The Iranian Nuclear Deal

The White House released details of its newly announced nuclear deal with Iran:

Key Excerpts of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)

Preamble and General Provisions

 The full implementation of this JCPOA will ensure the exclusively peaceful nature of

Iran’s nuclear program.

 Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop, or acquire any

nuclear weapons.

 This JCPOA will produce the comprehensive lifting of all UN Security Council sanctions

as well as multilateral and national sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program.

 A Joint Commission consisting of the E3/EU+3 and Iran will be established to monitor

the implementation of this JCPOA and will carry out the functions provided for in this

JCPOA.

 The IAEA will be requested to monitor and verify the voluntary nuclear-related measures

as detailed in this JCPOA. The IAEA will be requested to provide regular updates to the

Board of Governors, and as provided for in this JCPOA, to the UN Security Council.

 The E3+3 will submit a draft resolution to the UN Security Council endorsing this

JCPOA affirming that conclusion of this JCPOA marks a fundamental shift in its

consideration of this issue and expressing its desire to build a new relationship with Iran.

Enrichment, Enrichment R&D, Stockpiles

 Iran’s long term plan includes certain agreed limitations on all uranium enrichment and

uranium enrichment-related activities including certain limitations on specific research

and development (R&D) activities for the first 8 years, to be followed by gradual

evolution, at a reasonable pace, to the next stage of its enrichment activities for

exclusively peaceful purposes.

 Iran will begin phasing out its IR-1 centrifuges in 10 years. During this period, Iran will

keep its enrichment capacity at Natanz at up to a total installed uranium enrichment

capacity of 5060 IR-1 centrifuges. Excess centrifuges and enrichment-related

infrastructure at Natanz will be stored under IAEA continuous monitoring.

(Note: Iran currently has about 19,000 IR-1 and advanced IR-2M centrifuges installed)

 Based on its long-term plan, for 15 years, Iran will keep its level of uranium enrichment

at up to 3.67%.

(Note: Prior to the Joint Plan of Action, Iran enriched uranium to near 20%)

1

 Iran will refrain from any uranium enrichment and uranium enrichment R&D and from

keeping any nuclear material at Fordow for 15 years.

(Note: Iran currently has about 2,700 IR-1 centrifuges installed at Fordow of which

about 700 are enriching uranium)

 Iran will convert the Fordow facility into a nuclear, physics and technology center.

 1044 IR-I machines in six cascades will remain in one wing at Fordow. Two of those six

cascades will spin without uranium and will be transitioned, including through

appropriate infrastructure modification, for stable isotope production. The other four

cascades with all associated infrastructure will remind idle.

 During the 15 year period, Iran will keep its uranium stockpile under 300 kg of up to

3.67% enriched UF6 or the equivalent in other chemical forms.

(Note: Iran currently maintains a stockpile of about 10,000 kg of low-enriched UF6)

 All other centrifuges and enrichment-related infrastructure will be removed and stored

under IAEA continuous monitoring.

More after the jump (click to continue):

Arak, Heavy Water, Reprocessing

 Iran will design and rebuild a modernized heavy water research reactor in Arak, based on

an agreed conceptual design, using fuel enrichment up to 3.67%, in the form of an

international partnership which will certify the final design. The reactor will support

peaceful nuclear research and radioisotope production for medical and instructional

purposes. The redesigned and rebuilt Arak reactor will not produce weapons grade

plutonium.

 Iran plans to keep pace with the trend of international technological advancement in

relying on light water for its future power and research with enhanced international

cooperation including assurance of supply of necessary fuel.

 There will be no additional heavy water reactors or accumulation of heavy water in Iran

for 15 years.

 Iran intends to ship out all spent fuel for all future and present power and research nuclear

reactors.

Transparency and Confidence Building Measures

 Iran will provisionally apply the Additional Protocol to its Comprehensive Safeguards

Agreement in accordance with Article 17 b) of the Additional Protocol.

 Iran will fully implement the “Roadmap for Clarification of Past and Present Outstanding

Issues” agreed with the IAEA, containing arrangements to address past and present issues

of concern relating to its nuclear program.

 Iran will allow the IAEA to monitor the implementation of the above voluntary measures

for their respective durations, as well as to implement transparency measures, as set out

by the JCPOA and its Annexes. These measures include: a long-term presence in Iran;

IAEA monitoring of uranium ore concentrate produced by Iran from all uranium ore

concentrate plants for 25 years; containment and surveillance of centrifuge rotors and

bellows for 20 years; use of IAEA approved and certified modern technologies including

on-line enrichment measure and electronic seals; and a reliable mechanism to ensure

speedy resolution of IAEA access concerns for 15 years, as defined in Annex I.

