Obama Takes A Stand For Immigration Reform

spppPresident Obama announced new plans to use his executive authority to overhaul immigration laws in America by removing the threat of deportation for over 4 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States and providing the framework for immigration reform that has been mired in political gridlock for over a decade and could face challenges in 2015 when Republicans control both houses of Congress.

Calling America’s immigration system “broken” Obama outlined a multi-layered proposal consisting of shorter version of a bipartisan Senate bill last year that failed to pass the Republican led House of Representatives and consists of sweeping changes that will strengthen border security and foster U.S. citizenship by providing undocumented immigrants with a legal pathway to earn citizenship so they can come “out of the shadows.

Obama’s proposal requires undocumented immigrants to pass background checks, pay taxes and a penalty, go to the back of the line, and learn English.

Obama pointed out that “our history and the facts show that immigrants are a net plus for our economy and our society” and “we are and always will be a nation of immigrants.”

Under the new proposal, high-tech and highly skilled workers will have an easier time coming to the United States.

According to a recent NBC/WSJ poll, 57 percent of Americans support giving illegal immigrants a pathway to U.S. citizenship and that jumps to 74 percent when polled respondents were told that a pathway to U.S. citizenship includes paying fines, back taxes, and completing a background check.

There are estimated 11 million undocumented illegal immigrants living in the United States and over 4 million facing a more immediate threat of deportation.

Obama questioned on Thursday night whether deporting millions of illegal immigrants is the best way forward for America to handle its immigration situation.

“Are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms? Or are we a nation that values families, and works together to keep them together?” Obama asked.

“Are we a nation that educates the world’s best and brightest in our universities, only to send them home to create businesses in countries that compete against us?” Obama questioned.

Last year, the Democrat controlled Senate passed a bi-partisan immigration bill that Republican leaders in the House of Representatives, led by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), refused to allow a simple vote.

Conservative Republicans inspired by Tea Party ideology have resisted calls for immigration reform that includes granting undocumented immigrants a viable pathway to citizenship.

In 2012 Hispanics realized that Republicans stood in the way of meaningful immigration reform and voted overwhelmingly for President Obama during the last presidential election.

Now that President Obama has decided to use executive authority to implement changes to immigration reform, new Republican presidential candidates preparing for the upcoming presidential election in 2016 could further alienate themselves from an important Hispanic voting bloc by taking a strong stand against immigration reform.

Despite the political risks, many Republicans are distressed by President Obama’s decision to use executive action to authorize immigration reform.

Some Republicans have even threatened to shut down the federal government even despite the political risks.

Congress came to a bipartisan agreement earlier this fall to pass a stopgap funding bill to keep the federal government operating until December 11th.

Emboldened Republican leaders could decide to threaten to shutdown the government again before the December 11th deadline and play hardball with Obama over immigration reform and the Keystone XL pipeline.

Alternatively Republicans could decide to pass another temporary stopgap spending bill and defer taking decisive action on spending bills and immigration reform until early 2015 when they will have greater leverage and control both houses in Congress.

Republican House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) released a video on Facebook on Thursday criticizing President Obama for using executive authority to jumpstart immigration reform.

“Instead of working together to fix our broken immigration system, the president says he’s acting on his own. But that is just not how our democracy works,” Boehner said.

“The president has said before that ‘he’s not king’ and he’s ‘not an emperor,’ but he sure is acting like one. And he’s doing it at a time when the American people want nothing more than for us to work together” Boehner added.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) also took a negative view on Obama’s use of executive authority to get immigration reform moving.

“His actions are not only unconstitutional and in defiance of the American people who said they did not want amnesty in the 2014 elections, but they are also unfair to every immigrant who has come to our nation legally” Cruz posted on his Facebook page.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida), who has Cuban  immigrant roots, took a less negative view towards immigration reform in a released statement.

“We need immigration reform. But the right way to do it is to first bring illegal immigration under control by securing the borders and enforcing the laws, then modernizing our legal immigration system,” Rubio said.

