The U.S. Labor Department reported today that the unemployment rate is 6.7 percent.
Bloomberg News noted today that 175,000 jobs were added in February, which was more than most economists expected.
While unemployment still remains high, there is one employment area that is booming in America: servants for wealthy people.
Claudia Kahn, founder of a Los Angeles staffing agency, recently told the Wall Street Journal that rich people are requesting "Downton Abbey-type service” that they see on the popular PBS TV series.
Of course, "Downton Abbey" is a period production set when workers had little, if any, rights.
Kahn says a housekeeper for a super rich client can earn up to $60,000 a year and a “lady’s maid” can make $75,000.
Full-time butlers can bank $70,000 a year, while butlers who travel with wealthy clients can earn as much as $200,000 a year.
However, it's not always big bucks. Many maids and housekeepers are underpaid because they are illegally in the U.S.
According to National Affairs, in 2008, Illegal immigrants were 27% of maids and housekeepers, 28% of dishwashers, 10% of workers in leisure and hospitality and 23% in private household employment.
For these workers, there are no legal protections and they live a real-life "Downton Abbey" existence without the glamour.
The Daily Mail notes that wealthy people in the UK are also hiring butlers. In fact, the demand has doubled in recent years.
After two weeks of competition, the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games came to an end today with another giant fireworks display and numerous performers celebrating Russia.
The President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, also praised Russia, which spent a record $51 billion on the Winter Games, noted RT.com.
“Let’s ask those who criticized the Games if they are ready to change their opinion,” Bach said today. “I spent four nights in different Olympic villages and had an opportunity to learn the opinions of those sportsmen who are important to me. None of the athletes uttered a word of complaint to me.”
However, Bach didn't mention the thousands of foreign workers who were lured to Sochi with promises of 2,000 Euro ($2,700) per month for building the infrastructure of Sochi's Winter Olympics (video below).
According to Mother Jones, thousands of these migrant workers were only given little pay for basic living expenses, forced to live in a dormitory with pay-to-use showers and had to share four toilets with 200 workers.
According to Human Rights Watch, rather than pay these workers, their Russian employers had them arrested for being illegal immigrants, detained by the police and then flown back to their foreign homes, noted Reuters.
With only six months left until the games, thousands of foreign workers were rounded up and deported without pay.
"The employers realize the workers' vulnerability," Semyon Simonov, a Sochi-based labor lawyer trying to get the workers paid, told Mother Jones. "They don't have paperwork, so they can report them to the police, who could arrest them and kick them out."
"It is clear," added Simonov, "That this is just a method of swindling the person."
The IOC was aware of this travesty as far back as October 2013 when Human Rights Watch sent the IOC a list of Sochi workers who claimed their employers had cheated them of wages.
An IOC spokesman said it had "a longstanding commitment to follow-up" on the reported instances of non-payment.
Eventually, after investigations by Russian authorities into more than 500 companies, 13 of the companies paid $8.34 million to more than 6000 ex-workers, but thousands of foreign workers without contracts did not get a dime.
Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga, Tenn. voted against joining the United Auto Workers (UAW) by 712 to 626 last week.
This vote also means the workers will not get the higher wages and benefits that usually come with UAW membership, noted BillMoyers.com.
Why did the auto workers vote against their best interests in a state which has the fifth lowest median household income in the US?
Pro-corporate, anti-union activists used fearmongering tactics to scare the workers into not joining the union, even going as far as to falsely claim that the UAW was somehow Obama's union, noted the TimesFreePress.com.
The billboards (pictured) were put up by right wing activist Grover Norquist and a new anti-union group, the Center for Worker Freedom. The 13 billboards warned that the city might become the next Detroit if the workers voted for union membership, reported The New York Times.
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam (R) made a vague threat that if the workers voted to unionize then the state would take away VW's special tax incentives and State Sen. Bo Watson (R-Chattanooga) actually claimed that Americans workers who unionize are “un-American," according to BillMoyers.com.
U.S. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) falsely claimed that the VW plant would get awarded a big production deal if workers voted down union membership, which VW denied.
No special project has been announced since the workers voted down union membership.
The state of Maine froze its pay for state troopers in 2013 to save money, but the austerity measure is hurting families of law enforcement.
Two state troopers recently testified in front of the Maine Legislature in support of a proposal that would restore $6 million to the state's general and transportation funds.
According to the Bangor Daily News, Trooper Jon Brown (pictured) said that he has to feed his family of six children with roadkill, while Trooper Elgin Physic claimed he could not afford furnace oil (video below).
“During the winter seasons, we often have to buy heating oil a few gallons at a time, because we rarely can afford the minimal delivery amount,” said Physic.
“I had to sell my wife’s engagement ring, military souvenirs from the war and other personal items just to make ends [meet],” added Physic.
State records show that Physic was paid $42,712 in pre-tax wages in 2012, while Brown made $37,375.
Brown said his family depends on the state’s Medicaid program and food stamp program, but also relies on roadkill, reports WMTW.
“I am a hunter because the meat I hunt is necessary to feed my family,” Brown stated. “I do not hesitate to collect a deer carcass from the roadway, this is necessary to provide for my family.”
Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) says that he opposes extending unemployment benefits to Americans, who have been out of work for more than six months, because such help would be "immoral."
“I believe it is immoral for this country to have as a policy extending long-term unemployment [benefits] to people rather than us working on the creation of jobs,” Rep. Sessions said on Tuesday, notes The Huffington Post.
"Too much of the time we have been hung up on, instead of job creation, we talk about the symptoms that are related to unemployment and long-term unemployment,” added Rep. Sessions.
"In this case, the president of the United States thoughtfully articulates the need for us to make sure we help people, but I believe he errs on the side of not pushing jobs bills," claimed Rep. Sessions.
However, Rep. Sessions failed to mention that Republicans blocked President Obama's jobs bill, The American Jobs Act, in 2011.
According to CBS News, that jobs bill included, "$140 billion in spending on education, transportation projects and public workers, including police officers."
Rep. Sessions also did not explain why Congress could not extend unemployment benefits and work "on the creation of jobs" at the same time.
ThinkProgress.org reports that 1.6 million adult Americans have lost their long-term unemployment benefits, which also hurts an estimated 2.3 million dependent children of these adults.
Park Seo-Yeon, who uses the online name "The Diva," claims she makes $9,300 a month by allowing people to watch her eat via webcam.
Seo-Yeon, who lives in South Korea, starts her hours-long online meal each night at 8 p.m. That's when thousands of people watch her on Afreeca.com.
Her high pay comes from fans who send her donations, but why?
"A lot of my viewers are on diets and they say they live vicariously through me, or they are hospital patients who only have access to hospital food so they also watch my broadcasts to see me eat," Seo-Yeon told CNN (video below).
"One of the best comments I ever received from a viewer who said that she had gotten over her anorexia by watching me eat," added Seo-Yeon. "That really meant a lot to me."
Seo-Yeon is one of many "eating rooms" that people can watch on Afreeca TV, which hosts the webcasts, notes UPI.
Afreeca TV spokeswoman Serim An says the success of the eating rooms is because of "the rise of one-person households in Korea, their ensuing loneliness and finally the huge trend of 'well-being culture' and excessive dieting in Korean society right now."
While the State of the Union address always has the attention of the nation, President Obama’s latest stood in contrast to the tough year his administration faced. You know, the one that saw the government shut down, an unproductive Congress, and the troubled rollout of his signature health care plan. Of course, the State of the Union is the most deliberately crafted speech and was delivered by one of the best oratory Presidents in recent memory.
The speech—which clocked in at just over an hour—was packed with the hopes of President who feels as if he can no longer rely on the legislature. From the climate to the temperature of the economy, from immigration to retirement planning the President suggested that he was tired of waiting for them to get their legislative acts together and said he plans to use his Executive authority to address these problems. “America does not stand still,” He said, “and neither will I.”
The President called for action on the immigration issue, where a bipartisan bill died on arrival in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives. He also resurrected the idea of retirement accounts (in the form of a government bond) that has appeared in a number of budget requests but has never been acted on by the legislature.
With respect to the economy there is very little a President can do—yet still the narratives on both sides insist that it lives and dies by White House policy—and President Obama relied on tried-and-true aspirations that rarely manifest in reality. He called for more high-tech jobs and called for revisions to the tax code that are generally accepted by both parties (specifically an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit). Although his proposal to raise the minimum wage to over $10 has met with resistance from both sides.
Responding to his critics, President Obama also suggested that the U.S. reduce its surveillance programs and limit the use of drones. The speech ended with an emotional acknowledgement of Army Ranger Cory Remsburg who had lost vision in one eye as a result of the war in Afghanistan. Yet, the President doubled-down on his desire to leave “a small force of Americans” in Afghanistan for training and “counter-terrorism operations to pursue any remnants of al Qaeda.” Conspicuous by its absence was any reference to the controversy surrounding the cutting of military pensions.
