Take Two®

News and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by A Martínez

Friday Flashback: Job numbers, minimum wage, Obamacare and more

by Take Two®

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Protesters rally outside of a Wendy's in support of raising fast food wages from $7.25 per hour to $15.00 per hour on December 5, 2013 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. A growing number of fast food workers in the United States have been staging protests outside restaurants, calling for a raise in wages, claiming it is impossible to live reasonably while earning minimum wage. Andrew Burton/Getty Images

We've made it to the end of another working week, which means it's time for our review and analysis of the news, The Friday Flashback. Joining the show is James Rainey of the LA Times, and Nancy Cook of National Journal.  

Before we delve into Congress, and the economy and all that, we reflect on the passing of Nelson Mandela. 

A couple of encouraging economic reports this week. Today, the Labor Department's employment figures for November are out: 200,000 new jobs, unemployment down to seven percent, labor participation up.

Early in the week, the Commerce Department said the nation's output grew by 3.6 percent. That's a good deal better than expected. A lot of economists are saying maybe this is a blip, but it seems like pretty good news, right?

Still, a lot of these new gigs are low-wage jobs, and a push for a raise in the federal minimum wage is gaining steam. This week we had more demonstrations by fast-food workers, and the President made a speech about income inequality.  

The president dismissed arguments that a higher minimum wage will mean fewer jobs. He said there was no evidence for that, but with a Republican-controlled House, what are the chances of minimum-wage workers seeing a higher paycheck anytime soon?

Is there a way the President could do an end run, and raise the minimum wage by some executive action?

Maybe he was sending a message to Republicans, because in the same speech, the President quoted Adam Smith. He's often called the father of free market economics, and he's a favorite of many conservatives.

It's pretty easy to understand an argument that a higher minimum wage might make employers less likely to hire workers, and that it could drive prices up for everyone. But there is a counter argument that by putting more money in people's pockets, everyone benefits. What evidence exists for each of those views?

There's other good news out there. Several surveys show a healthy increase in consumer confidence. Housing prices are now rising at the quickest pace since 2006, and the stock markets may end the year with gains that haven't been seen in a decade. When will we reach a tipping point, and when will what has been a painfully slow recovery start to feel like a real recovery?

Congress is facing another budget deadline, and the negotiations have come down to a committee of two: Senator Patty Murray and Representative Paul Ryan. They say they'll announce the framework of an agreement next week, before Congress leaves for their Christmas break. Do we know any details of this proposed deal?

We should remind everyone that the current budget deal runs out in January. Is there a sense that nobody wants another budget crisis and government shutdown?

Early this week, the administration said the problems with federal web site, healthcare.gov, had been mostly fixed. But there was some new polling that showed young people aren't very interested in signing up for health care, and, interestingly, a report that frustration with health care reform may cost Democrats another important constituency: white women.  

Republicans have a plan to keep attacking Democrats over Obamacare. What are the Dems doing to try and counter all the bad news? There was also a story this week about a California GOP website that was promoted as providing information about how to sign up for Obamacare, but was actually a screed against it. 

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