“After we do these things, we will eventually have to deal with those here illegally in a reasonable but responsible way. The President’s actions now make all of this harder and are unfair to people in our immigration system who are doing things the right way” Rubio added.

President Obama understands that his decision to use executive authority to jumpstart immigration reform could lead to a confrontation with Republicans. During his speech on Thursday night, Obama encouraged Republicans to pass an immigration bill rather than obstructing immigration reform.

“To those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill” Obama said defiantly.

-Johnathan Schweitzer

Johnathan1Johnathan Schweitzer is a Seattle based writer who writes about finance, politics, and technology. He can be reached at schweitz31@gmail.com


Weak Global Economic Data Pressures Stocks

cgrowthU.S. stock indexes are heading lower on Thursday morning following disappointing global manufacturing data out of Europe, China, and Japan.

In Europe the pace of growth in the euro area fell to a 16 month low, according to Markit Eurozone PMI.

Business activity in the manufacturing and services economies dropped from 52.1 in October to 51.4, marking its lowest reading since July 2013.

Germany’s preliminary manufacturing survey came in at 50.0 and missed consensus estimates.

Japan’s manufacturing data also showed moderation in November.

The flash Markit/JMMA Japan Manufacturing PMI came in at 52.1 in November, down from 52.4 in October.

On Thursday in China factory activity fell to its lowest level in 6 months.

The preliminary HSBC China Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index fell to 50.0 in November versus a final reading of 50.4 in October.

A reading above 50 indicates economic expansion while a reading below 50 marks contraction. China’s third quarter 2014 GDP growth fell to 7.3 percent, the slowest pace in over 5 years.

In the United States on Thursday CPI data, the most widely cited inflation indicator that is used to calculate cost of living adjustments for government programs, came in at 0.0 percent in November, higher than the estimate of -0.2 from briefing.com but lower than 0.1 percent in October.

Core CPI which subtracts food and energy prices, came in at 0.2 percent, slightly higher than the estimate of 0.1 percent from briefing.com and higher than 0.1 percent in October.

Inflation is closely watched by Fed members at the Federal Reserve and is used to set monetary policy.

The personal-consumption expenditures price index that the Federal Reserve prefers to use for inflation showed a 1.4 percent inflation reading in September which is well below the Fed’s 2 percent inflation target.

Yesterday minutes from the Fed’s meeting in October showed that Fed members expect inflation to remain subdued in the short-term but rise in the long term.

“Although inflation in the near term will likely be held down by lower energy prices and other factors, the Committee judges that the likelihood of inflation running persistently below 2 percent has diminished somewhat since early this year” according to Fed minutes.

-Johnathan Schweitzer


NATO Secretary General Calls On Russia To Stop Destabilizing Ukraine

jensNATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg met briefly with reporters today at the EU Foreign Affairs Council and urged Russia to pull back its forces from the sovereign nation of Ukraine and stop destabilizing the country.

As fears mount that the Minsk ceasefire agreement signed in September is falling apart, NATO accuses Russia of supporting the armed separatists who seized control over parts of eastern Ukraine in April and continue to fight Ukrainian military forces.

“We call on Russia to pull back its forces, to respect the Minsk agreement and stop fuelling the conflict in Ukraine by supporting the separatists,” Stoltenberg said.

Admitting that the crisis in eastern Ukraine was caused by actions taken by Russia, the NATO leader said that Russia has a hard choice to make to end the 7 month armed conflict.

“Russia has a choice. It can either be part of a peaceful, negotiated solution, or Russia can continue on the path of isolation,” Stoltenberg added.

Stoltenberg concluded by stating that NATO and the EU fully support the sovereignty territorial integrity of Ukraine.

Yesterday NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg met with Irakli Garibashvili, Prime Minister of Georgia, and said that Georgia is continuing on its path towards integration with NATO.

