. Can you share this infographic that lays out the facts about this obscene attack on hungry families?
If you’re not on Facebook, click here to share it through our website.
Shame on Congress: Robbing Our Children Edition
Thanks for speaking out,
Nita, Shaunna, Kat, Malinda, and Karin, the Ultraviolet team

2. Ibid

Unbelievable. Google just joined ALEC 26SEP13

ISN'T google supposed to be the DO NO HARM company? So what the hell is up with them joining alec? The campaign to get companies to withdraw their memberships from alec has been successful, but now social media and tech giants google, yelp and facebook have joined this organization of right wing tea-bagging extremist whose main purpose is to do harm to the 99% through legislation benefiting their plutocrat masters. Please join the campaign calling on all three companies to withdraw from alec, click the link.....
Facebook, Google, and Yelp just joined the American Legislative Executive Council, one of the worst right-wing lobbying forces in history.
Call on the three tech giants to dump ALEC now.
Sign the petition

Union-busting, fighting Obamacare, backing the Stand Your Ground laws that led to Trayvon Martin’s death, denying the proof of climate change… there’s nothing the American Legislative Exchange Council won’t stoop to.
The public outcry against ALEC has caused nearly fifty corporations to drop out over the past several months. But now Facebook, Google and Yelp are looking to reverse that trend. The companies recently joined the group responsible for some of the most egregious anti-labor, anti-environment, anti-poor, and anti-minority legislation in the past decade. Now, we need to raise an outcry to show them that getting in bed with ALEC is unacceptable, before all the hard work over the past year is undone.

Demand Facebook, Google and Yelp drop their ALEC membership now.

We can’t afford to have three major tech companies help finance a monstrosity like this right-wing lobbying group, and they can’t afford the bad press that comes with an ALEC membership. ALEC has become a toxic brand that image-conscious companies don’t want to be associated with.
ALEC worked in close conjunction with the NRA to push the controversial Stand Your Ground law onto dozens of states. ALEC helped private prison companies enact Arizona’s “papers please” law in order to fill up cells with Latinos. It has sponsored a host of horrific laws that are tearing down personal rights and handing over money to corporations. We simply cannot allow such practices to be condoned by major companies.
Our voices already shamed over fifty companies and nonprofits, including the likes of Amazon, Walmart, and Coca-Cola, into dropping out of the American Legislative Executive Council. Just recently, after months of pressure by students, Sallie Mae left the group. But if we don’t speak out now, Google, Facebook, and Yelp could start back the movement of corporate funding into ALEC.
Thanks for all that you do,
Claiborne, Rob, and the rest of us.

More Information:
ALEC at 40: Turning back the clock on progress and prosperity, ALEC Exposed, 23 August 2013.
Tech Giants partner with ALEC, Salon Magazine, 16 August 2013.
SumOfUs is a world-wide movement of people like you, working together to hold corporations accountable for their actions and forge a new, sustainable path for our global economy. You can follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook

26 September 2013

Food Stamps Among The Most Effective Economic Stimulus & Right-wing Christians in Congress forget Jesus' rule of feeding the hungry 23&19SEP13

IT makes me furious that so many politicians, especially Christian politicians, are so quick to spread deception and misinformation about social programs that serve those in need, the least among us, and go after the federal funding for these programs as a way to punish those who do cheat the system and so end up hurting those who really need the help. It is especially disgusting how these politicians will go after the weak and vulnerable but never even consider the same action against government contractor programs when fraud, waste and abuse is discovered. There is waste, fraud and abuse in government aid to farmers and through the government contract handling crop insurance for farmers but there is no legislation to cut funding to that program on the scale some want to cut SNAP. No, the solution is to find the additional money to cover the increased cost. Just more proof that our government is controlled by the plutocrats, those who have bought and paid for so many of our elected government officials, especially republicans and tea-baggers. These from The Real News and Daily Kos....


Food Stamps Among The Most Effective Economic StimulusJESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: On Thursday, in a narrow 217 to 210 vote, House Republicans passed a bill cutting the food stamps program known as SNAP by $40 billion. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, this could leave 4 million Americans without benefits next year.
Largely voted on party lines with no Democrats voting for the bill, it doesn't look like it will make much progress. Both the Democratically controlled Senate and President Obama have been against the bill.
But regardless, the current $80 billion a year program often falls victim to myths and misinformation.
And in a round of Real News myth-busting, let's take a look at what's been said about SNAP on Capitol Hill.
Myth 1: SNAP recipients don't want to work.
TIM HUELSKAMP, U.S. REPRESENTATIVE (R-KA): You ought to earn the benefits you receive. Look for work. Start job training to improve your skills or do community service. But you can no longer sit on your couch or ride a surfboard like Jason in California and expect the federal taxpayer to feed you.
DESVARIEUX: So who's getting fed on this proverbial couch? If you at look at food stamp recipients, more than three-fourths of the households receiving SNAP have at least one child, elderly, and/or disabled person living there.
Unemployed childless adults who do not have disabilities are limited to three months of SNAP benefits every three years in most parts of the country. But due to the high unemployment, this requirement has been waived in most states.
If the House bill were to become law, one of the House proposals would be to get rid of "categorical eligibility", meaning citizens would no longer automatically qualify for food stamps if they are enrolled in another low-income assistance program. But that would mean 200,000 children who currently receive free school lunches would be kicked out of the program.
Often depicted as a drain on the economy--studies have shown that those on food stamps actually helped create an economic stimulus. A USDA study found that for "Every $5 in new SNAP benefits generates a total of $9.20 in community spending."
STACEY BORASKY, ST. EDWARD'S UNIVERSITY: The program has always had the intention of being an economic stimulus. It started under the Great Depression, at a time when not only did consumers not have money to be able to purchase a variety of things that they needed, but the farmers didn't have a way to sell the goods that they were producing. So eggs, cheese, vegetables, fruits, all those things that farmers were still continuing to try to grow couldn't be sold. So the government decided to create this program not just to help people get food, but to help to be able to sell their goods. So it's always had that effect. So I think it's kind of a--it's just a misconception that people have about its intent from the very beginning.
Myth 2: SNAP is riddled with waste, fraud and abuse.
ANDREW P. HARRIS, U.S. REPRESENTATIVE (R-MD): What we want to do is take out some waste, fraud, and abuse, and we want to decrease the program by 5 percent. But, you know, as you have just heard, waste, fraud, and abuse occurs in the program. Ten-point-five percent of the stores that participate in food stamps are engaged in trafficking. So we think that if we just eliminate the waste, fraud, and abuse, we'll actually have more money to get to the people who need it.
DESVARIEUX: Yes, Congressman Harris is right that abuse happens in 10 percent of businesses that accept food stamps. But what's really important here? Where the fraud happens or how often?
By the USDA count, only 3 percent of all SNAP benefits represented overpayments, meaning they either went to ineligible households or went to eligible households but in excessive amounts. USDA says it has a zero tolerance policy on fraud and has come out with additional methods to fight abuse.
But in the grand scheme of things, SNAP actually has one of the lowest rates of fraud of any federal program.
MIGUEL FERGUSON, SCHOOL OF SOCIAL WORK, UNIV. OF TEXAS: It's actually a rigorous process to get food stamps, and it can take quite some time, and people aren't going to go through that unless they really need the assistance. And I think that's what explains why something like 30 percent of Americans who are eligible to receive stamps don't do it. Some of them don't know about the program, but many of them just don't want to go through the hassle.
Myth 3: SNAP creates dependency.
ERIC CANTOR, U.S. REPRESENTATIVE (R-VA): If somebody is abusing the system or if somebody somehow gets used to a life of dependency, how is it fair for the working middle class of this country to have overtime, to work two jobs to help pay for that?
DESVARIEUX: A life of dependency is what both sides of the debate want to avoid. SNAP was created to be a temporary system, and for the most part it has been, with the average participant staying on SNAP between eight to ten months. And those on the program are barely making it with $4.50 a day to spend on food, which comes out to about $1.50 a meal.
But it does seem to make a difference. A Census Bureau report released Tuesday found that food stamps have helped lift about 4 million people above the poverty line and have kept tens of millions more from becoming poorer.
But the truth behind the numbers is that the number of participants has actually increased. In 2000, the number of Americans on food stamps was 17.2 million, but in 2011 there were 44.7 million people on food stamps.
Obviously, a major factor for the jump is the recession. Unemployed people increased by 94 percent from 2007 to 2011. There was a 70 percent increase in the take-up rate for SNAP during the same period.
FERGUSON: So the take-up rate has gone up during the Great Recession. But also, people haven't been leaving the program as fast as they have in the past. So those two things have contributed to this increase to 70 percent.
Now, there's huge variation among the states, which is kind of a very peculiar thing related to U.S. social policy. You really wouldn't find this in any other industrialized country. So, for example, California, it's just over 50 percent of eligible people receive food stamps. But Maine, obviously a smaller state, etc., it's almost 100 percent. So almost everyone in Maine who is eligible to receive food stamps receives benefits.
DESVARIEUX: A point that neither side of the aisle wants to take responsibility for.
Experts point to a higher cost of living and stagnant wages as being the main catalysts for a growing number of people becoming eligible for the program.
BORASKY: People are working more and more hours, becoming more productive than we ever have in the last 20, 25 years, but wages have been stagnant. So you see people working really hard, sometimes two and three jobs, trying to make ends meet. Their wages have not kept up with the cost of living.
And so while it was intended to be temporary, it's really not in effect that people are abusing the system, are staying on the system when they're not eligible. They still don't make enough money. There are significant numbers of employers in this country who pay so little that they tell their employees how to apply for SNAP. They actually give them where to go, how to do it, because they know their employees are going to qualify for SNAP. So that speaks to me that we're supplementing businesses, we're actually subsidizing their ability to pay low wages.
DESVARIEUX: There's no mention of wages in the House bill. But regardless, it looks like it won't be making much progress with both the Democratically controlled Senate and President Obama speaking out against the bill.
But is there a real threat to food stamps in the future? The Senate-approved farm bill cuts food stamps by $4 billion. Democratic New York Senator Kristen Gillibrand proposed to restore the $4 billion in cuts with a limitation on crop insurance reimbursements.
The current system has the government pay insurance companies to run the program, then the government pays farmers to buy coverage, and then Uncle Sam fronts the bill if losses exceed predetermined limits. The U.S. Department of Agriculture last year spent about $14 billion insuring farmers against the loss of crop or income. This system was meant to help farmers during the Depression, but many argue that at the end of the day taxpayers are the ones feeling the hit.
Senator Gilliband's proposal didn't go far. It failed with a 26-70 vote. Not even a majority of Democrats voted for it.
SNAP is already slated for cuts in November, when previous approved legislation goes into action.
Now Americans will have less than $1.40 to spend on each meal. And that's a hard fact.
For The Real News Network, Jessica Desvarieux, Washington.


