President Barack Obama

Obama Moves to Protect Workers and Consumers in Face of GOP Obstruction

Faced with uncompromising obstruction from Senate Republicans, President Obama made four recess appointments today to staff agencies that protect American workers and consumers.

First, the president appointed former Ohio attorney general Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a watchdog post that has been vacant since the agency began operations last summer. Obama nominated Cordray in July, but met with unyielding opposition from Senate Republicans, who refused to even allow a confirmation vote on any person to the post unless the agency was first severely weakened. Announcing the recess appointment in Ohio, Obama said:

Now, every day that Richard waited to be confirmed -- and we were pretty patient. I mean, we kept on saying to Mitch McConnell and the other folks, let's go ahead and confirm him. Why isn't he being called up? Let's go. Every day that we waited was another day when millions of Americans were left unprotected. Because without a director in place, the consumer watchdog agency that we've set up doesn't have all the tools it needs to protect consumers against dishonest mortgage brokers or payday lenders and debt collectors who are taking advantage of consumers. And that's inexcusable. It's wrong. And I refuse to take no for an answer.

With Cordray installed at his new post, the CFPB – the brainchild of Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren – will finally be able to fully take on its job to protect consumers from harmful financial practices.

Later in the day, President Obama announced that he will also be making recess appointments to fill three seats on the National Labor Relations Board, another target of relentless Republican obstruction. If Republicans continued to block the president’s nominees to the board, it would lose its quorum – and its power to issue new rulings – midway through this month. The GOP’s grudge against the board resulted in its operating without a quorum from the end of 2007 through the beginning of 2010. The more than 500 decisions it made during that time were later thrown out by the Supreme Court.

The president had no choice but to make recess appointments to ensure that these important agencies can do their jobs, whether the Senate GOP wants them to or not.
 

PFAW

AAMIA Vice-Chair Shares Stage with President at Pro-Worker Press Conference

President Obama held a press conference today to urge House Republicans to pass an urgent extension to payroll tax cuts and unemployment insurance. Joining the president on stage was Rev. Dr. Robert P. Shine, vice-chair of PFAW’s African American Ministers in Action. Dr. Shine, pastor of Berachah Baptist Church in Philadelphia, was invited to represent members of his community who would be hurt by the loss of these important benefits if they aren’t renewed in January.

Rev. Dr. Robert P. Shine, fifth from left, behind the president.

Dr. Shine released a statement in support of the president’s efforts to extend tax relief to working people and unemployment insurance to Americans suffering from long-term unemployment:

“It was an honor to stand behind our President today, both literally and figuratively. Extending the payroll tax cut and extending the lifeline of unemployment insurance are two of the most important things our elected officials in Washington can do, both to help individual American families get by and to help get our economy moving again. The refusal of House Republicans to take a simple, bipartisan step on behalf of working Americans is truly shocking. While millionaires and billionaires are enjoying the lowest tax rates in decades, working families across the country are struggling to get by. For working families, $40 a paycheck from the President’s tax cut will make all the difference. For those struggling to find work, unemployment insurance means survival.

“During the Christmas season, the President is standing with working people while the GOP is continuing to protect millionaires. I’m proud to stand with the President.”
 

PFAW

The Payroll Tax and the 47%

Republicans in Congress have been attracting plenty of unwanted attention for their muddled refusal to extend a payroll tax cut that will, if not passed, hit 160 million American workers with a substantial tax increase on Jan. 1. Most of that attention has focused, rightly, on their refusal to provide a tax break to working people even as they do everything in their power to ensure historically low tax rates for the wealthiest.

But in a column today, David Frum points out that it’s more than the GOP’s image as tax-cutters that’s hurting in this debate. As long as the payroll tax stays an issue, more light is shed on the bogus claim, swallowed whole by the Right and even some in the media, that “47 percent of Americans pay no taxes.” The claim has caught on despite being flatly untrue – while only 53 percent of Americans make enough money to pay federal income tax, all workers pay federal payroll taxes. The myth that half of Americans don’t contribute to the federal budget is convenient for GOP talking points, but it just isn’t true.

