Last night Obama gave his first State of the Union Address. He spoke about how he wants to make these hard times easier for the American people. He went on and on about how he was making things better. But I wonder, how many of Obama’s plans directly benefit the labor unions that so heavily supported him in his run for president?
Bows to labor unions. In saluting the resilience of the American people, Obama specifically mentioned people “building cars and teaching kids”—both heavily unionized occupations. And his administration has been pouring money into them, through the General Motors and Chrysler bailouts and through the one-third of the 2009 stimulus package that went to state and local governments. Obama not only pays off his political debts, he gives his paymasters some psychic reward as well.
Student Loans. Obama has a proposal to nationalize the $1 trillion college loan market at taxpayer expense and he has made another proposal to cap the percentage of income that former students pay on their student loans at 10% of their income and forgive student loans after 20 years, reduced down from 25 years. However, if the former student works in the public sector for 10 years the student loan balance is waived after 10 years.
This is a good deal for those former students who take government jobs, where average wages and benefits are now higher than in the private sector. It’s even better if through their government jobs they become union members too. The New York Times reports that most union members work for the government.
If enacted the new plan will cost the federal government as much as $1 trillion over five years. Under the new plan a person making an adjusted gross income of $30,000 who owes $40,000 in student loans would pay about $115.00 per month to service his student loan debt, down from $170.00 a month under the current system.
Campaign Donations. When Obama scolded the Supreme Court saying the Supreme Court, “reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections.” Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito mouthed the words “not true.” Obama forgot that the court said corporations and unions could spend freely from their treasuries to run political ads for or against specific candidates. But Obama said corporations can “spend without limit in our elections,” when corporations and unions are still prohibited from contributing directly to politicians.
Health Care Reform Bill. In the proposed bill the Cadillac Tax Plan compromise with unions postpones the Cadillac tax’s application to union health plans until 2018. Labor leaders said that transition time was needed to accommodate unions and employers with multiyear agreements.
Senior Democrats must now take the proposed financing package to rank-and-file lawmakers in the House and Senate — and find revenue sources to offset reductions in the Cadillac tax.
Stimulus Bill Projects. Obama touted that Florida will receive federal stimulus money for a high speed train between Orlando and Tampa after state lawmakers approved a sweeping rail package to allow for the development of the SunRail commuter train in Orlando and provide about $15 million to the cash-strapped Tri-Rail train in South Florida.
Lawmakers hoped passing that legislation would work in their favor as they try to secure $2.5 billion in federal stimulus money for a Tampa to Orlando high speed corridor, the first leg of a long-proposed Tampa-Orlando-Miami bullet train route.
Florida made a $2.5 billion request for stimulus funds for the Orlando and Tampa route and two other requests, $70 million for Atlantic Coast Amtrak passenger service between Jacksonville and Miami and $432 million for buying existing freight tracks for SunRail from CSX Corp.
The Florida high speed rail corridor was one of 10 identified by the White House last spring for the beginning of a national network. Competing links include California between Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Diego, the Pacific Northwest, the Gulf Coast between Houston and Atlanta, Chicago, the southeastern U.S. between Washington, D.C. and Georgia, the south Central U.S. between Tulsa and Texas, Pennsylvania between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, New York between New York City and upstate New York and New England. .
“We completely support high speed rail for Florida,” Florida AFL-CIO spokesman Rich Templin told the News Service of Florida Wednesday. “The state could use the high skill high wage jobs it would bring and Floridians would have a reliable system of public transportation.” The union was initially opposed to the SunRail bill, but turned around on the plan after receiving commitments that it would protect union jobs.
What other proposals did Obama support in his State of the Union Address that “pay back” his union buddies? I know there are more.