A Stroke Of Obama’s Pen Will Lift 10.4 Million Workers Into the Middle Class

Obama signs health care reform bill for veterans in Washington
Over the past month there has been quite a bit of commentary on both how the President is taking executive initiative to get some long-needed things done, and how well the economy is doing. It is true the economy is showing respectable GDP growth, Wall Street is booming, and there has been consistently strong job growth. However, the average American’s is well-aware that their financial situation is not improving and it is due in great part to stagnating wages that the incoming Koch Congress will perpetuate and if possible make much worse.

President Obama has certainly done “almost” everything within his power to lift Americans out of dire poverty into just “normal” poverty by calling on Republicans to raise the minimum wage, but that is, and has been, a non-starter for the Koch Congress; their inclination and hope is abolishing the minimum wage outright. Besides, raising the minimum wage to $10, or even $15, per hour is not going to accomplish much in the way of rebuilding the vanishing middle class or relieving poverty because those minimum wage workers will still be earning incomes below the federal poverty line.

The President certainly champions “growing the middle class” in every economic speech he delivers and one truly believes he is sincere, but thus far he has not taken advantage of the executive authority he has to make it happen for over 10 million Americans. It really makes even an avowed Obama supporter wonder; is the President terrified of the Koch brothers, or devoted to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Wall Street, and corporate America to really “grow the middle class” like he claims is crucial to the continued growth of the economy. Something seems amiss. There is a seeming incongruence between the President’s claim he wants to expedite growing the middle class, and his regular economic meetings with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Wall Street titans, and corporate CEOs whose only interest is growing their profit margin and not the middle class.

There is hope, though, because last June the President took a tiny step and issued an executive order for federal contractors and instructed the Department of Labor to investigate how best to help Americans out of poverty and into the middle class by adjusting the threshold for salaried workers to get overtime pay. To assist the President, and save precious years of investigation and discussions on how best accomplish his goal of rebuilding the middle class, here is a simple solution that eludes the President’s economic advisors and will enrage the Kochs, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Wall Street, and corporate CEOs.

Millions of Americans actually earn more than the minimum wage, yet they are still barely making it compared to thirty years ago. The big difference is that there has not been an increase in threshold for salaried workers to earn overtime pay since the 1970’s. Subsequently, it has contributed greatly to the income inequality crushing their financial situation and a major factor in the demise of the middle class while corporations and big business are reaping inordinate wealth.

As it works out economically, “fair overtime standards are to the middle class what the minimum wage is to low-income workers.” It may not, in fact, be the be all, end all, to rebuild the vanishing middle class, but according to noted economists, “it is an indispensable labor protection that is absolutely essential to creating a broad and thriving middle class.” It is also something that President Obama can unilaterally change with a stroke of his pen over an executive order that will leave Republicans, the Koch brothers, Heritage Foundation, Wall Street, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and corporate CEOs bitching loudly that Obama is an overreaching dictator; but well within his Executive Branch constitutional power.

According to the decades old Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), there is a nominal wage level below which every worker qualifies for mandatory time-and-a-half overtime pay; even if they are on a salary. Like many economic protections for American workers, that level has only been raised once since 1975, and compared to the 65% of salaried employees earning overtime pay in 1975, only 11% are covered today.

What that means for salaried workers is that if they make one penny over $23,660 annually (poverty level for a family of three), they are not entitled to overtime pay regardless if they work 41 hours a week or 80. It is a bonanza for businesses, particularly large corporations, and the reason why last year House Republicans passed a so-called “jobs bill” eliminating overtime pay for all workers. As one of the House’s storied jobs bills the Democratically-controlled Senate would not consider, it will be one the Koch Senate will pass easily.

If the President simply adjusted the salary threshold for inflation since it was last raised in 1975, it would be a more significant income increase for over 10 million low and low middle-class American workers than raising the hourly wage to $15 per hour for the rest of the poverty-wage workforce. It is also something that ALEC, the Chamber of Commerce, the Heritage Foundation, or the Koch Congress cannot prevent because the FLSA is the purview of the Executive Branch.

For about 10.4 million American workers who have lost FLSA protections since the 1970s, billionaire venture capitalist Nick Hanauer proposes the President raise the FLSA threshold to $69,000 annually to restore the protections that were intended to cover all the workforce that was covered in 1975 and raise up 10.4 million workers into the middle class. It is noteworthy that the wealthy elite class’s income has not stagnated and, in fact, has grown exponentially while the rest of the population has not kept up with inflation. It is one of the major contributors to the income inequality decimating the majority of the population and keeping the economy from seriously robust growth.

