When the Equal Pay Act was signed into law by Pres. John F. Kennedy in 1963, women were earning an average of 59 cents on the dollar compared to men.
Women are working in nearly half of today's jobs, and their earnings are a significant portion of the household income that supports their families. However, they’re still experiencing a gap in pay compared to men's wages for similar work.
Today, women earn about 81 cents on the dollar compared to men. For African-American women, Latinas, and older women the pay gap is even more. This pay gap results in hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost wages.
The purpose of National Equal Pay Day is to mark the anniversary of the signing of the Equal Pay Act, and bring attention to what needs to be done so that the act is being carried out.
Federal protections to keep potentially unsafe chemicals out of the nation’s foods are inadequate and may be putting the health of Americans at risk, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental action organization.
The food safety protection system is minimal supervised by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, has conflicts of interest in safety evaluations, and is ineffective due to a gaping loophole that allows companies to declare as safe hundreds of chemicals added to foods – without any notification to the FDA or the public, the council’s report released Monday said.
“Americans should expect that their food is safe to eat, but sadly today there’s no guarantee because safety oversight from federal agencies and food manufacturers is shockingly weak and hidden from public scrutiny,” said Tom Neltner, the council’s health scientist and report co-author.
The federal government continues to carry out its strategy to deal with the financial institutions that caused the recent financial crisis – filing civil lawsuits and levying huge fines, but not sending corporate leaders to jail.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency announced Wednesday it has reached a settlement with Bank of America and two companies it owns Countrywide Financial and Merrill Lynch.
The cases alleged violations of securities laws in connection with mortgage-backed securities purchased by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, government-sponsored organizations that provide funding for the U.S. mortgage markets, between 2005 and 2007.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration report released Wednesday on the progress of its voluntary approach to reducing the use of antibiotics in farm animals shows the weakness of not requiring cuts in the drugs administered.
Natural Resources Defense Council said that the FDA’s voluntary plan won’t do anything to reduce antibiotic use in farm animals or slow the increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which is a danger to human health.
You can also watch two short videos, “Catching Up With the Curator,” featuring Bill Allman, the White House curator, to learn about former President Theodore Roosevelt's official portrait and the history of the Presidential Seal.
In addition, you can visit the website of the League of Women Voters to find suggestions on how to make democracy work in America. Two actions are to urge Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act and to support comprehensive immigration reform.
Other organizations that promote democracy in the nation are:
Be sure to take some time today to celebrate American democracy. Although our country faces many challenges in today’s complex world and our democracy could work much better for its citizens, we do have a framework in which citizens can make their voice heard, if they make an effort to do so.
Presidents’ Day is more than a holiday day off or shopping to accumulate more consumer items.
Copyright 2014, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist
After five years of dealing with Republicans who want only to block his every action, Pres. Barack Obama strongly reaffirmed in his State of the Union speech his commitment to equality, job creation, a livable wage, immigration reform, veterans, and affordable health care.
His promise to increase use of executive power is welcome in light of years of turmoil from a “do nothing” Congress, which even shut down the federal government and caused great harm to consumers.
Obama praised the growing economy and an increase in energy interdependence by the production of more energy in the United States. He was positive about the growth of the natural gas industry in America.
However, while he said natural gas production should continue to grow if it can be extracted safety, I think he skipped over the fact that many are critical about fracking and the damage it’s doing to the environment.
Obama said he’ll cut red tape to help states get almost a hundred billion dollars in new factories built that use natural gas.
I’m concerned that the Obama administration won’t protect the environment adequately in its quest to improve the economy.
On job creation and education, he called for decent jobs for everyone and training programs.
He said women should be paid more for because when women succeed, America succeeds.
Obama also scolded Congress for failing to enact his pre-K program, pointing out that research shows its effectiveness in helping children rise out of poverty. He complimented 30 states that have enhanced their pre-K programs, and urged others to do so, too, pointing out they shouldn’t wait for Congress to act.
