Monday, September 20, 2010

Obama visit draws a crowd

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak will receive President Barack Obama at a closed-door fundraiser at the Philadelphia Convention Center today, where several groups will gather outside to express their grievances.
Sestak faces former U.S. Rep. Pat Toomey in the Nov. 2 election. Toomey said in a statement critical of Obama's policies that he welcomes the president to the state and hopes to work with him soon in the Senate.
Meanwhile, members of AFSCME District Councils 33 and 47 plan to gather at the corner of 12th and Arch streets at 3:45 p.m. to call attention to ongoing contract negotiations with Mayor Michael Nutter's administration.
Spokesman Bob Wolper said a one-year contract extension for both unions expired in June of this year and there have been no negotiations since that time.
Wolper said union members have been working without a wage or health care contribution increase for three years and have helped the city obtain funding from Harrisburg, but aren't willing to make any concessions on health benefits or pensions.
He emphasized the rally is not against the president or Sestak, the unions simply know Nutter will be attending the event and want to get some attention for their cause.
Nutter spokesman Doug Oliver said informal discussions are ongoing and settling the contract remains a high priority for Nutter's administration, but the city simply cannot afford the health care and pension costs it has sustained for the two unions over the past decade. He said the administration is asking the unions to recognize some concessions are necessary.
Members of the Independence Hall Tea Party PAC are also expected to assemble at 11th and Arch streets at 2:15 p.m. today in opposition of the administration's fiscal policies.

PAC President Don Adams criticized the unemployment rate and federal spending in a release and said the November elections would be a referendum on "collectivists" like Obama, Sestak and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
"Frankly, we're surprised Joe Sestak would even want President Obama to campaign for him," said Adams in a release. "But the only persons more unpopular than the president, these days, are sitting members of Congress like Mr. Sestak. These two men have worked together to put our nation in trillions of dollars of debt - and what do we have to show for it - continual high unemployment, an overall stagnant economy, and rising taxes."
The unemployment rate for August was 9.6 percent, according to an “Employment Situation Summary” released by the U.S. Department of Labor Sept. 3. That figure has fluctuated little since May, staying between 9.5 percent and 9.7 percent, though the private sector did add a modest 67,000 jobs last month.
There were also about 1.1 million “discouraged workers” in August, an increase of 352,000 from the same month last year. These are people who have stopped looking for a job because they feel there is no work for them.
Private sector employment has risen by 763,000 since December 2009, but there are still14.9 million unemployed people in the country as of August, according to the summary.
Income taxes for 2009 were at their lowest point in 60 years, mostly due to cuts included in the stimulus package. Democrats are pushing to let tax cuts for wealthy Americans established in 2001 and 2003 expire as originally intended on Dec. 31, while Republicans argue the cuts should be extended or made permanent. The cuts affect roughly 2 percent of the population, couples making more than $250,000 and individuals making more than $200,000 annually.
There seems to be agreement that middle and lower income cuts should remain in effect, but according to an April 14 New York Times article by Jackie Calmes: "Ending the tax cuts for the rich would bring additional revenues to the government of more than $678 billion through 2020, the administration has projected, while keeping in place the tax cuts for everyone else would mean forgoing more than $2 trillion in revenues during that time."


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