According to research just last year, if thefederal minimum wage had kept pace with the earnings of the richest one-percent of income earners,” the hourly minimum wage would be $22.62 and that alone would “lift tens-of-millions of Americans out of poverty.” That figure is based on the richest one-percent’s earning rate that increased 212% over the past 20 years, and it is high time the rest of the workforce that produced that 212% wealth increase share in the fruits of their own labor. There is no way the Koch Congress will raise the minimum wage, but President Obama can ensure salaried workers at least earn overtime pay; not a raise, just what the FLSA protections were created for.

President Obama has not, as of late, been reluctant to take action on his own while Republicans fail to act for anyone but their wealthy overlords the Koch brothers, Chamber of Commerce, and Wall Street. It is true that last June he signed an executive order directing the FLSA to ‘investigate’ raising the salary threshold to help all salaried workers putting in 50-60 hours weekly without overtime pay; but what is there to investigate? He is the President, head of the Executive Branch, and with a simple stroke of his pen can raise up 10.4 million Americans into the middle class thus growing the economy, spurring more job growth, increasing revenue, and fulfilling one of his oft-stated goals; rebuilding the middle class.

32 Replies to “A Stroke Of Obama’s Pen Will Lift 10.4 Million Workers Into the Middle Class”

  1. You mean it’s been 40 years since this was last done? Why’s And now you know the income between the haves and have nots continues to increase.

  2. If the Dummycrats had the Presidents back instead of letting the media and the teahadist set the agenda this could have been done long time ago

    Maybe if the low info voters could have seen this and if the dummycrats ran on what we accomplished we wouldn’t have to deal with nonsense that will be coming our way

  3. One of the biggest hurdles related to that, that I know of, is one that I personally am in, and have been in with many employers, that I simply am not permitted to work any overtime. They (employers) will hire another person, rather than pay me overtime. My current employer is very strict and careful about that.

  4. Giving an example of a “salaried worker” as $23,000 comes up a little short. I’ve never met one salaried worker that made less than $50,000. Sorry, my sympathies are still with those making “poverty wages” working for corporations that make over a billion dollars a year in profits.

  5. The next time you go shopping strike up a conversation with the person next to you and then ask them what do they think about the Kochs and ALEC. Then hear the response

  6. Although you are correct that we have never met, I am a “salaried worker” who makes less than $23,000 per year. In fact, I have been in this position for 25 years and have yet to earn $23,000. I am a Title I Aide (which means I work with at risk students). This is a federally funded position. I love my kids and am proud of the work that I do, but I am worth more.

  7. Thank you for doing a thankless job. Our kids are our future. I have great respect for people who give a damn (not phonies). Anyone that works to help kids, loves a job that doesnt pay well is a hero to me.

    Sincerely, Thanks

  8. folks we are watching history here, despite the unprecedented, preplanned republican obstruction, sabotage, hate and division, Obama is truly shaping up to be one of the most successful presidents in american history… and it is driving the righties bonkers because they know it is true. this president is a great president and considering what he has accomplished in the face of overwhelming opposition and racism and bigotry is absolutely tremendous. history will be very kind to Obama but not so much to the republican racists who tried to stop him at any cost to America, americans, and the economy.

  9. Then you are unaware of McDonald’s, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Lowes, PetSmart, etc pay scale. Plus do you not comprehend that even earning $23,661 or $50,000 annually means you’ll never ever get overtime pay no matter if you work 80-90 hours six days a week? You probably don’t realize you’re embarrassing yourself. Don’t embarrass yourself.

  10. As per Reichwingers, the sword is still mightier than the pen /s

    Why is the Reichwing, still, and always, on the losing side of History….?

  11. Is it possible that the President did not do this unilaterally because he has committed himself AND this country to democratic process?

    One more ‘is he really in hock to the Kochs?’ comment, and you’ll take your place with the Tea Party. He has steadily and determinedly moved this nation forward after 35 years under siege by the right. You have ridiculous expectations that everything progressives let happen – yes LET happen – before 2007 can be changed overnight by one man. Apparently you LIKE imperial presidents – just one on YOUR ideological side. Well, he has tried with guts and determination to make democracy work. Now, because too many did not even bother to vote, he has no other option because he’s devoted to our well being.

    When the Left is as empty headed as the Right we can see why there is no interest in progressive politics in America.

