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U.S. President Barack Obama greets attendees in the crowd after signing House Resolution 2146, the "Defending Public Safety Employees' Retirement Act and Trade Preference Extension Act of 2015," June 29, 2015. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Republicans take aim at Obama's overtime policy

07/02/15 09:25AM

President Obama will be in Wisconsin later today, delivering remarks on his new overtime policy, which is probably a bigger deal than much of the political world realizes. This is, after all, a policy that will likely put more money in a lot of workers' paychecks.
 
As we talked about the other day, under the status quo, there's an income threshold for mandatory overtime: $23,660. Those making more than that can be classified by employers as "managers" who are exempt from overtime rules. The Obama administration's Labor Department has spent the last several months working on the new plan, which raises the threshold to $50,440 -- more than double the current level.
 
Republicans and some business groups won't like the policy, but there's not much they can do about it -- this falls within the Labor Department's regulatory powers, so the policy will be implemented whether GOP critics like it or not.
 
The estimable E.J. Dionne Jr. makes a persuasive case, though, that there's no reason for Republicans to reflexively oppose a policy like this one.
In discussing rising inequality, we often act as if the trend is a natural development about which we can do nothing. Of course, big economic forces are at work. But government rules and laws -- on pay, health care, labor rights and taxes -- can improve workers' standing or they can make the disparities worse. Government has a choice, and there is no purely neutral ground on this question. [...]
 
In a very crowded Republican presidential field, will any candidate find it in his or her interest to break with the party's orthodoxy on government regulations and labor rights? Will any of them have the temerity to appeal to their party's many working-class supporters by making the point that Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and other Democrats are sure to advance: that reinforcing our "conservative" values about the honor of work often requires what are usually seen as "progressive" measures by government to keep workers from being short-changed?
Those are excellent questions. The answer, at least for now, appears to be, "No."

Jobs growth remains steady, unemployment drops

07/02/15 08:45AM

As the calendar year reaches the halfway point, most economic projections point to steady job growth. As it turns out, that's pretty much what we have.
 
The new report from Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the U.S. economy added 223,000 jobs in June, roughly in line with expectation. The overall unemployment rate inched lower to 5.3%, its lowest point since April 2008, more than seven years ago.
 
The revisions, however, were less encouraging. April's job totals were revised down, from 221,000 to 187,000, while May's numbers were also lowered, dropping from 280,000 to 254,000. Combined, that's a loss of 60,000. Also discouraging is the fact that the jobs report didn't point to increased wage growth.
 
That said, there was also a big drop in long-term unemployment, which was more heartening. The overall takeaway is that this is a decent jobs report -- not great, not bad.
 
The U.S. has added 2.9 million jobs over the last 12 months. June was the 57th consecutive month of positive job growth -- the best stretch since 1939 -- and the 64th consecutive month in which we've seen private-sector job growth, which is the longest on record.
Republican Gov. Paul LePage speaks a campaign rally on Nov. 3, 2014, in Portland, Maine. (Robert F. Bukaty/AP)

Investigation of scandal-plagued Maine gov moves forward

07/02/15 08:00AM

Facing the very real possibility of impeachment, Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) learned yesterday that state lawmakers are moving forward with their investigation into the alleged misuse of public resources. The Portland Press Herald reported:
The Legislature's watchdog committee voted unanimously Wednesday to investigate Gov. Paul LePage's threat to withhold state funds from a school for at-risk children unless it withdrew a job offer to Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves.
 
The probe will focus on whether changes were made in the flow of state funding to Good Will-Hinckley, a private school in Fairfield, and the effects of the Republican governor's threat on the school's hiring process with Eves.
To briefly recap, a Maine charter school recently hired state House Speaker Mark Eves (D). LePage, a fierce opponent of Democratic legislators, threatened the school -- either fire Eves at LePage's demand or the governor would cut off the school's state funding.  In effect, LePage played the role of a mobster saying, "It's a nice school you have there. It'd be a shame if something happened to it."
 
The school, left with no options, reluctantly acquiesced. The problem, of course, is that governors are not supposed to use state resources to punish people they don't like. That, by any fair measure, is an impeachable offense.
 
For his part, LePage, an often-clownish Tea Partier, does not deny the allegations. As of yesterday, however, he is arguing that the state legislative committee examining the scandal lacks the authority to investigate him.

Bernie is gaining and other headlines

07/02/15 07:59AM

Bernie Sanders gains on Hillary Clinton in Iowa. (Bloomberg Politics)

White House gears up for domestic policy offensive. (Wall Street Journal)

Emails show Hillary Clinton exchanges with foreign lobbyist. (Politico)

After court ruling, gay veterans get marriage benefits they were denied. (Washington Post)

At least 5,000 evacuated following Tennessee train derailment, fire. (USA Today)

The time President Obama sang the Davy Crockett theme song. (Time)

'Maria' is leaving 'Sesame Street.' (Washington Post)

read more

Wednesday's Mini-Report, 7.1.15

07/01/15 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Greece's twists and turns: "An unexpected new effort by Greece to compromise with its creditors on a bailout package prompted a cool response from most of the rest of Europe on Wednesday as efforts to find a way out of the financial crisis confronting Athens remained chaotic."
 
