Jeremy Scahill, producer and writer of the documentary film Dirty Wars, which has just been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary. He is also author of the book by the same name. He is a senior investigative reporter at First Look Media, which will launch in the coming months.
Bob Herbert, distinguished senior fellow with Demos. From 1993 to 2011, he was an op-ed columnist for The New York Times.
On issues from domestic inequality to foreign policy, President Obama delivered his fifth State of the Union with a vow to take action on his own should Congress stonewall progress on his agenda. But will Obama’s policies go far enough? We host a roundtable with three guests: Jeremy Scahill, producer and writer of the Oscar-nominated documentary “Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield” and senior investigative reporter at First Look Media, which will launch in the coming months; Bob Herbert, distinguished senior fellow with Demos; and Lorella Praeli, director of advocacy and policy at the United We Dream coalition.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: Our guests are Jeremy Scahill—his film, Dirty Wars, has just been nominated for an Oscar; Bob Herbert with us, former New York Times columnist, now with Demos; and Lorella Praeli with the United We Dream coalition. Nermeen?
NERMEEN SHAIKH: We’re continuing our coverage of President Obama’s State of the Union address. During Tuesday’s speech, he announced an executive action to raise the minimum wage for some federal contract workers from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: In the coming weeks, I will issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally funded employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour, because if you cook our troops’ meals or wash their dishes, you should not have to live in poverty.
Of course, to reach millions more, Congress does need to get on board. Today, the federal minimum wage is worth about 20 percent less than it was when Ronald Reagan first stood here. And Tom Harkin and George Miller have a bill to fix that by lifting the minimum wage to $10.10. It’s easy to remember, 10-10. This will help families. It will give businesses customers with more money to spend. It does not involve any new bureaucratic program. So join the rest of the country. Say yes. Give America a raise.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Bob Herbert, can you respond to that, the significance of this raise for some federal workers?
BOB HERBERT: Sure. I think it’s symbolically significant. So, it’s not going to take effect until new contracts come up, so federal contract workers will have to be paid at least a minimum of $10.10 an hour. The reason I think it’s symbolically significant is because it keeps a spotlight on the issue of the minimum wage, on the issue of employment going forward.
You know, to Jeremy’s point about the State of the Union essentially being a propaganda speech, which is absolutely true, what you didn’t hear there was really what the state of the economy is for ordinary Americans, for working people in this country. You didn’t hear anything about poverty, for example. So, for years now, the American people have made it clear, in poll after poll and in other ways, that employment is their top priority. I mean, people need jobs. But neither party, presidents from either party and Congress, whether it’s in the control of the Republicans or the Democrats, have had a sustained, effective job creation program in this country. And the United States is never going to get out of its morass until it’s able to put people back to work.