Stoltenberg spoke about strengthening the defense capabilities of Georgia and establishing a Joint Georgian NATO Exercise Training Centre.

In the occupied region of Abkhazia, a recent military agreement was signed with Moscow and fears linger that Russian troops could attempt to gain greater control of the region that witnessed military conflict in 2008 and was once part of the Soviet Union.

The armed conflict in 2008 was focused on South Ossetia and Abkhazia, two “breakaway provinces” in Georgia that are supported by Russia.

-Johnathan Schweitzer

Facebook Plans Professional Website; Japan’s Economy Slips Into Recession

facebook3Shares of LinkedIn are trading 2 percent lower in pre-market trading after the Financial Times reported over the week-end that Facebook plans to develop a professional website called “Facebook At Work” that allows Facebook users to create a separate work profile and chat with professional contacts and work colleagues.

Oil futures continue to tumble on Monday following surprising news that Japan’s economy slipped back into a recession and declined for the 2nd consecutive quarter after 3rd quarter GDP showed that their economy contracted -1.6 percent compared with a forecast of over 2 percent.

In the 2nd quarter of 2014  Japan’s economy, the 3rd largest economy in the world, contracted -7.3 percent on an annualized basis, marking the largest decline since  March 2011 during the earthquake and tsunami.

Today’s weaker than expected GDP numbers for Japan are likely to force Prime Minister Abe to forego a planned consumption tax increase.

-Johnathan Schweitzer

G20 Leaders Put Putin Under Pressure Over Ukraine

ausAs leaders in the G20 Summit  in Australia gather to discuss challenges to global growth, Russian President Vladimir Putin is in the middle of the debate, facing growing alienation from western leaders at the economic summit over Russian foreign policies in eastern Ukraine and Crimea that are widely criticized.

When Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper shook hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the summit meeting, he told him that “he needed to get out of Ukraine.”

Earlier U.S. President Barack Obama admitted that “Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is a threat to the world” which comes at a time when EU nations are now considering to widen sanctions on Russia as fighting escalates in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine and the cease fire agreement between Ukrainian military forces and separatists is falling apart.

Russia stands accused of supporting pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine with military columns of artillery, combat troops, and tanks in eastern Ukraine.

NATO claims to have satellite imagery and military intelligence that confirms Russia’s involvement supporting the armed separatists.

Russia denies any involvement in the months long conflict in eastern Ukraine that has taken over 4,000 lives, renewed cold war tensions with the West, and has moved Russia full speed into an economic recession with the Russian ruble slumping, investors pulling their money out of Russia, and sanctions threatening to hurt to a Russian economy that is heavily dependent on exporting oil.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has criticized the government in Kiev and compared them to “fascists” that are focused on weakening Russian influence across the region.

Putin portrays Russia as a victim of the West and has criticized western media for perpetuating the viewpoint of Russia playing an active role destabilizing Ukraine and supporting the armed separatists in Ukraine.

During the first two months of 2014, Putin also denied Russia’s role destabilizing Crimea and criticized western journalism for their bias against Russia while denying that Russian forces were involved in an incursion into Crimea before the region was eventually annexed into Russia in March.

However, as the weeks passed by it became crystal clear that Russian forces were inside Crimea before the annexation referendum vote and Moscow had difficult time denying that Russian forces had never infiltrated Crimea.

Now Putin wants the world to take him seriously and believe him that the West is ganging up on him while insisting that Russia has no direct involvement in aiding separatists in eastern Ukraine at a time when Russian bombers are flying closer to U.S. and NATO borders.

On Monday NATO’s relations with Georgia will be a topic of discussion once again.

The former Soviet  republic of Georgia has served as a flashpoint of heightened tensions between Russia and the West.

NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg will meet with Georgian President Garibashvili and conduct a press conference.

Georgia is aspiring for NATO membership and actively cooperates with NATO led operations.

On Saturday protestors in the capital Tbilisi rallied to protest a military agreement between Russia and Georgia’s breakaway Abkhazia region.