Jessica Desvarieux is a multimedia journalist who serves as the Capitol Hill correspondent for the Real News Network. Most recently, Jessica worked as a producer for the ABC Sunday morning program, This Week with Christianne Amanpour. Before moving to Washington DC, Jessica served as the Haiti corespondent for TIME Magazine and Previously, she was as an on-air reporter for New York tri-state cable outlet Regional News Network, where she worked before the 2010 earthquake struck her native country of Haiti. From March 2008 - September 2009, she lived in Egypt, where her work appeared in various media outlets like the Associated Press, Voice of America, and the International Herald Tribune - Daily News Egypt. She graduated from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism with a Master of Science degree in journalism. She is proficient in French, Spanish, Haitian Creole, and has a working knowledge of Egyptian Colloquial Arabic. Follow her @Jessica_Reports.
The right-wing 'Christians' in the House finally did it. They voted to cut $39 billion from the food stamp program. Where is the church? Why have they not engaged the evil that is encompassing this new thinking within the right wing of the Congress? In a country with one of the worst income and wealth disparities in the world, do they really believe it is abuse and not circumstance that has most of those using the program on food stamps?
The House approved legislation Thursday that would cut $39 billion in funds over the next decade for food stamp programs.
Members approved H.R. 3102, the Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act, in a close 217-210 vote. No Democrats voted for the bill, and 15 Republicans voted against GOP leaders.
The bill would authorize food stamp programs for three years. The legislation, part of which was developed by Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), passed in the face of fierce opposition from House Democrats, a White House veto threat, and warnings that it is already dead on arrival in the Democratic Senate.
Several Democrats warned today that cutting $39 billion from the program, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), is a cruel step that would only hurt people in need.
Many in the Republican Party have falsely claimed that food stamps create a welfare dependency. The problem with that analysis is that all parameters in the economy point to a middle class that is stressed. It points to a growing poor. It points to a system where wages are falling or at best stagnant.
Newt Gingrich even had the audacity to call President Obama "the food stamp president." What is ironic is that all the Republican fears of creating a welfare state have been realized. Unfortunately it is the rich that benefit from the welfare they feared.
Keep reading below the fold for more on this.
The unnecessary purchase of military hardware is welfare for corporate shareholders. The use of private contractors provides lucrative profits for corporate owners and shareholders. The privatization of government services transfers profits (an inefficiency when a government service is provided by a private entity for no reason) to the corporate shareholders. Farm subsidies that go to corporate farms is a transfer of tax receipts to a few shareholders. Even the food stamp program that feeds many is a boon for corporate shareholders given that a percentage of food stamps provide ample profits. Personal welfare is a pittance when welfare is redefined to include all those sourcing their revenues from the government.
Sadly this is pure evil. Because Republican policies have not been excoriated with the appropriate graphic words they continue to push the envelope. Criminals have been heard to say that their first murder was difficult. As they continued with their murders it became easier. The Right Wing Republican analogy cannot be missed.



