In brief | Nation & world | 021914


Budget office: Minimum wage hike would raise income for more than 16.5M but cost 500K jobs

WASHINGTON — Boosting the federal minimum wage as President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats are proposing would increase earnings for more than 16.5 million people by 2016 but also cut employment by roughly 500,000 jobs, Congress’ nonpartisan budget analyst said Tuesday.

In a report containing ammunition for both supporters and opponents of the Democratic election-year proposal, the Congressional Budget Office said gradually raising the minimum from $7.25 hourly to $10.10 would lift 900,000 people above the federal poverty level by 2016. That is out of 45 million who would otherwise live in poverty without an increase.

But the analysis also noted a downside: About 0.3 percent fewer jobs, especially for low-income workers; higher costs for business owners and higher prices for consumers.

The study was unveiled as the Senate prepares for a March debate on a plan by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, ramping up the minimum in three steps to $10.10 by 2016. The proposal is backed by Obama and is a keystone of Democrats’ campaign-season plans to highlight their effort to make incomes more equitable, but it faces strong Republican opposition and long odds of approval by Congress.

The analysis, which examined increases very similar to Harkin’s, immediately added fuel to the partisan dispute over the proposal. It put authoritative weight behind longtime GOP claims that increasing the minimum wage would cost jobs by forcing companies to spend more on wages, putting Democrats on the defensive.

Obama, Democrats at odds over election-year trade deals with Europe and Asia

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama wants to put major emerging trade deals with Europe and Asia on a “fast track” to congressional passage. But with midterm elections looming, many fellow Democrats are working to sidetrack them instead.

At the same time, Obama has found an ally in a traditional foe, Republican House Speaker John Boehner.

If ratified, the proposals — the Trans-Atlantic and Trans-Pacific Trade and Investment Partnerships — would create the largest free-trade zone in the world, covering roughly half of all global trade.

In his State of the Union address, Obama asked Congress to give him “trade promotion authority,” usually known as fast track, to negotiate the twin trade deals. But the separate negotiations with the European Union and 11 Pacific Rim nations are generating strong emotions at home and abroad.

Many Democrats up for re-election in November are fearful of drawing primary-election opposition over the trade talks. Concerned about lost jobs that are important to labor unions, they’re abandoning Obama on this issue.

Iran rejects key demand of world powers, saying it won’t scrap any nuclear facility

VIENNA — Iran drew a red line on Tuesday on how far it would go at landmark nuclear talks, saying as the meeting opened that it would not buckle to pressure from the U.S. and five other world powers to scrap any of its nuclear facilities.

The statement by Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi suggested tough talks ahead, constituting a rejection of a central demand by the six countries.

At the same time, neither side can afford to have the talks fail.

Lack of agreement would leave Iran struggling under the weight of harsh economic sanctions and a threat of military strikes by Israel, which sees Iran’s nuclear program as an unacceptable security threat primarily designed to develop weapons.

The United States has promised to protect Israel, but said more time is needed for diplomacy and sanctions to try to reduce the threat Israel faces from Iran.

By wire sources