Some of the protestors fear that Russia is planning to annex Abkhazia.

-Johnathan Schweitzer


German Economy Avoids Recession; France Shows Stronger Growth

GermanGermany’s economy grew by 0.1 percent in the third quarter of 2014 and barely missed a recession helped by stronger consumer spending levels across Germany.

Revised second quarter GDP numbers for Germany, the strongest economy in the euro area, showed a slight improvement at -0.1 percent versus the first reading of -0.2 percent.

France’s economy grew 0.3 percent in the third quarter and beat the consensus forecast of 0.2 percent.

Revised second quarter GDP results for France, the second strongest economy in the euro area, showed a downward revision to -0.1 percent following a 0 percent growth rate in the first quarter of 2014.

France’s Foreign Minister Michael Sapin said that he still remains concerned about France ‘s job situation.

“Economic activity has picked up slightly but remains too weak to ensure the job creation our country needs” Sapin said.

Italy’s 3rd quarter 2014 GDP results declined -0.1 percent, in line with consensus forecast, marking the 13th quarter with no growth for the third largest economy in the euro area.  Italy is already in recession.

Italy had -.02 percent economic GDP growth in second quarter of 2014.

The Netherlands saw a 0.2 percent increase in their 3rd quarter GDP results for 2014, slightly below the forecast of 0.3 percent.

-Johnathan Schweitzer




China and U.S. Announce New Climate Change Agreement

greenAt the end of the APEC Trade Summit in Beijing on Wednesday the United States and China announced a new climate change agreement that sets new targets for curbing emissions and strengthens their commitment to combat global climate change.

The climate change agreement is a boost for environmentalists who have long complained about the slow pace of reform measures undertaken by governments in Beijing and Washington to limit carbon emissions as both countries emit the largest amount of carbon dioxide into the earth’s atmosphere as measured in metric tons.

“As the world’s two largest economies, energy consumers and emitters of greenhouse gases, we have a special responsibility to lead the global effort against climate change,” Obama said in a joint press conference along with President Xi Jinping.

Under the terms of the new climate change agreement, the United States intends to achieve an “economy-wide target of reducing its emissions by 26-28 percent below its 2005 level in 2025 and to make best efforts to reduce its emissions by 28 percent.”

The United States was previously working towards hitting an earlier target of reducing its emissions by 17 percent before 2020.

“China intends to achieve the peaking of CO2 emissions around 2030 and to make best efforts to peak early.”

China aims to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 20 percent by 2030.

In a joint statement issued by China and the United States both countries affirmed that the global scientific community has made clear that human activity is already changing the world’s climate system.

The joint statement mentioned that the two nations hope that momentum will build for other countries to adopt more ambitious emission targets.

“The United States and China hope that by announcing these targets now, they can inject momentum into the global climate negotiations and inspire other countries to join in coming forward with ambitious actions as soon as possible, preferably by the first quarter of 2015″ the statement reads.

The burning of coal, natural gas, and oil for electricity and heat is the largest single source of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Based on the new climate change agreement, these energy sectors will face more scrutiny as a pathway is being searched to achieve a more optimized energy mix that lowers emissions.

“The two sides intend to continue strengthening their policy dialogue and practical cooperation, including cooperation on advanced coal technologies, nuclear energy, shale gas and renewable energy, which will help optimize the energy mix and reduce emissions, including from coal, in both countries” the joint statement reads.

Republicans on Capitol Hill have been highly skeptical of climate change research and oppose enacting tougher environmental regulation in the energy sector and business community.

Republicans will  control both houses in Congress beginning in January and have vowed to oppose President Obama’s environmental agenda as well as approve the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline that pumps oil from Alberta and sends the oil to refineries in the Gulf Coast region of the U.S.