 Iran will not engage in activities, including at the R&D level, that could contribute to the

development of a nuclear explosive device, including uranium or plutonium metallurgy

activities.

 Iran will cooperate and act in accordance with the procurement channel in this JCPOA, as

detailed in Annex IV, endorsed by the UN Security Council resolution.

Sanctions

 The UN Security Council resolution endorsing the JCPOA will terminate all the

provisions of the previous UN Security Council resolutions on the Iranian nuclear issue

simultaneously with the IAEA-verified implementation of agreed nuclear-related

measures by Iran and will establish specific restrictions.

 The EU will terminate all provisions of the EU Regulation, as subsequently amended,

implementing all the nuclear related economic and financial sanctions, including related

designations, simultaneously with IAEA-verified implementation of agreed nuclear-

related measures by Iran as specified in Annex V.

 The United States will cease the application, and will continue to do so, in accordance

with the JCPOA, of the sanctions specified in Annex II, to take effect simultaneously

with the IAEA-verified implementation of the agreed upon related measures by Iran as

specified in Appendix V.

(Note: U.S. statutory sanctions focused on Iran’s support for terrorism, human rights

abuses, and missile activities will remain in effect and continue to be enforced.)

 Eight years after Adoption Day or when the IAEA has reached the Broader Conclusion

that all the nuclear material in Iran remains in peaceful activities, whichever is earlier, the

United States will seek such legislative action as may be appropriate to terminate or

modify to effectuate the termination of sanctions specified in Annex II.

Implementation Plan

 Finalization Day is the date on which negotiations of this JCPOA are concluded among

the E3/EU+3 and Iran, to be followed promptly by submission of the resolution

endorsing this JCPOA to the UN Security Council for adoption without delay.

 Adoption Day is the date 90 days after the endorsement of this JCPOA by the UN

Security Council, or such earlier date as may be determined by mutual consent of the

JCPOA participants, at which time this JCPOA and the commitments in this JCPOA

come into effect.

 Implementation Day is the date on which, simultaneously with the IAEA report verifying

implementation by Iran of the nuclear-related measures described in Sections 15.1 to

15.11 of Annex V, the EU and the United States takes the actions described in Sections

16 and 17 of Annex V.

 Transition Day is day 8 years after Adoption Day or the date on which the Director

General of the IAEA submits a report stating that the IAEA has reached the Broader

Conclusion that all nuclear material in Iran remains in peaceful activities, whichever is

earlier.

 UN Security Council resolution termination day is the date on which the UN Security

Council resolution endorsing this JCPOA terminates according to its terms, which is to be

10 years from Adoption Day.

Dispute Resolution Mechanism

 If Iran believed that any or all of the E3/EU+3 were not meeting their commitments

under this JCPOA, Iran could refer the issue to the Joint Commission for resolution;

similarly, if any of the E3/EU+3 believed that Iran was not meeting its commitments

under the JCPOA, any of the E3/EU+3 can do the same. The Joint Commission would

have 15 days to resolve the issue, unless the time period was extended by consensus.

 After Joint Commission consideration, any participant could refer the issue to ministers

of foreign affairs, if it believed the compliance issue had not been resolved. Ministers

would have 15 days to resolve the issue, unless the time period was extended by

consensus.

 If the issue has still not been resolved to the satisfaction of the complaining participant,

and if the complaining participant deems the issue to constitute significant non-

performance, then that participant could treat the unresolved issue as grounds to cease

performing its commitments under this JCPOA in whole or in part and / or notify the UN

Security Council that it believes the issue constitutes significant non-performance.

Iran Nuke Deal Finalized

A deal which will prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons was finalized today.  Announced by President Obama today it is the culmination of intense diplomatic efforts which succeeded where a military intervention would not have.  Economic sanctions enforced by a large coalition of western nations brought Iran to the table and hard negotiating by Secretaries of State Clinton and Kerry brought an agreement.

All the war hawks crying for force have been proved to be fools.  I remember Sen. McCain singing “bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran” to a Beach Boys melody while campaigning for President.  Morons like Sen. Graham wanted nothing more than war to enrich their defense contractor donors and stock portfolios.  War with Iran would have made Iraq a walk in the park.  Iran is larger, more populous and far more developed than Iraq and war there would have been a major disaster.  Kudos to those who believe in the power of diplomacy.