Federal Contractors Employ More Low-Wage Workers Than Walmart and McDonald's Combined, While Paying Top Execs. $24 billion 26SEP13

PRES Obama must sign an executive order raising the minimum wage of employees of federal contractors to a living wage. This will not make federal contracts more expensive, it will just cut into the obscene pay packages the executives of federal contractors receive. This from The Real News....
Workers and legislators demand President Obama sign an executive order raising the minimum wage for federal contractor employees.


Federal Contractors Employ More Low-Wage Workers Than Walmart and McDonald's Combined, While Paying Top Execs. $24 billionCROWD: We can't survive on eight twenty-five!
JESSICA DESVARIEUX, CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT: Eight twenty-five is currently the minimum wage for federally contracted employees in D.C. Workers like 54-year-old Melissa Roseboro are making around that, and she says it's simply not enough to live on.
Melissa works part-time as a cook for McDonald's at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington. And the conditions have gotten so bad that she says she can't even pay her bills.
MELISSA ROSEBORO, LOW-WAGE WORKER: You know, a lot of people out here, we are struggling day to day [incompr.] homeless. I even have to go try to [incompr.] just to make ends meet.
DESVARIEUX: Workers are calling for help from President Obama, demanding the president sign an executive order mandating government contractors to pay a higher wage, similar to how President Johnson signed an executive order in 1965 mandating government contractors not discriminate against prospective employees based on race.
Fast forward almost 50 years and the fight for fair pay continues.
CROWD: We can't survive on eight twenty-five!
DESVARIEUX: Many are barely surviving, and taxpayers are the ones subsidizing this low-wage economy, according to a study by public policy organization Demos. Data shows that hundreds of billions of public funds go to private companies that pay low wages. There are more than half a million low-wage private sector jobs funded by federal contracts. Demos found that government contracts support almost two million low-wage jobs. That's more than McDonald's and Walmart combined.
But not all federal contract employees fit into this category. Executive pay can be as high as $760,000 a year. And a new report from Demos shows that nearly $24 billion a year goes to paying salaries of federal contractor executives.
Now a group of senators and congressmen have called on President Obama to step in and sign an executive order to raise the minimum wage to a living wage. Of those calling for higher pay was independent senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont.
BERNIE SANDERS, U.S. SENATOR (I-VT): Most of the new jobs being created in this country today are part-time jobs. They are low-wage jobs. And we have got to get a handle not only on unemployment, not only on income and wealth inequality; we have got to get a handle on raising wages throughout this country so that workers do not depend upon starvation wages.
The Real News also spoke with Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison and asked why there hasn't be more progress on the bill for a higher minimum wage or the executive order, considering the proposal was sent in July.
KEITH ELLISON, U.S. REPRESENTATIVE (D-MN): But we haven't seen the president put pen to paper and sign the executive order, even working on the people who work for federal contractors. And we believe it's time to do that. We've got 49 members of the House who agree that the president needs to sign an executive order. And we believe that he should do it and he should do it now.
Now, somebody asked: well, why hasn't he done it? You know, I specifically asked him that question directly. He told me it was under advisement. I hope that he's working on it. And, of course, the naysayers might say, well, it has budgetary implications; with the sequester maybe it might be tough. And there might be reasons, but I'm telling you that this is a fight worth having.
DESVARIEUX: President Obama has said in the past that no American should work full-time and live in poverty. And today protestors are making sure that he's keeping his word. Several of them were invited into the White House to speak to officials about their day-to-day struggles.
ROSEBORO: When you go to tell your story, then, you know, they are really amazed. But I do know this much, that they know that it's a lot of us out here. You know. And I don't know why I actually say they are amazed, because we're--it's a lot of us out here. You know, it's not our first time doing this, even though we're doing this the first time at the White House.
DESVARIEUX: Melissa and several other low-wage workers fighting with the group Good Jobs Nation wrapped up their meeting with officials from the White House. While there, they presented letters and a petition with 250,000 signatures calling for a higher pay.
Melissa says she remains hopeful that the change that she voted for by electing President Obama will one day come.
For The Real News Network, Jessica Desvarieux, Washington.


