Today's News and Commentary – December 24
The Washington Post reports on today’s Obamacare’s “deadline” for insurance to start by January 1st, but emphasizes that this is not the deadline to sign up for insurance to prevent incurring the individual mandate penalty, and notes that consumers can continue to purchase the same types of plans at the same premiums on the exchanges through March. The Post also reports that President Obama himself has purchased a “bronze” plan on the Washington, D.C. exchange for $400 a month, though the President and his family will continue to receive medical care through the U.S. military, as all recent presidents have.
In immigration news, the New York Times reports on tensions in immigrant communities in light of updated statistics this week showing that the Obama administration has deported more than 1.9 million foreigners, a record for an American president. Administration officials said 98 percent of deportees in 2013 were criminals, serious immigration offenders, and recent border crossers, but immigrant leaders argue these deportations still separate bread-winning parents from children and unauthorized immigrants from family members here legally, including American citizens. Administration officials cite a congressional requirement that more than 30,000 immigrants be detained daily, and the Times notes that Republican leaders in Congress have been sharply critical of the administration’s efforts to exercise discretion, with some alleging that “the Obama administration refuses to enforce our immigration laws.”
In international immigration and labor news, the Wall Street Journal reports that labor restrictions on Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants set by several countries when the two Eastern European nations joined the EU in 2007 expire on January 1, causing tensions in the U.K. and other Western European nations. The issue carries major political significance for British Prime Minister David Cameron, as the rise of a “right-wing, euroskeptic party has squeezed support for his center-right Conservatives ahead of 2015 general elections,” and a recent poll showed that 37 percent view immigration as the most important issue facing Britain.
In the latest development in ongoing debates over state and municipal pensions, the New York Times reports that Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Patricia Lucas ruled that San Jose, the third largest city in California and the “self-described capital of Silicon Valley,” cannot make its employees pay an additional 16 percent from their own pockets toward their pensions or switch to a less generous plan. Lucas did affirm voter-approved cuts to wages and some health benefits that are expected to save the city money.
In the world of high fashion, the New York Times reports on a promising new labor organization for models, the Model Alliance, that aims to prevent abuses like “agencies cheating models out of pay and coercive contracts dictating that 15-year-old models not let the circumference of their thighs or waists grow.” The group is not seeking to unionize agencies or bargain contracts, but rather is designed to amass strength in numbers to press for better conditions, similar to other recent labor efforts like the Freelancers Union and the fast-food workers’ movement.
Finally, the Washington Post reports that President Obama signed an executive order yesterday authorizing a 1 percent pay raise for federal employees, ending a four-year freeze in salary rates. The increase will take effect in January, applying to 2.1 million federal workers (it does not include Congress).