The speech itself was a success; of course it is almost impossible for it to not have been. What bears watching is the President’s use of Executive power to address these issues. The expansion of White House powers has continued for at least the past 30 years, but rarely has a President faced such a hostile and unproductive Congress. Perhaps his threat of acting alone will spark action in the legislature, but with the mid-term elections upon us this seems unlikely.
Peter Schiff, the CEO of Euro Pacific Capital, recently said that "mentally retarded" people should work for $2 dollars an hour.
During an interview with Daily Show correspondent Samantha Bee, Schiff warned of the devastating effects of raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, noted RawStory.com (video below).
“There’s a law in economics, supply and demand, that you learn in Econ 101, and if you increase the price of something, you decrease the demand,” claimed Schiff. “The higher you make the minimum wage, the more jobs are going to be destroyed."
However, there have been numerous studies that have found that raising the minimum wage does not destroy jobs because there is a rise in demand thanks to the greater purchasing power of well-paid workers and a reduction in turnover, which counteracts any higher wage costs.
Schiff also claimed that young people working for low wages "seem to be enjoying themselves."
“Did you ever go into a McDonald’s or Burger King?” he said. “I don’t really eat there, but they don’t seem desperate and hungry to me. They’re young kids, they seem to be enjoying themselves mostly.”
“It’s socialism that creates, you know, scarcity, that creates famine,” added Schiff. “In a free market, there’s plenty of food for everybody, especially the poor.”
But Paula Thornton Greear, a spokeswoman for the hunger charity Feeding America, told ABC News: "Nearly 49 million men, women and children worry about the source of their next meal."
Bee asked Schiff to name someone whose work might be worth $2 an hour.
“You know someone that might be? Maybe someone who is, what’s the politically correct word, you know, for mentally retarded,” replied Schiff. “I believe in the principles this country was founded on.”
“I’m not going to say that we’re all created equal,” added Schiff. “You’re worth what you’re worth.”
According to a new poll, most Republicans believe that poor people are poor because they do not work hard enough.
A recent survey by the Pew Research Center showed that 57 percent of Republicans believe that people are wealthy because "he or she worked harder than others." In a separate poll, 51 percent of Republicans believe that poor people have low incomes because they don't work hard enough.
Most of the country disagrees with the GOP, as an overall poll states that 51 percent of Americans believe the wealthy got rich via their advantages in life, notes TalkingPointsMemo.com.
Only 32 percent of Republicans polled believe that people are poor due to circumstances beyond their control.
AlterNet.org recently reported on 11 common occupations that pay the minimum wage (or close to) $7.25, putting many workers in poverty. The positions included: airport workers, big-box store employees (Target, Walmart, Home Depot), casino jobs, fast-food workers, home health aides, fishing industry, truckers, construction workers, nail salon employees, farm workers and housekeepers/maids.
Wisconsin State Sen. Glenn Grothman (R) wants to change the state law so that employees could work seven days without a day off.
According to The Huffington Post, Sen. State Grothman sent an email to other state lawmakers about his proposed bill that “would allow an employee to voluntarily choose to work without one day of rest in seven.”
Sen. State Grothman claims there are workers who want to work seven days straight and that his proposed law is about "freedom."
“Right now in Wisconsin, you’re not supposed to work seven days in a row, which is a little ridiculous because all sorts of people want to work seven days a week,” Sen. State Grothman told The Huffington Post.
Sen. State Grothman did not mention that employers could pressure their employees to work seven days a week.
“It’s a very hard thing to know whether something is truly voluntary or not,” said Vice President of the Economic Policy Institute Ross Eisenbrey. “If the employer puts pressure on people and lets them know they will be unhappy if workers exercise their right to have a day off, that might be enough so that no worker ever does anything but volunteer to work seven days a week.”
Employees already face numerous problems in the workplace from the employers, including wage and hour violations.
CNN reported in 2012: “More than 7,000 collective actions were filed in federal court in 2011 alleging wage and hour violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act, an approximately 400% increase since 2000.”
According to a study by the Economic Policy Institute, more than 60 percent of low-wage earners have part of their paycheck illegally withheld by employers. These employees lost an average of $2,634 per year in unpaid wages, reports The Huffington Post.