President Obama can't get anything through Congress, and that's not likely to change between now and the end of his term, so he's going the executive-order route. One proposal:
President Obama plans to sign an executive order requiring that janitors, construction workers and others working for federal contractors be paid at least $10.10 an hour, using his own power to enact a more limited version of a policy that he has yet to push through Congress.I'd love to think this would be broadly popular. I'd love to think that the Americans who now overwhelmingly favor an increase in the minimum wage will see this as a doing the right thing for at least some people.
The order, which Mr. Obama will highlight in his annual State of the Union address on Tuesday night, is meant to underscore an increasing willingness by the president to bypass Congress if lawmakers continue to resist his agenda, aides said....
With prospects for congressional action still slim, Mr. Obama is using the executive order covering federal contractors to go as far as he can go on his own....
But I suspect this won't be popular. Because neither the mainstream press nor the Democratic Party will explain to the public that Republicans are the cause of our political dysfunction -- though some people have begun to figure it out -- there's still the myth that the president could get more if he'd just lead harder (or, alternately, that he could have done a better job getting what he wanted if he'd done more outreach to the GOP, but now he's poisoned the well). If you don't really understand the extent of right-wing intransigence, this looks like a failure on Obama's part, a half-measure when he should be able to get an across-the-board minimum wage hike passed.
It also looks like a special deal for History's Greatest Monsters -- public sector workers, the same people Scott Walker (now polling quite well in his reelection bid) and Chris Christie (still getting decent job approval ratings in his state) made their careers attacking.
The permanent squeeze on ordinary citizens takes its toll on empathy -- hell, polls even show that Christie's ratings are higher among people who don't use the George Washington Bridge. New Jersey residents don't even have fellow feeling for victims of deliberate traffic sabotage on a route they happen not to take.
On the Fox/talk-radio right, of course, Obama's plan to use executive orders is described as pure fascism. (Charles Krauthammer on Obama's efforts to bypass Congress: "This is how they do it in Venezuela.") I don't know how much that viewpoint is going to influence what people in the center are thinking, but I'm sure it has an impact, even though it's 180 degrees removed from the view of Obama as a guy who can't get bills through Congress. (Barack Obama: impotent and fascistic!)
The right will respond to this by selling the image of struggling, overwhelmingly white small businessmen who contract with the federal government and are now losing sleep, the poor dears, wondering how they'll cope with this horrible edict. The right has this propaganda down to a science. I suppose it's no different from the propaganda against a minimum wage increase in general, and that isn't working anymore, but if this is for just one group of workers -- government workers, paid with your tax dollars! -- there'll be some impact.
I'm not saying that this will be a serious problem for Obama. I'm just saying that if he thinks this will be widely cheered, he may be in for a disappointment.