President Obama’s statement this morning:

7:02 A.M. EDT

    THE PRESIDENT:  Today, after two years of negotiations, the United States, together with our international partners, has achieved something that decades of animosity has not — a comprehensive, long-term deal with Iran that will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

    This deal demonstrates that American diplomacy can bring about real and meaningful change — change that makes our country, and the world, safer and more secure.  This deal is also in line with a tradition of American leadership.  It’s now more than 50 years since President Kennedy stood before the American people and said, “Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.”  He was speaking then about the need for discussions between the United States and the Soviet Union, which led to efforts to restrict the spread of nuclear weapons.

    In those days, the risk was a catastrophic nuclear war between two super powers.  In our time, the risk is that nuclear weapons will spread to more and more countries, particularly in the Middle East, the most volatile region in our world.

    Today, because America negotiated from a position of strength and principle, we have stopped the spread of nuclear weapons in this region.  Because of this deal, the international community will be able to verify that the Islamic Republic of Iran will not develop a nuclear weapon.

    This deal meets every single one of the bottom lines that we established when we achieved a framework earlier this spring.  Every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off.  And the inspection and transparency regime necessary to verify that objective will be put in place.  Because of this deal, Iran will not produce the highly enriched uranium and weapons-grade plutonium that form the raw materials necessary for a nuclear bomb.

Because of this deal, Iran will remove two-thirds of its installed centrifuges — the machines necessary to produce highly enriched uranium for a bomb — and store them under constant international supervision.  Iran will not use its advanced centrifuges to produce enriched uranium for the next decade.  Iran will also get rid of 98 percent of its stockpile of enriched uranium.

    To put that in perspective, Iran currently has a stockpile that could produce up to 10 nuclear weapons.  Because of this deal, that stockpile will be reduced to a fraction of what would be required for a single weapon.  This stockpile limitation will last for 15 years.

    Because of this deal, Iran will modify the core of its reactor in Arak so that it will not produce weapons-grade plutonium.  And it has agreed to ship the spent fuel from the reactor out of the country for the lifetime of the reactor.  For at least the next 15 years, Iran will not build any new heavy-water reactors.

    Because of this deal, we will, for the first time, be in a position to verify all of these commitments.  That means this deal is not built on trust; it is built on verification.  Inspectors will have 24/7 access to Iran’s key nuclear facilities.

*Iran [Inspectors] will have access to Iran’s entire nuclear supply chain — its uranium mines and mills, its conversion facility, and its centrifuge manufacturing and storage facilities.  This ensures that Iran will not be able to divert materials from known facilities to covert ones.  Some of these transparency measures will be in place for 25 years.

Because of this deal, inspectors will also be able to access any suspicious location.  Put simply, the organization responsible for the inspections, the IAEA, will have access where necessary, when necessary.  That arrangement is permanent.  And the IAEA has also reached an agreement with Iran to get access that it needs to complete its investigation into the possible military dimensions of Iran’s past nuclear research.

Finally, Iran is permanently prohibited from pursuing a nuclear weapon under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which provided the basis for the international community’s efforts to apply pressure on Iran.

As Iran takes steps to implement this deal, it will receive relief from the sanctions that we put in place because of Iran’s nuclear program — both America’s own sanctions and sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council.  This relief will be phased in.  Iran must complete key nuclear steps before it begins to receive new sanctions relief.  And over the course of the next decade, Iran must abide by the deal before additional sanctions are lifted, including five years for restrictions related to arms, and eight years for restrictions related to ballistic missiles.

All of this will be memorialized and endorsed in a new United Nations Security Council resolution.  And if Iran violates the deal, all of these sanctions will snap back into place.  So there’s a very clear incentive for Iran to follow through, and there are very real consequences for a violation.

That’s the deal.  It has the full backing of the international community.  Congress will now have an opportunity to review the details, and my administration stands ready to provide extensive briefings on how this will move forward.

As the American people and Congress review the deal, it will be important to consider the alternative.  Consider what happens in a world without this deal.  Without this deal, there is no scenario where the world joins us in sanctioning Iran until it completely dismantles its nuclear program.  Nothing we know about the Iranian government suggests that it would simply capitulate under that kind of pressure.  And the world would not support an effort to permanently sanction Iran into submission.  We put sanctions in place to get a diplomatic resolution, and that is what we have done.

Without this deal, there would be no agreed-upon limitations for the Iranian nuclear program.  Iran could produce, operate and test more and more centrifuges.  Iran could fuel a reactor capable of producing plutonium for a bomb.  And we would not have any of the inspections that allow us to detect a covert nuclear weapons program.  In other words, no deal means no lasting constraints on Iran’s nuclear program.