When he called on Congress to restore cuts to basic research made last year, Obama said America needs to have the next discovery. As an example he said there are entire industries to be built based on vaccines that stay ahead of drug-resistant bacteria.
On the minimum wage, Obama called on Congress to raise it so that people who work full time don’t have to raise a family in poverty. He said he is raising the minimum wage in federal contracts to $10.10 saying people who cook for American troops shouldn’t live in poverty.
Additional positives for consumers in Obama’s address:
Establish higher fuel standards for trucks
Fix a broken immigration system.
Improve Affordable Care Act.
Create MyRAs, a new type of savings account for retirement.
Pass legislation that protects taxpayers from footing the bill for a housing crisis ever again, and keeps the dream of homeownership alive for future generations.
End of the war in Afghanistan, America’s longest war, at the end of this year, except for a small force of American and NATO troops to train and assist Afghan forces and counterterrorism operations.
Close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.
In closing, Obama said no one does what America does:
On every issue, the world turns to us, not simply because of the size of our economy or our military might but because of the ideals we stand for and the burdens we bear to advance them.
While it’s all good rhetoric, my concern for consumers is that in achieving the goals to continue economic growth and job creation, the Obama administration will neglect consumer and environmental regulations.
I’ve written dozens of articles in the last year about million dollar fines against banks, pharmaceutical companies, and other corporations. These are “slaps on the wrist” for these prosperous companies.
Government regulators always seem to be a step behind corporations. For example, Obama didn’t mention home foreclosures and how the government programs that he promised would help in last year’s State of the Union address are largely unsuccessful in helping homeowners in trouble. Meanwhile, banks and other financial institutions are walking away after paying their fines.
Copyright 2014, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist
Getting rid of tax breaks for big corporations is exceptional public policy. I applaud many of the tax breaks that are now history due to the failure by Congress to renew them on Dec. 31. Among them are:
A tax credit for companies that engage in R&D.
A $9 billion "sop for Wall Street banks and major multinationals."
A tax break to help NASCAR build racetracks.
However, some of the tax breaks that have helped consumers also are gone:
Incentives for commuters to take the bus or train.
Tax relief for "underwater" homeowners.
A raft of tax subsidies for energy efficiency.
A $250 deduction for teachers with school expenses.
When Pres. John F. Kennedy was murdered, I was student teaching at Pullman High School.
I couldn’t believe that he’d been shot. I was certain that the next radio report would say he was wounded, but would survive.
Instead, it said President Kennedy was dead from a massive head wound.
Like most Americans, I struggled through the many emotions of losing a beloved leader. I thought when we find out what happened, I could get over it.
Well, conspiracy theories abound, but we still don’t know what happened. And, now, we’re marking the 50th Anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination.
Recently, I was stunned to read accounts which speculate that if Marina, Lee Harvey Oswald’s wife, had taken him back when he went to visit her, he wouldn’t have killed Kennedy the next day.
Did a disgruntled husband in a right-wing, convservative state where gun laws are lax cause the history-changing loss of a talented, charismatic president? Could it be that simple?
Back then, before deranged individuals began committing mass public murders in America, there wasn’t an awareness that a person could easily get a gun and start killing people.
Today, now that gun violence happens so frequently, Kennedy’s assassination could be seen as gun violence in a pro-gun state.
Is that a better theory than conspiracy theories?
Articles leading up to Friday’s anniversary blame the CIA and FBI, the Mafia, Castro, the Russians, and Lyndon Johnson.
David Horsey, cartoonist and political commentator, doesn’t think there’s any truth in conspiracy theories. Horsey said:
In the real world,… conspiracies tend to unravel. Somebody squeals, somebody leaks, somebody betrays. We always find out – and usually because a conspiring collective of humans is bound to screw up. Any 50-year-old conspiracy to kill JFK would have to be an exception to that rule.
For me, it is easier to accept that the truth is exactly what it has long appeared to be: A history-shifting tragedy occurred because one inconsequential misfit with a mail-order rifle got a clear shot.
Maybe he’s right. Maybe not.
Copyright 2013, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist