Beltway Insider: President Obama Signs Exec Order Pay Hike, Debt Ceiling; Labor Sec Addresses Long Term Unemployed

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President Barack Obama hosted French President François Hollande for a two day state visit confirming a solid and lasting allegiance while redefining the unified commitment to global issues that threaten to undermine the stability of the free world.


According to Gallup, President Obama's job approval, over the past week remained steady at 41% of those polled who approve of his effectiveness as President and those who disapprove of his effectiveness as President rose two percentage points to 53%.

President Signs Pay Hike for Federal Contractors

President Barack Obama, refusing to wait on Congress, moved ahead with his plan presented in the recent  State of the Union address which called 2014 a "Year of Action."

Focusing on the people, jobs, benefits President Obama signed an Executive Order this week raising the minimum wage of all federally contracted workers to $10.10 per hour.  His push to persuade congress to raise the federal minimum wage for all workers is one of the catalysts behind his decision.

"In this year of action, I said I'd do everything in my power to expand opportunity for more Americans.  And this week, I took action to lift more workers' wages by requiring federal contractors to pay their employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour," the president stated in released statement.

Secretary of Labor Tom Perez joined White House Press Secretary Jay Carney in a recent press conference addressing the particulars of the executive order which shed light on the breakdown of the executive order minimum wage raise.

The announcement of Obama's aid to the American worker is geared to bolster the economy, his confidence index, the worker and the mass population. However, when examined, the shine behind the pay hike dull as the truth of the apparent gift is revealed.

 "We estimate that the executive order will benefit hundreds of thousands of people directly by increasing their pay, but it will also improve taxpayers' return on their investment," said Secretary of Labor Tom Perez.

The fact is the executive order will benefit thousands and possibly hundreds of thousands as a rolling increase benefit.

"As the President said in the State of the Union address, if you cook our troops' meals or wash their dishes, you shouldn't have to live in poverty. If you're serving food or doing laundry on a military base, if you're a nursing assistant caring for our nation's veterans, if you're staffing the parking lot at a federal courthouse, or if you're working concessions at our national parks, then you deserve a raise," Secretary Perez said.

Although expected federal contractual workers will not immediately see the minimum wage increase. Written into the presidential order, which begins January 1, 2015, contracted workers in the middle of a contractual cycle have no choice but to wait until the contract expires and is renegotiated in order to see the benefits of the president's action.

"Some will benefit year one, more will benefit year two, more will benefit year three.  Even more will benefit in the ensuing years as new contracts will come in place over the course of years beginning January 1st of 2015 when the executive order goes into effect" Secretary Perez said.

While Obama's action is lauded by democrats as a beginning in the effort to elevate pay to a place where his "opportunity plan" can come to fruition, the complexities written into the endeavor, unless understood will backfire during the upcoming election season.

Workers whose contract expires in 2014 and is renegotiated expiring in 2017 will not see the increase until 2017.

 "The President believes that the federal government should lead by example as a model employer, joining so many other private businesses that recognize that paying a fair wage is both the right thing to do, the smart thing to do, and the efficient thing to do," Secretary Perez said.

Perez Addresses Long term Unemployed

Tom Perez, Secretary of Labor, also addressed the issue of the long term unemployed.

While the unemployment rate which had skyrocketed to astronomical numbers during President Obama's first administration, and had stayed cemented at 8.0% for over forty straight months, has steadily come down to a more recent and manageable 6.7%.

Calling attention to the only demographic which has not declined in proportion to the declining unemployment rate, Secretary Perez outlined specifics of the presidents meeting with CEO's who are revamping the long term unemployment hiring practices to take advantage of one of the largest untapped talent pool and federal subsidized wages to assist and encourage companies to hiring these workers.

"So if an employer hires someone who is long-term unemployed right now, we'll pay half the wage over six to eight months, and sometimes even more," Secretary Perez said.


He also explained how "so many companies who have practices that are benign, such as a credit check but the reality is, if you've been unemployed for two years, you've probably missed a couple payments.  And what we saw in that room was the willingness from companies to look at people's abilities and take a fresh look."

The long term unemployed who did not follow the initial suggestions and create a bridge for prospective employers to see or gap employment filler may now be considered a risk hire.

Although "what we heard from companies was that, 'you know what, I used to look skeptically on that person who had been out for 13 months we took a risk, and they're some of our most productive employees.'  And so that's what we were trying to communicate is that sometimes we put in place certain filters that prevent us from seeing potential in people, and that's what this initiative is about," he said.

 "And so what we did and what the President did in meeting with the CEOs and getting the pledges of over 300 companies was, again, to use his convening authority to help address this issue." 

Debt Ceiling Raised

President Obama signed into law Saturday, February 15, 2014, the President signed into law the "Temporary Debt Limit Extension Act," which temporarily suspends the public debt limit until March 15, 2015.

Unlike the October debt ceiling debacle that caused a three week government shut down house republicans and senate democrats agreed without leverage or attempt to gain compromises or cuts from the president.

Other elements of the bill include repelling "a current-law reduction in annual cost-of-living adjustments to military pensions for current military members and retirees."

President Obama Hosts French President Hollande

President Barack Obama welcomed French President François Hollande to the White House on the first state visit to the United States for the new elected president and the first for the French in over twenty years.

The official visit began in Monticello the home of Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, who was also once the ambassador to France.

As one of the United States strongest allies, the state visit served to confirm and further cement a bond forged over time and through adversity "from a field in Yorktown to the beaches of Normandy to the mountains of Afghanistan," President Obama said in his welcoming remarks.

The challenges facing all nations were reiterated by both presidents including the current development in the ongoing Syrian War, continuing the fight as a unified world to force Assad to dispose of his entire chemical weapons arsenal, the proliferation of life treaty, the recent Iranian development calling for the dismantling of their nuclear pursuit, and continued global economic recession which hasn't completely abated.

Members of the media weren't as generous with the two Presidents as they were grilled pointedly during the press conference asking the President's if the relationship with Great Britain has chilled over the spying scandal and if the French are now the flavor of the month.

Diplomatically Obama answered as he has two beautiful daughter whom he loves equally his relationship with his European allies is equally important. President Hollande, equally as diplomatic, with four children explained the same.

The unity the United States has with its European partners as well as other members of the G-8, G-12 and G-20, remains a top priority superseding the needs, necessities and value of intelligence gathering which has in the past crossed personal boundaries.

"Our two countries," French President Hollande said, "hold universal values, values that inspired Eleanor Roosevelt and René Cassin to write together the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  We stand together to fight terrorism.  Today still, France and the United States stand side by side to make these values prevail.  We stand together with the United States to address the threat of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and chemical weapons; together to solve the crises faced by the Middle East; together to support Africa's development; and together to fight global warming and climate change."

The presidents ended the visit with an elegant state dinner celebrating the friendships of the two countries the "strongest allies and closest friends."



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