Friday, July 26, 2013

Personal reaction to President Obama's speech on the Middle Class Economy

On a personal note,  We find the President's speeches very good but crafted from the same, simple formula. And we are getting a little tired of it. So much of the great rhetoric is gone. It now feels like a market tested, grade school level  campaign speech not a major adress on the economy.  Either he is tired or too much of a politician.

At some point during his speechs, Obama does dip into great speech making. Here is my favorite quote (context: Obama is discussing do nothing to improve the economy as some Republicans propose):

"Social tensions will rise, as various groups fight to hold on to what they have, or start blaming somebody else for why their position isn’t improving.  And the fundamental optimism that’s always propelled us forward will give way to cynicism or nostalgia. And that’s not the vision I have for this country.  It’s not the vision you have for this country.  That’s not the America we know.  That’s not the vision we should be settling for.  That’s not a vision we should be passing on to our children. "

Of course he has said this many times before.

Anyway most of Obama's speechs are very similar to the following:

1) (5 Minutes). Go local: thank those who have invited you. Tell one local joke. Recognize several local people in the crowd who are popular.
2) Start upbeat by discussing great things the US or locals have done in the past.
3) (5 Minutes). Create general unease. Begin to paint the picture of what is wrong and what needs to change in general.
4) (2 Minutes). Let them of the hook: Tell people it's not your fault or their fault. Blame current problems on past decisions: wall street, big banks, prior presidents, congress or foreign competition. Discuss something good done recently.
5) (2-5 Minutes). Change the tone to serious with a "But..." or a "We have more work to do..." or "We can do better.."
6) (10-15 Minutes). Create specific unease: Introduce main theme and specific examples the audience can relate to
8) (10 Minutes). Introduce proposal to fix the problems. Include one specific proposal in each area.
9) (10 Minutes). Circle back with specific benefits if programs go forward and specific evils if they don't.
8) (5 Minutes). The close: Call for support and consensus. Paint larger picture of good vs. evil.
9) (5 Minutes). Close with a historic reference (preferably local) renforcing the correctness of the idea and the need for consensus.
10) Thank you, and God bless the United States of America

Send speech to Valerie Jarett and Michelle Obama for vetting.

Hard work: President Obama's Speech on "A Better Bargin for the Middle Class" at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois

On July 24, 2013, President Obama gave a major economic speech at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois.

Here is the text of the President's speech.

What can you say ?  As good journalist you need to first layout the facts and as a blogger you must give your opinion.


Obama discussed the changing economy and the effect of the changes on the middle class in the United States. He discussed the economic environment that everyone is now aware of.  He reviewed the decline in manufacturing, the growth of the service economy, and flat wage growth.

He talked about the main policies that would help the middle class such as healthcare, expanded education opportunities and support for a secure retirement.


The presidents team has realized that the US economy is fundementally a middle class economy. However the middle class has long been disinterested in the US political economy. For the last 30 years, the US middle class had enough material comforts and distractions to not worry about larger issues.    Now, people are faced with a declining living standard not just for their children but themselves.  They are ready to listen.

Obama, is trying to use the opportunity to discuss sound economic and political values that will steer the country for the next 30 years. Some of the principles such as caring for the unemployed, poor, sick or elderly did not connect with an selfish public until enough of them faced a similar situation. Not they are ready to listen.

It's just hard work discussing a compliated, long-term topic with the American People.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

New Jersey tries to raise minimum wage with November ballot initiative

In my state, New Jersey, the minimum wage is only $7.25. In June of 2012, the NJ senate and house voted to increase the NJ minimum wage to $8.50. However, Gov. Christie vetoed the bill in January of 2013. Now the legislature is proposing a constitutional amendment to raise the wage to $8.25 and index it to inflation. The amendment will appear on the November ballot.

A survey show that about 3/4 of the registered voters favored the initiative. NJ.COM has the story here.

Many states are planning initiaitve to raise the minimum wage. The department of labor has a map of the current minimum wage pay rates in the US. The DOL map is here. Some big Northeastern states like NY, NJ, PA and MD pay only the federal minimum wage rate.

Recent research has shown that minimum wage increases are employment neutral to employment positive because the people who receive the minimum wage spend almost 100% of their money. It also has less of an impact on small business since the majority of minimum wage employers are large companies.

Politically, the issue has gotten little attention and is expected to pass easily.  Christine, who has presidential ambitions, will mostly likely ignore the issue or make half-hearted arguments against it, to provide cover against the national Republicans.

The reason we noticed the issue was because of a group called  EPI -- The Employment Policies Institute has been running ads in New Jersey against the increase. NJ.COM has the ad for the group here. The Employment Policies Institue is a front for a convervative public relations company called Berman and Co. who's clients include companies in the low wage food and beverage industry.  You can read about Berman & Co. here and here.

EPI has two web sites opposed to raising the minimum wage.  One called EPI-Online is against raising the minimum wage and health insurance. The second called is purely against raising the minimum wage. Both sites have few facts or research based ideas and instead offer the standard convervative ideas on raising the minimum wage.

Gov. Christie refused to sign a bill during the summer of 2012 that would have raised the wage to $8.50. That led to the current ballot measure. It will interesting to see if he takes a stand on the popular issue. Opposing any minimum wage increase has become a test for republicans.

The ballot measure reads:

"Do you approve amending the State Constitution to set a State minimum wage rate of at least $8.25 per hour? The amendment also requires annual increases in that rate if there are annual increases in the cost of living. 

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