-Johnathan Schweitzer

Johnathan1Johnathan Schweitzer is a Seattle based writer who writes on the topic of finance, politics, and tech. He can be contacted at schweitz31@gmail.com

U.S. and China To End Technology Tariffs

apecOn Tuesday the United States and China made break through talks at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Beijing to end tariffs on electronic goods traded globally in a deal that could mark a decisive turning point in the way that the two nations work out trade deals and respond to complaints of economic protectionism.

The reported deal on Tuesday would expand the Information Technology Agreement (ITA) that was enforced by the World Trade Organization (WTO) on July 1st, 1997 and slashes taxes and tariffs on information technology products.

The agreement has not yet been approved by some of the other countries in the ITA talks that are taking place within the World Trade Organization and are weeks away from final ratification in Geneva.

The agreement could eliminate tariffs up to $1 trillion and generate up to 60,000 jobs, according to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman.

Some of the goods that would see tariffs eliminated include semiconductors, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines, and GPS devices.

The Financial Times reported today that the China-U.S. deal does not cover flat screen televisions or monitors.

APEC economies account for roughly 40 percent of the world’s population and nearly 60 percent of its GDP.

-Johnathan Schweitzer


Lame Duck Session In Congress Set To Begin This Week

congBefore the new Congress takes shape in January, members of Congress will return to Capitol Hill on Wednesday for a so called lame duck session to deal with a host of issues ranging from President Obama’s request for additional funding to fight Islamic State in the Middle East to the passage of a temporary spending bill to keep the U.S. government funded beyond December 11th.

Most political analysts expect that Congress won’t allow the government to partially shut down this time around and will pass temporary funding through January or February.

Some of the other issues that are expected to come up during the upcoming lame duck session in Congress include working on a bipartisan debt reduction plan that reduces or replaces the “across the board” sequestration cuts scheduled to return in 2016, and approve a defense policy bill.

On Friday the White House said that it will ask Congress to approve a $ 5.6 billion plan to widen the U.S. led military campaign in Iraq and send an additional 1,500 U.S. troops to the divided country.

During an interview on CBS’s Face the Nation aired on Sunday, President Obama said that the fight against Islamic State has entered a “new phase” and confirmed that the 1,500 American troops would not be engaged in combat and instead play a supportive role with Iraqis fighting Islamic State.

“Essentially, what we’re doing is we’re taking four training centers with coalition members that allow us to bring in Iraqi recruits, some of the Sunni tribes that are still resisting ISIL, giving them proper training, proper equipment, helping them with strategy, helping them with logistics” Obama said.

-Johnathan Schweitzer




U.S. Economy Adds 214,00 Jobs In October; Unemployment Rate Drops to 5.8 percent

jbsThe U.S. economy added 214,000 non-farm payroll jobs in October while the unemployment level dipped to 5.8 percent, a six year low, according to recent data from the U.S. Labor Department.

Economists from briefing.com were forecasting 275,000 jobs in October and the unemployment level slightly increasing to 6.0 percent.

The  nonfarm payroll employment figures for August and September were revised higher by 31,000 and went from 180,000 to 203,000 in August  and 248,000 to 256,000 in September.

Over the past 12 months, the U.S. economy has picked up an average monthly gain of 222,000 new non-farm payroll jobs.

Since the beginning of the year, the unemployment rate and the number of unemployed persons have declined by 0.8 percentage point and 1.2 million.

Average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 3 cents to $24.57 in October.

Over the year, average hourly earnings have increased by 2.0 percent.

The civilian labor force participation rate in October changed little and came in at 62.8 percent from 62.7 percent.

The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls moved higher by 0.1 hour to 34.6 hours.

Employment increased the most in food services and drinking places, retail trade, and health care.

Health care added 25,000 jobs in October. Employment in retail trade rose by 27,000 in October. Food services and drinking places added 42,000 jobs in October.

On November 5th, ADP reported private payroll gains of 230,000 in October, slightly lower than the 235,000 estimate from briefing.com which is still higher than 225,000 in September.

-Johnathan Schweitzer