Frum writes:


[U]nlike House Republicans, I am not in thrall to another Journal teaching: the claim that the poorer 47% of Americans “pay no tax.” This claim rests on denying the existence of payroll taxes altogether. If you deny that payroll taxes exist, it becomes very difficult to discuss the consequences of reducing or remitting them, including some arguably serious long-term consequences.
 

Republicans, with their “47 percent” claim, are essentially payroll tax deniers. By having a debate about cutting the payroll tax, they are being forced to admit not only that it exists, but that it can be an actual burden on working Americans.

The White House, meanwhile, has started collecting compelling stories via Twitter from individual Americans of what an extra $40 per paycheck (the savings from the payroll tax for a family earning $50,000 a year) will mean to American families. You can follow and contribute your own story with the hashtag #40dollars.
 

PFAW

In Plan B Decision, Obama Administration Channels but Does Not Please the Religious Right

On Wednesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled a science-based decision by the FDA to allow girls under 17 to access the emergency contraceptive Plan B without a prescription. Currently, women 17 and older can obtain the drug without a prescription, but must show ID at a pharmacy in order to access it. The FDA found that the drug, which is more effective the more quickly it is taken, is “safe and effective and should be approved for nonprescription use for all females of child-bearing potential.”

Defending Sebelius’ decision yesterday, President Obama said that as a father of two girls he was uneasy with Plan B being available “alongside bubble gum and batteries.”

In making this argument, Obama and Sebelius are channeling both the Religious Right’s contempt of science and its paternalistic attitude toward women’s reproductive health.

The “bubble gum and batteries” argument is, of course, not about safety – and neither is the Right’s opposition to Plan B. Girls of any age can walk into a pharmacy and buy any number of things that could damage their health if used improperly (Aspirin, Robitussin, rat poison). Plan B, at a cost of $30 to $50 a pop, is unlikely to be either an impulse purchase or a sexually active young woman’s primary method of birth control. Instead, it’s exactly what it bills itself as – an emergency measure to prevent pregnancy in the event of rape or contraceptive failure. And it becomes less effective the longer a woman waits to take it – adding a compelling reason why it should be available without a prescription and without a middle man.

The Religious Right’s fight to keep young woman from obtaining Plan B has never been about safety. Unable to keep the drug from being approved in the first place, anti-choice groups have fallen back on trying to keep it off the shelves and out of sight. In an email alert about the decision, the Family Research Council made these priorities very clear. The group applauded Sebelius for ensuring that Plan B would “stay behind pharmacy counters--where it belongs” and then backtracked to say they “opposed” the drug “from the beginning.” Wendy Wright, former director of Concerned Women for America, also ended a statement focusing on the safety of teenage girls (who she said would “rely on” Plan B as birth control if it became easily available) by criticizing the fact that the drug was available at all.

The decision to keep Plan B behind pharmacy counters will not appease the groups that don’t want it to be available in the first place. Instead, it will add more fuel to the Right’s attempts to cut off reproductive rights for women, while denying women of all ages the right to buy a safe drug without having to jump over hurdles laid out by politicians.
 

PFAW

What do we need? JOBS! When do we need them? NOW!

Every day all over the country we hear that what the American people need most are jobs in our communities. President Obama has proposed a jobs bill that would help create these jobs while rebuilding crumbling infrastructure and make sure our teachers, firefighters and police officers stay employed doing the things that make this country safe and stronger.

Yesterday, People For the American way helped in the fight to create jobs by hosting a teleconference with our members, highlighting our ongoing work to support the President’s American Jobs Act and hearing from top White House officials about where we need to go to move the Act forward. We also had the privilege of attending a special White House meeting where the President, Vice President and top staff reiterated their commitment to putting Americans back to work. Their passionate words energized the progressive audience as we continue to engage in this very important fight.

The American Jobs Act is a proactive step in the right direction but faces conservative opposition. We need to continue to put the pressure on those that seek to put Big Business and the wealthy ahead of the children and families who will bear the brunt the far-right agenda.

For more information on the American Jobs Act visit http://www.whitehouse.gov/economy/jobsact
 

PFAW