Such a scenario would make it more likely that other countries in the region would feel compelled to pursue their own nuclear programs, threatening a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region of the world.  It would also present the United States with fewer and less effective options to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

I’ve been President and Commander-in-Chief for over six years now.  Time and again, I have faced decisions about whether or not to use military force.  It’s the gravest decision that any President has to make.  Many times, in multiple countries, I have decided to use force.  And I will never hesitate to do so when it is in our national security interest.  I strongly believe that our national security interest now depends upon preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon — which means that without a diplomatic resolution, either I or a future U.S. President would face a decision about whether or not to allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon or whether to use our military to stop it.

Put simply, no deal means a greater chance of more war in the Middle East.  Moreover, we give nothing up by testing whether or not this problem can be solved peacefully.  If, in a worst-case scenario, Iran violates the deal, the same options that are available to me today will be available to any U.S. President in the future.  And I have no doubt that 10 or 15 years from now, the person who holds this office will be in a far stronger position with Iran further away from a weapon and with the inspections and transparency that allow us to monitor the Iranian program.

For this reason, I believe it would be irresponsible to walk away from this deal.  But on such a tough issue, it is important that the American people and their representatives in Congress get a full opportunity to review the deal.  After all, the details matter.  And we’ve had some of the finest nuclear scientists in the world working through those details.  And we’re dealing with a country — Iran — that has been a sworn adversary of the United States for over 35 years.  So I welcome a robust debate in Congress on this issue, and I welcome scrutiny of the details of this agreement.

But I will remind Congress that you don’t make deals like this with your friends.  We negotiated arms control agreements with the Soviet Union when that nation was committed to our destruction.  And those agreements ultimately made us safer.

I am confident that this deal will meet the national security interest of the United States and our allies.  So I will veto any legislation that prevents the successful implementation of this deal.

We do not have to accept an inevitable spiral into conflict. And we certainly shouldn’t seek it.  And precisely because the stakes are so high, this is not the time for politics or posturing.  Tough talk from Washington does not solve problems.  Hard-nosed diplomacy, leadership that has united the world’s major powers offers a more effective way to verify that Iran is not pursuing a nuclear weapon.

Now, that doesn’t mean that this deal will resolve all of our differences with Iran.  We share the concerns expressed by many of our friends in the Middle East, including Israel and the Gulf States, about Iran’s support for terrorism and its use of proxies to destabilize the region.  But that is precisely why we are taking this step — because an Iran armed with a nuclear weapon would be far more destabilizing and far more dangerous to our friends and to the world.

Meanwhile, we will maintain our own sanctions related to Iran’s support for terrorism, its ballistic missile program, and its human rights violations.  We will continue our unprecedented efforts to strengthen Israel’s security — efforts that go beyond what any American administration has done before.  And we will continue the work we began at Camp David to elevate our partnership with the Gulf States to strengthen their capabilities to counter threats from Iran or terrorist groups like ISIL.

However, I believe that we must continue to test whether or not this region, which has known so much suffering, so much bloodshed, can move in a different direction.

Time and again, I have made clear to the Iranian people that we will always be open to engagement on the basis of mutual interests and mutual respect.  Our differences are real and the difficult history between our nations cannot be ignored.  But it is possible to change.  The path of violence and rigid ideology, a foreign policy based on threats to attack your neighbors or eradicate Israel — that’s a dead end.  A different path, one of tolerance and peaceful resolution of conflict, leads to more integration into the global economy, more engagement with the international community, and the ability of the Iranian people to prosper and thrive.

This deal offers an opportunity to move in a new direction.  We should seize it.

We have come a long way to reach this point — decades of an Iranian nuclear program, many years of sanctions, and many months of intense negotiation.  Today, I want to thank the members of Congress from both parties who helped us put in place the sanctions that have proven so effective, as well as the other countries who joined us in that effort.

I want to thank our negotiating partners — the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, China, as well as the European Union — for our unity in this effort, which showed that the world can do remarkable things when we share a vision of peacefully addressing conflicts.  We showed what we can do when we do not split apart.

And finally, I want to thank the American negotiating team.  We had a team of experts working for several weeks straight on this, including our Secretary of Energy, Ernie Moniz.  And I want to particularly thank John Kerry, our Secretary of State, who began his service to this country more than four decades ago when he put on our uniform and went off to war.  He’s now making this country safer through his commitment to strong, principled American diplomacy.

History shows that America must lead not just with our might, but with our principles.  It shows we are stronger not when we are alone, but when we bring the world together.  Today’s announcement marks one more chapter in this pursuit of a safer and more helpful and more hopeful world.

Thank you.