* Egypt: "Militants linked with the Islamic State unleashed a wave of coordinated attacks on security checkpoints in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on Wednesday, the latest strike in a global surge in violence by the group's sympathizers and one that threatened to push Egypt into a wider conflict with the jihadists."
 
* Investigations continue: "Six predominately black churches have gone up in flames in the last ten days -- some likely due to arson, others accidents -- in a rash of fires coming at a time when the country is already on edge over the safety and vulnerability of its places of worship."
 
* Rule of law: "A federal judge has issued an order directed at all probate judges in the state -- who are responsible for issuing marriage licenses -- that they can no longer decline to issue licenses to gay couples."
 
* Crunch time: "When the chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano, lands in Tehran on Thursday for a hastily scheduled meeting with President Hassan Rouhani and Iran's top national security officials, it will be part of a behind-the-scenes effort to resolve two of the biggest obstacles to a nuclear deal: Whether to force Iran to reveal any evidence about suspected design work on nuclear weapons, and how to assure that inspectors can get inside the country's most secret nuclear sites."
 
* A potentially huge probe: "The Justice Department is investigating whether some of America's biggest airlines have colluded to keep airfares high, officials familiar with the matter said Wednesday. Justice Department spokesperson Emily Pierce confirmed the probe, saying investigators are looking into 'possible unlawful coordination by some airlines,' but would not confirm which carriers."
 
* Stuck in the past: "Republican lawmakers on Wednesday skewered President Obama's announcement that the U.S. and Cuba have agreed to reopen embassies in each other's capitals -- with several vowing to block the confirmation of any U.S. ambassador to the communist country."
A Tea Party member reaches for a pamphlet titled "The Impact of Obamacare", at a "Food for Free Minds Tea Party Rally" in Littleton, New Hampshire in this October 27, 2012. (Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters)

Still waiting for that GOP alternative to Obamacare

07/01/15 04:59PM

At least on the surface, congressional Republicans were optimistic of a Supreme Court victory in King v. Burwell. For months, GOP lawmakers talked openly and repeatedly about the prospect of taking a sledgehammer to the Affordable Care Act, stripping millions of families of their health care benefits. It was only a matter of time before conservative justices delivered.
 
What's more, Republican leaders tried to be reassuring, insisting there was no reason for the public to panic -- the GOP's alternative to "Obamacare" would be even better than the effective reform law. Once the Supreme Court gutted the U.S. system, Republicans would, they claimed, rush in with their superior solution. Indeed, some prominent, far-right lawmakers urged governors to ignore obvious fixes and instead wait for the GOP's remedy to be available.
 
Last week, of course, the high court disappointed Republicans and rejected the ridiculous lawsuit. But I'm still curious about that GOP alternative that was waiting in the wings. Wasn't it all set to go? Where is it? Can we see it?
 
National Journal reported the other day:
For months, Republicans have been crafting a post-King v. Burwell strategy, confident the Court would rule in their favor and strike down the law's insurance subsidies in 34 states using the federal insurance marketplace.
Of course, we've been hearing talk about Republicans "crafting" their own health-care package for many years now, meeting behind closed doors for a half-decade, trying to find an ideologically satisfying proposal to rival President Obama's signature domestic achievement. At least so far, they've come up with exactly nothing.
 
The Huffington Post's Jeffrey Young has gotten quite a bit of mileage out of a joke, documenting all of the many, many times in recent years GOP officials have said they're finally ready to unveil their big health care solution, only to fail quietly every time.
 
But this year was supposed to different. This year, Republicans assumed the Supreme Court would function as an extension of the congressional GOP and help take benefits from more than 6 million American consumers. This year, Republicans simply wouldn't have a choice -- they'd have to step up with a policy of their own, because the court would force their hands.
Marijuana plants are displayed. (Photo by Anthony Bolante/Reuters)

Marijuana possession, but not sales, now legal in Oregon

07/01/15 03:54PM

It was just a few years ago that marijuana was illegal everywhere in the United States, without exception. The policy landscape has changed quite a bit since.
 
Voters in Alaska, Colorado, and the state of Washington, for example, voted to legalize marijuana in recent years, and their state-based experiments have been allowed to proceed because the Obama administration extended its approval.
 
Meanwhile, a similar -- but not identical -- change is underway in Oregon, effective today. The Oregonian reported this morning:
As of today, if you are 21 or older, you can legally possess and grow cannabis in Oregon. That's right, a pretty historic day.
 
If you want to mark the day by buying some pot to consume, you're out of luck. For now, people can only share or give away marijuana and starter plants so you'll have to hit up a generous friend, though a bill allowing recreational marijuana sales at dispensaries in the fall is making its way through the Oregon Legislature.
Got that? You can possess marijuana (in limited quantities). You can grow marijuana. You can even smoke marijuana. You just can't buy marijuana.
 
Oregon does have one exception, however, in the form of pot dispensaries that provide medical marijuana to qualifying patients. For everyone else who wants pot, however, it's time to either start gardening or turning to generous friends.

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About The Rachel Maddow Show

Launched in 2008, “The Rachel Maddow Show” follows the machinations of policy making in America, from local political activism to international diplomacy. Rachel Maddow looks past the distractions of political theater and stunts and focuses on the legislative proposals and policies that shape American life - as well as the people making and influencing those policies and their ultimate outcome, intended or otherwise.

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