04 21 2015
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  • When should we use military to enforce US goals? NASHUA, N.H. (AP) — Rand Paul lashed out Saturday at military hawks in the Republican Party in a clash over foreign policy dividing the packed GOP presidential field. Paul, a first-term senator from Kentucky who favors a smaller U.S. footprint in the world, said that some of his Republican colleagues would do more harm in international affairs than would leading Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton. "The other Republicans will criticize the president and Hillary Clinton for their foreign policy, but they would just have done the same thing — just 10 times over," Paul said on the closing day of a New Hampshire GOP conference that brought about 20 presidential prospects to the first-in-the-nation primary state. "There's a group of folks in our party who would have troops in six countries right now, maybe more," Paul said. Foreign policy looms large in the presidential race as the U.S. struggles to resolve diplomatic and military conflicts across the globe. The GOP presidential class regularly rails against President Barack Obama's leadership on the world stage, yet some would-be contenders have yet to articulate their own positions, while others offered sharply different visions. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, whose brother, President George W. Bush, authorized the 2003 invasion of Iraq, declined to say whether he would have done anything different then. Yet Jeb Bush acknowledged a shift in his party against new military action abroad. "Our enemies need to fear us, a little bit, just enough for them to deter the actions that create insecurity," Bush said earlier in the conference. He said restoring alliances "that will create less likelihood of America's boots on the ground has to be the priority, the first priority of the next president." The GOP's hawks were well represented at the event, led by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who has limited foreign policy experience but articulated a muscular vision during his Saturday keynote address. Walker said the threats posed by radical Islamic terrorism won't be handled simply with "a couple bombings." "We're not going to wait till they bring the fight to us," Walker said. "We're going to bring the fight to them and fight on their soil." South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham addressed the question of putting U.S. troops directly in the battle against the Islamic State group militants by saying there is only one way to defeat the militants: "You go over there and you fight them so they don't come here." Texas Sen. Ted Cruz suggested an aggressive approach as well. "The way to defeat ISIS is a simple and clear military objective," he said. "We will destroy them." Businesswoman Carly Fiorina offered a similar outlook. "The world is a more dangerous and more tragic place when America is not leading. And America has not led for quite some time," she said. Under Obama, a U.S.-led coalition of Western and Arab countries is conducting regular airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. also has hundreds of military advisers in Iraq helping Iraqi security forces plan operations against the Islamic State, which occupies large chunks of northern and western Iraq. Paul didn't totally reject the use of military force, noting that he recently introduced a declaration of war against the Islamic State group. But in an interview with The Associated Press, he emphasized the importance of diplomacy. He singled out Russia and China, which have complicated relationships with the U.S., as countries that could contribute to U.S. foreign policy interests. "I think the Russians and the Chinese have great potential to help make the world a better place," he said. "I don't say that naively that they're going to, but they have the potential to." Paul suggested the Russians could help by getting Syrian President Bashar Assad to leave power. "Maybe he goes to Russia," Paul said. Despite tensions with the U.S., Russia and China negotiated alongside Washington in nuclear talks with Iran. Paul has said he is keeping an open mind about the nuclear negotiations. "The people who already are very skeptical, very doubtful, may not like the president for partisan reasons," he said, and "just may want war instead of negotiations."
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Senate Democrats

WASHINGTON (AP) — A report by Congress' nonpartisan budget analysts seems to have thrown Democrats onto the defensive after it concluded that the party's drive to boost the federal minimum wage could cost a half-million jobs by 2016.

A Congressional Budget Office report released Tuesday concluded that a gradual increase to $10.10 hourly by that year — which is what President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats are seeking — would increase pay for more than 16.5 million people, mostly those earning low wages. It also would lift 900,000 people over the federal poverty threshold, the study said.

Democrats hailed those findings. But in a congressional election year in which the slow-recovering economy remains a paramount issue, Democrats from the White House to Capitol Hill contested another of the report's conclusions: that the increase would reduce jobs in 2016 by roughly 500,000, or 0.3 percent.

That figure was the midpoint of a range of job losses the budget office estimated at somewhere from negligible to 1 million eliminated positions. And it was an unpleasant number for Democrats, who plan to make their long-shot effort to raise the minimum wage this campaign year a centerpiece of their focus on correcting income inequity between haves and have-nots.

Jason Furman, chairman of the White House's Council of Economic Advisers, and council member Betsey Stevenson referred in a blog post to a statement by more than 600 economists who cited recent academic findings that “increases in the minimum wage have had little or no negative effect on the employment of minimum-wage workers, even during times of weakness in the labor market.”

“There's some respectful disagreement on the emphasis and certainty around that magnitude of employment loss,” Furman told reporters of the CBO estimates. He added, “Zero is a perfectly reasonable estimate of the impact of the minimum wage on employment” based on research by other economists.

Among those echoing Furman were Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, author of the minimum wage bill the Senate plans to debate next month. His measure would boost today's $7.25 standard in three steps to $10.10 by 2016, with annual increases reflecting inflation after that.

Citing “the newest economic research using the most sophisticated methodologies,” Harkin said, “since the first minimum wage was enacted more than 75 years ago, opponents have argued that a wage floor would cause job loss. But this is a myth.”

Republicans, who long have solidly opposed a minimum wage boost as a job killer, wasted no time in using the budget office report to buttress their case.

“Today's CBO report shows that raising the minimum wage could destroy as many as 1 million jobs, a devastating blow to the very people that need help most in this economy,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said.

“With unemployment Americans' top concern, our focus should be creating — not destroying — jobs for those who need them most,” said Brendan Buck, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

The study also examined the impact of boosting the minimum wage to just $9 hourly by 2016, similar to what Obama embraced a year ago, and leaving it at that level afterward. That lesser increase would have smaller effects — about 100,000 fewer jobs, higher wages for 7.6 million workers and 300,000 people lifted out of poverty.

Without any changes in the minimum wage, about 45 million Americans are expected to live below the poverty line in 2016. The budget office estimates that the poverty level that year would be $24,100 for a family of four, less for smaller families.

The report said an increase to $10.10 would add $31 billion to the earnings of low-wage workers.

But it noted that only 19 percent of that increase would go to families earning less than the poverty threshold, while 29 percent would go to families earning more than triple the poverty level. That is because many low-wage earners are not in low-wage families.

In addition, income would decrease by $17 billion for families earning at least six times the poverty level because that group would be affected most by lost business income and price increases.

The report said that besides boosting wages for people earning less than $10.10 hourly, a minimum wage boost to $10.10 would help some people making more than that amount as bosses adjust their pay scales upward.

A minimum wage boost can cost jobs because employers can compensate for their higher wage costs by raising prices. That can prompt consumers to purchase fewer goods and services and, in turn, encourage companies to hire fewer workers, the report said.

A minimum wage increase also encourages some businesses to trim the number of low-paid workers. But the study said the effect can be mixed.

It noted that some companies would react by getting higher productivity from their workers, and some would see savings because increased wages could reduce turnover. Other companies could benefit as increased overall spending on goods and services by low-wage workers boosts demand for their products.

Some workers' incomes would grow as their earnings increase, causing them to pay more taxes. But for others, income would fall — reducing their tax burden — and still others would begin collecting unemployment insurance.

As a result, the budget office said a higher minimum wage would have a negligible impact on federal budget deficits.

___

Associated Press writers Tom Raum, Andrew Taylor and Jim Kuhnhenn contributed to this report.

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