ISIS

President Obama is bombing ISIS targets in Syria, an act of war against that country, in a widening of Mid-East conflict stemming from the ill fated Iraq War begun by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.  The destabilization of Iraq caused by our invasion and overthrow if its government (under false pretenses) has resulted in the creation of ISIS.  It is a direct result of horrible foreign policy decisions and until Iraq develops a fully inclusive, effective central government which isn’t a US puppet regime such destabilization will continue.

We can again invade Iraq and bomb ISIS and, perhaps, destroy the group’s capabilities only to watch another such organization form and threaten stability in the region.  These are the results of having an idiot in the Oval Office who started a war for regime change without even understanding the dynamics at work in that nation.  Bush wanted to avenge his father’s honor and in so doing opened a Pandora’s Box of trouble which will last for decades.

Many foreign policy experts predicted this sort of long lasting instability after Bush and Cheney’s bloodlust and thirst for defense industry profits (Cheney’s Halliburton made $39 billion in profits from the war) motivated them to lie to the country about Saddam’s non existent WMD’s.  These are the fruits of the biggest foreign policy blunder of the last century.

ISIS does not pose a threat to our strategic national security.  They beheaded two American journalists who chose to enter a war zone voluntarily to do their jobs.  While regrettable we cannot choose to go to war every time an American makes a foolish or dangerous decision.  At some point they must accept personal responsibility for their entering a dangerous region.  Israel murdered thousands of Palestinians and many Americans sat back and cheered the slaughter.  What this says about pr priorities is sickening.

ISIS simply doesn’t have the capability to strike definitively inside this country.  Their 20-30,000 untrained fighters have to hold and secure the areas already under their control plus battle opposition forces in Iraq, Syria and the Kurdish region of Iraq.  Their estimated $3 million/day in revenues sound impressive until one understands they actually have expenses.  Since they control a considerable area in both Syria and Iraq remember that now, as the governing body, they must administer governmental services in this region.  Schools, prisons, road construction and repair, security and all those other normal governmental services normal in today’s world are now their responsibility.  This costs money.  Those government workers expect to be paid as do their fighters.  Their army also needs training and weapons.  These things cost money.  Three million a day won’t go far especially now that Obama is targeting their sources of revenue.  Bombing of their refinery and a tightening of contributions from wealthy Arabs and closing the black market for their oil will reduce their revenues considerably.

Frankly I’m more concerned with the threat of ebola more than I am ISIS.  Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham can inflame passions all they want in their bloodlust for war but remember these two, a year ago, were screaming that we should align ourselves with ISIS against the Assad regime in Syria.  They have no credibility when it comes to national security.  I’d rather see us concentrate on eradicating ebola in western Africa before it migrates to other areas of the world.  This is the more serious threat.

President Raises Wages For Federal Contractors

Let’s begin by getting one thing straight:  a President issues Executive Orders in order to run the government.  This is his job as President under the Constitution.  There is nothing treasonous, illegal or impeachable about the practice.  In fact Barack Obama has issued far fewer Executive Orders than any President in recent times.

That said the President yesterday issued an Executive Order raising the minimum wage for workers under federal contracts.  It is now $10.10/hour instead of $7.25.  Raising the minimum wage does NOT cost jobs.  This frequent Republican objection has absolutely no basis in fact.  In fact by providing more income for low income workers the higher wages stimulate the economy creating more jobs.  When consumers, especially on the low end of the scale, have more money they tend to spend all of it.  The largest factor in our slow economy has the been the inability of consumers to spend because wages have been stagnant for thirty years unless you’re a CEO.

Where was all this wage rage when corporate executives and Wall Street banksters were increasing their incomes hundred folds?  It doesn’t seem to have cost us any CEO jobs.

From the White House:

Details of the Executive Order  

Ø  The Executive Order will raise the minimum wage to $10.10 effective for new contracts beginning January 1, 2015.   The higher wage will apply to new contracts and replacements for expiring contracts.  Boosting wages will lower turnover and absenteeism, and increase morale and productivity overall. Raising wages for those at the bottom will improve the quality and efficiency of services provided to the government.

Ø  Benefits hundreds of thousands of hardworking Americans. There are hundreds of thousands of people working under contracts with the federal government to provide services or construction who are currently making less than $10.10 an hour.  Some examples of the hardworking people who would see their wages go up under this Executive Order include nursing assistants providing care to our veterans at nursing homes, concessions workers in National Parks, people serving food to our troops, and individuals with disabilities working to maintain the grounds on military bases.