Jessica Desvarieux is a multimedia journalist who serves as the Capitol Hill correspondent for the Real News Network. Most recently, Jessica worked as a producer for the ABC Sunday morning program, This Week with Christianne Amanpour. Before moving to Washington DC, Jessica served as the Haiti corespondent for TIME Magazine and Previously, she was as an on-air reporter for New York tri-state cable outlet Regional News Network, where she worked before the 2010 earthquake struck her native country of Haiti. From March 2008 - September 2009, she lived in Egypt, where her work appeared in various media outlets like the Associated Press, Voice of America, and the International Herald Tribune - Daily News Egypt. She graduated from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism with a Master of Science degree in journalism. She is proficient in French, Spanish, Haitian Creole, and has a working knowledge of Egyptian Colloquial Arabic. Follow her @Jessica_Reports.


OKTOBERFEST in Lovettsville, VA on 27, 28 & 29 SEP 13, with most events taking place on 28 SEP. Check it out and break out your Lederhosen!!!!

Oktoberfest Frequently Asked Questions
(Official Oktoberfest Committee Website)
What does it cost? The event is FREE.  The festival is funded through vendor fees, sponsorships and beer sales.
Where can I park?  There is free parking at the Lovettsville Game Club (16 South Berlin Pike) and the Lovettsville Elementary School (49 South Street).  Trolleys will run continuously from 10:00am to 11:00pm on Saturday.
Where is handicap parking? Vehicle parking for handicapped guests is located along North Church Street near the Post Office.  Enter from the street barricade near the 7-11 and show the volunteer staff your placard.
Can I bring my dog?  No, we ask that you leave your pets at home.  Pets are not around food areas and there are lots of visitors, especial small children.  For everyone’s enjoyment and the safety of your pets, please leave them at home.
How long will the trolleys run? The trolleys will run continuously from 10:00am to 11:00pm, connecting the Main Tent to parking located at the Game Club and Elementary School.
What type of food and drinks will be available?  Everything from traditional German fare, hamburgers and hotdogs, to Asian along with funnel cakes and kettle corn will be available along with water, sodas, and German and domestic beer!
Where is the main tent located?  The main tent is located next to the Town Hall at 6 Pennsylvania Avenue.
What type of entertainment can I expect?  The traditional Bavarian Alte Kameraden band will be playing in the main tent on Saturday afternoon.  Other bands and entertainment will perform in the main tent and the Loudoun Street Tent located near Loudoun Street and East Broad Way.
When will the streets be closed on Saturday? East Broad Way, Light Street, Pennsylvania, North Church and portions of Loudoun, and South Church will be closed from 8:00am to 6:00pm.  Portions of South Loudoun and Pennsylvania will remain closed through 11:00pm
What is going on Friday? The Lions Club is hosting a German Dinner at the Community Center where the King and Queen of Oktoberfest will be crowned.  The rock cover band Ghost Pepper will perform in the Main Tent following the dinner.
When will there be crafters?  The street fair only takes place on Saturday.  There will be some crafters at the Lovettsville Game Club on Sunday afternoon.
How can I get assistance at the event?  Please ask any uniformed officer or volunteer wearing a blue t-shirt for assistance.