  12. I respect your Opinion, Churchlady.
    Remember: This President has been attacked/ravaged & weakened with VICIOUS LIES & OBSTRUCTION BY WELL-PAID FOR PROPAGANDA NEVER SEEN BEFORE IN AMERICAN HISTORY!

    And the Right does this to every Democratic President who comes along now!
    I keep saying,
    With a Political Party like this GOP…
    Who needs enemies!

  13. A sudden “keeping up with inflation” change might be too big of a shock for business. But, some kind of increase is certainly due if the article is correct.

  14. He didn’t care what congress thought about immigration so why cant he raise the minimum wage ? Can someone explain that to me?

  15. Churchlady, that was perfectly stated. I still trying in recovery from our stupid midterm election Dem voter sit-out. Those voters have no idea what this country is facing. Many of them are uninformed, misinformed, confused, frustrated, and angry–but they’re not afraid. And that’s an important element missing in this equation. The fear of what could happen to us would likely have been enough to cause an avalanche at the polls for last year’s midterms; however, obviously, that was not the case. Too many of our voters are not afraid because they still don’t know that they should be. They have no idea how close we are to losing FDR’s New Deal, LBJ’s Great Society, and every other piece of legislation that was signed into law for the common good of the average working American citizen and our families. Our right-leaning MSM is at least partly, if not largely, to blame for our lack of voter participation. As I see it, we have approximately two years to try to right this ship.

  16. The congress had 6 years to do something about Immigration. The House refused.
    The president did nothing with immigration that most modern presidents have done, including the great traitor reagan.

    The states raise minimum wages, not the president

  17. Typo correction. I meant to say “I’m still trying to recover from our stupid midterm election Dem voter sit-out.”

  18. When hate and racism flows through your blood, you can’t help (always) being on the wrong side of history.

  19. Republicons are going to do everything in their lying/criminal power to steal the White House in 2016. They need the White House to complete their reign of terror on the poor and the middle class.

  20. An excellent comment with much incite! I always think of my first and second jobs in 1952 and 1953 when my salary was $.75 per hour! So what the heck is Congress complaining about? In fact, they’re getting paid for doing nothing for at least the last six years! Plus, they have wasted our money on the “investigations” and “repeals” in lieu of working for their salary. They need to pay us back for stolen wages. Their support of the 1% is unconstitutional, and SCOTUS needs to begin to act as a Supreme Court acts, and stop robbing the American people of our many rights…

  21. When working in Florida, no overtime allowed .Had to punch out and go back to work..if I wanted to keep my job. Darn those Religious right that I worked for.

  22. Good article. But as has been aforementioned in the above report there are far too many hands in the way of good will that prevent such kind of progress from being realized fast enough. It is for this same reason that many people are trying to find a fighting chance online to make past poverty and in most cases creating successful businesses. I have made a commitment to myself that I will educate myself and create my own online business. And thankfully I have just found a place that offers training and support to realize my dreams. I have a starter account at Wealthy Affiliate with is helping me to build a website that I will monetize as traffic to my website grows. Don’t wait for the government. Register your free account today and change your life. https://my.wealthyaffiliate.com/createaccount/soontoberich


  23. From the article “What that means for salaried workers is that if they make one penny over $23,660 annually (poverty level for a family of three), they are not entitled to overtime pay regardless if they work 41 hours a week or 80.”THAT IS UNTRUE.

    The FLSA provides that an employer CAN Exempt a worker making more than that amount from overtime payments if and only if the worker meets certain strict requirements that for most workers are NOT going to apply. That is the reason there are so many (successful) FLSA lawsuits – employers wrongfully claim the exemption status and are, time after time, proven wrong.

    Raising the threshold means employers must pay overtime to those making less, BUT, for other reasons, the FLSA already legally obliges employers to be paying most of them overtime anyway. Also, keep in mind that while the law may require compensation to be paid for overtime worked, there is no legal requirement for employers to offer or to allow workers to perform OT work.

  24. What about non salary workers that work their hearts out day in and day out living from check to check trying to make it. I’m nurseaid/med tec taking care of adults with mental disabilities we make little money and have no benefits what do we do the economy going up but earnings stay the same now u tell me what do we do if the wages never go up.

  25. I’m thinking most people don’t know what ALEC is, and many don’t know who the Koch’s are or they know the Koch’s as rich people only, not as a force in politics.
    I’M betting the people in WIS., know tho..

  26. Yep. The greatest trick that the Koch Bros have ever pulled was to convince the American people that they don’t exist.

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