Ø  Includes an increase in the tipped minimum wage.  This executive order also includes provisions to make sure that tipped workers earn at least $10.10 overall, through a combination of tips and an employer contribution.  Employers are currently required to pay a minimum base wage of $2.13 per hour, a base that has remained unchanged for over twenty years, and if a worker’s tips do not add up to the minimum wage, the employer must make up the difference. Under the Executive Order, employers are required to ensure that tipped workers earn at least $10.10 an hour.  The Executive Order requires that employers pay a minimum base wage of $4.90 for new contracts and replacements for expiring contracts put out for bid after January 1, 2015.  That amount increases by 95 cents per year until it reaches 70 percent of the regular minimum wage, and if a worker’s tips do not add up to at least $10.10, the employer will be required to pay the difference.  

Ø  Covers individuals with disabilities.  Under current law, workers whose productivity is affected because of their disabilities may be paid less than the wage paid to others doing the same job under certain specialized certificate programs. Under this Executive Order, all individuals working under service or concessions contracts with the federal government will be covered by the same $10.10 per hour minimum wage protections.  

Ø  Improves value for the federal government and taxpayers.  One study showed that when Maryland passed its living wage law for companies contracting with the state, there was an increase in the number of contractors bidding and higher competition can help ensure better quality. The increase will take effect for new contracts and replacements for expiring contracts put out for bid after the effective date of the order, so contractors will have time to prepare and price their bids accordingly.

Continuing to Work With Congress, States and Localities to Help All Workers

The President is using his executive authority to lead by example, and will continue to work with Congress to raise the minimum wage for all Americans by passing the Harkin-Miller bill. The bill would raise the Federal minimum wage for working Americans in stages to $10.10 and index it to inflation thereafter, while also raising the minimum wage for tipped workers for the first time in over 20 years.  The President will also continue to support and encourage state, local and private sector efforts to increase wages and help more working families.  

§  Businesses like Costco have supported past increases to the minimum wage because it helps build a strong workforce and profitability over the long run. Low wages are also bad for business, as paying low wages lowers employee morale, encourages low productivity, and leads to frequent employee turnover-all of which impose costs.

§  Across the country, Americans are saying it’s time to raise the minimum wage. The President believes that it’s time for action, and people across the country agree. Since the President called for an increase in the minimum wage in last year’s State of the Union, five states have passed laws increasing their minimum wage. And many businesses, from small businesses to large corporations, see higher wages as the right way to boost productivity and reduce turnover and therefore boost their profitability.

§  Raising the minimum wage is good for government, good for business and workers and key to a stronger economy.  A range of economic studies show that modestly raising the minimum wage increases earnings and reduces poverty without jeopardizing employment.  Higher wages can also boost productivity, increase morale, reduce costs and improve efficiency.  

§  Raising the minimum wage will make sure no family of four with a full-time worker has to raise their children in poverty. It has been seven years since Congress last acted to increase the minimum wage and, adjusted for inflation, today the real value of minimum wage is roughly the same as what it was in the 1950s, despite the fact that the typical American family’s income has doubled since then. And right now a full-time minimum wage worker makes $14,500 a year, which leaves too many families struggling to make ends meet. Even after accounting for programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit, a family of four supported by a minimum wage worker still ends up living below the poverty line.

§  Indexing the minimum wage to inflation would help lower-income workers keep up in the future. Since it was first established in 1938, the minimum wage has been increased 22 times, but was eroded substantially over several prolonged periods between increases because of inflation. Indexing would prevent a repeat of the 34 percent decline in the real value of the minimum wage from 1978 to 1989 and the 19 percent decline in real value from 1998 to 2006, as well as the 40 percent decline in the real value of the base wage for tipped workers since it was last raised in 1991. Last year alone, workers earning the minimum wage basically got the equivalent of a $200 pay cut because the minimum wage stayed the same while the cost of living went up.  Democrats and Republicans agree that indexing the minimum wage to inflation would ensure that working families can keep up with expenses. Unfortunately, those families will continue suffer if Congress continues to not act.

§  Helping parents make ends meet. Around 60 percent of workers who would benefit from a higher minimum wage are women.  Less than 20 percent are teenagers.  Also, those workers who would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage brought home 46 percent of their household’s total wage and salary income in 2011.  Raising the minimum wage directly helps parents make ends meet and support their families.

 

Obama Will Stop Enforcing DOMA Today

In a statement issued by the White House President Obama says he has instructed the Attorney General to begin reviewing all federal rules regarding discrimination against legally married same sex couples.  This will likely be a lengthy process as the law has been enshrined in federal statues for a good period of time.  It means LGBT couples legally married can now not be denied Social Security or federal pension benefits, a spouse must be notified if his/her partner is killed in action and over 1,000 other federal benefits granted to married couples.

