Today’s News & Commentary — January 21, 2015
The President delivered the State of the Union last night. Among the President’s economic proposals: a renewed call for a higher minimum wage, an initiative to expand paid sick leave and overtime rules, a focus on maternity leave, and a plan to extend two free years of community college to millions of students. The New York Times and LA Times have coverage of the speech; some have already raised questions about the President’s ability to carry out these ambitious plans in the current political climate.
The New York Times Upshot Blog offers its own in-depth analysis of the state of the union. Its conclusion: “while far stronger than when Mr. Obama took office, [it] remains troubled.” In economic news, it notes that while the joblessness rate is the lowest since President Obama took office, the proportion of working Americans remains low (at 59.2%). Furthermore, the increase in job creation has not been matched by a proportional increase in wage growth. Hourly earnings have been rising around 2% a year since 2011, barely exceeding the rate of inflation. It concludes: “This will feel like a full-throated recovery not merely when most Americans who want a job have one; we’re nearly there already. It will be when people feel like hard work will lead to higher pay, and that day has not yet arrived.”
The Upshot Blog also covered Obama’s focus on paid family leave. It notes that the percentage of women in the US labor force is declining, in part because “policies that make it possible for parents to work have not kept pace with changing family structures in the United States, while other countries provide working families with more support.” The President proposed six weeks of paid leave (for federal employees) following the birth of a child. While this wouldn’t come close to the support offered by other developed nations (e.g., Britain: 52 weeks, Italy: 22 weeks, Japan: 14 weeks), it would mark a significant change in policy.
The New York Times published a photo-journalism essay about a young immigrant who benefitted from President Obama’s DACA program, tracking her subsequent enrollment in college and the program’s effects on her and her family.