I applaud the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act.  This was discrimination enshrined in law.  It treated loving, committed gay and lesbian couples as a separate and lesser class of people.  The Supreme Court has righted that wrong, and our country is better off for it.  We are a people who declared that we are all created equal – and the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.

This ruling is a victory for couples who have long fought for equal treatment under the law; for children whose parents’ marriages will now be recognized, rightly, as legitimate; for families that, at long last, will get the respect and protection they deserve; and for friends and supporters who have wanted nothing more than to see their loved ones treated fairly and have worked hard to persuade their nation to change for the better.

So we welcome today’s decision, and I’ve directed the Attorney General to work with other members of my Cabinet to review all relevant federal statutes to ensure this decision, including its implications for Federal benefits and obligations, is implemented swiftly and smoothly.

On an issue as sensitive as this, knowing that Americans hold a wide range of views based on deeply held beliefs, maintaining our nation’s commitment to religious freedom is also vital.  How religious institutions define and consecrate marriage has always been up to those institutions.  Nothing about this decision – which applies only to civil marriages – changes that.  

The laws of our land are catching up to the fundamental truth that millions of Americans hold in our hearts:  when all Americans are treated as equal, no matter who they are or whom they love, we are all more free.

News & Notes December 19. 2012

If a Democratic President cuts my Social Security I’ll never vote for another Democrat.  They ran on protecting both Social Security and Medicare and six weeks after the election they’ve put them on the table.  The “fiscal cliff” is a manufactured crisis created by Republicans and conservative Democrats.  Social Security doesn’t contribute one red cent to the deficit so why is this “chained CPI” benefit cut on the table and put there by the President?

I left the Democratic Party four years ago.  At this rate I’ll soon register as a Green.

Almost none of the “experts” discussing the deficit talks on television has been an economist.

Gun nuts arguing for arming teachers are insane.  Some are claiming Israeli teachers are armed.  They aren’t.  The few who are in the West Bank also have two years of military training and have to be certified on their arms every three years.

Sen. Bob Casey and Congressman Charlie Dent both issued statements following the Newtown Child Massacre softening their positions on guns.  Neither, however, came out for a ban on assault rifles, mandatory background checks or mandatory reporting of mental health conditions to the national database.

DPW Secretary Gary Alexander continues residing in Rhode Island and drives a state car back and forth each week at taxpayer expense.  If Gov. Gasbag can’t find someone within the Commonwealth to run the Department of Public Welfare then the Secretary should be forced to move.

AFSCME Council 13 has filed suit over the Governor’s desire to privatize the lottery.  Let’s remember what privatizing government programs does:  it transfers tax payer dollars from the public sector to the private for the sake of profit.  Public programs should be prioritized for the public good, not for private profit.

The War On Drugs failed miserably and has cost taxpayers trillions.  Now HSBC has been found guilty of laundering money for the drug cartels.  

What happened to them as a consequence?

Breuer this week signed off on a settlement deal with the British banking giant HSBC that is the ultimate insult to every ordinary person who’s ever had his life altered by a narcotics charge. Despite the fact that HSBC admitted to laundering billions of dollars for Colombian and Mexican drug cartels (among others) and violating a host of important banking laws (from the Bank Secrecy Act to the Trading With the Enemy Act), Breuer and his Justice Department elected not to pursue criminal prosecutions of the bank, opting instead for a “record” financial settlement of $1.9 billion, which as one analyst noted is about five weeks of income for the bank.

Remember that the next time you see a low level drug dealer busted.

 

Obama Fills Three Federal Bench Vacancies

President Obama named three Pennsylvania Judges to the federal bench yesterday. All will serve, if confirmed by the senate, on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  Two are from Philadelphia and the third from Berks County.  The White House provided these brief bios:

Judge Nitza I. Quiñones Alejandro:  Nominee for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Judge Nitza I. Quiñones Alejandro currently serves as a Judge on the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, where she has presided over both civil and criminal matters.  Prior to joining the bench in 1991, Judge Quiñones worked as a Staff Attorney for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs from 1979 to 1991 and as an Attorney Advisor for the United States Department of Health and Human Services from 1977 to 1979.  She began her legal career as a Staff Attorney for Community Legal Services, Inc. in Philadelphia from 1975 to 1977.  Judge Quiñones received her J.D. in 1975 from the University of Puerto Rico School of Law and her B.B.A. cum laude in 1972 from the University of Puerto Rico.

Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo:  Nominee for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo has served as a United States Magistrate Judge in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania since 2006, where he has presided over a variety of criminal and civil matters.  Prior to taking the bench, Judge Restrepo was a named partner at the law firm of Krasner & Restrepo from 1993 to 2006.  Previously, he served as an Assistant Federal Defender in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania from 1990 to 1993 and as an Assistant Defender with the Defender Association of Philadelphia from 1987 to 1990.  Judge Restrepo began his legal career as a law clerk at the National Prison Project.  He received his J.D. in 1986 from Tulane Law School and his B.A. in 1981 from the University of Pennsylvania.

Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl:  Nominee for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl has served as President Judge of the Berks County Court of Common Pleas since 2008, having joined the court as a judge in 1998.  Previously, Judge Schmehl was a partner at the law firm of Rhoda, Stoudt & Bradley from 1988 to 1997 and an associate at the same firm from 1986 to 1987.  For much of that time, Judge Schmehl also served as the Berks County Solicitor.  From 1981 to 1986, he was a sole practitioner in West Reading, Pennsylvania.  Judge Schmehl also served as an Assistant District Attorney in Berks County from 1981 until 1986 and as an Assistant Public Defender in the same jurisdiction from 1980 until 1981.  He received his J.D. in 1980 from the University of Toledo School of Law and his B.A. in 1977 from Dickinson College.

Being from Berks County I know Judge Schmehl.  He seems like a good guy even though he’s a registered Republican.  I know this because he told me so after I criticized the Berks County Democrats for supporting his bid for retention several years ago.  In Pennsylvania Judicial and school board candidates can cross file and run for office in both major parties.  Jeffrey Schmehl did this when he ran for Common Pleas Court and won on the Democratic side.  Thus he was the Democratic candidate even though he was actually a Republican.  Such are the quirks of politics in Pennsylvania.  I’m curious though why a Democratic President nominated him to the federal bench.

As President Judge he has done a good job, I think he’s a good guy.  I’m just wondering why Democrats keep supporting him.

Sandy: The Departure

Our dear friend Sandy departed yesterday leaving us without internet service all day.  Our lights flickered for a second Monday evening but we never lost power.  We have some small branches down and some plant debris all over the pool cover but that’s the extent of the hurt felt here in Mt. Penn.  I’ll head up to the Fleetwood house after lunch and I expect a lot of tree damage there.

We made every preparation we could save buying a generator and that’s on the list for the future.  Luckily Berks was close enough to the eye that we missed the devastating rain and winds.  I spent my early years outside New York City in North Jersey and feel for those whom the storm devastated.  The damage on the news is sickening.  The only positive from all of this are the jobs created for the clean up and rebuilding.

Remember, Mitt Romney said he’d privatize FEMA.  If you vote Republican please go out and repair your own roads, bridges, electrical grid and public works.

FEMA Update

The latest FEMA update call at 2:30 said Sandy is speeding up as it hits the warm Gulf Stream.  This means the storm is gaining energy.  Landfall is estimated to be between 7-8PM tonight.  It will come across New Jersey and come across southern Pennsylvania.  The hardest hit counties are going to be Philadelphia, Delaware, Chester, York, Adams and Franklin, the southern tier.  The storm will slow down once it hits land.  It is expected to sit over us.

They estimate the storm surge along the Jersey shore to last until late Wednesday.  Tonight’s full moon will contribute to, perhaps, an additional foot storm surge but not significant considering the huge scope of this storm.

People are advised to remain off the roads, Pennsylvania has reduced speed limits on interstates to 45 mph in the region and banned trailers.  

Our conditions here in Reading as steady hard rainfall and increasing winds.

Brace For Sandy

Hurricane sandy is headed directly towards us today.  The eye is set to hit New Jersey and the storm is due to pass over Philadelphia, swing across southern PA then west.  This puts a major storm surge into New York City and all of northeastern Pennsylvania in the brunt of the northeastern winds.  We’ll be getting the worst of this massive storm so be prepared.  Schools have closed and most businesses should be also:  there’s no reason anyone should be anywhere today unless you’re in emergency preparedness.  

Weather experts are predicting today to be the worst.  5-10 inches of rain.  Much preparation has been done.  Here in Berks County, for example, Blue Marsh lake was dropped five feet to prevent the Schuylkill River from flooding.  Flashlight batteries have been impossible to find and folks were stocking up on water.  Fill your bathtub an duse that water for flushing toilets.  Keep a radio tuned in to a local station for local announcements.  If you live in Lancaster listening to a Harrisburg station won’t help you.

Keep your cell phone charged.  If you have a smart phone disable things like wifi and bluetooth.  Close any apps which are running to save juice.  I turned mine off last night.  I have a car charger and will use that to recharge it if the power is out for an extended period of time.

If nothing gets posted for several days assume our power is out here.  Be safe and stay indoors.  Don’t remain near glass doors and large windows.