THE BLOG
12/22/2014 03:11 pm ET Updated Feb 21, 2015

Raising Overtime Pay Is Easier Than You Think

Reuters

It has been an especially good time over the past month watching President Obama give the congressional Republicans exactly what they asked for when they decided to oppose everything he did.

They have made it their mission since 2009 to obstruct, degrade and destroy, while Obama's attempted to work with them far longer than they deserved. But with his final election in the rearview mirror, Obama built an impressive legacy without them -- his executive order on immigration and now opening diplomatic relations with Cuba.

But it's time to complete the trifecta: raise overtime pay for American workers.

From whittling back the administration's first stimulus, to blocking an increase in the minimum wage, the congressional Republicans have done all they can to sabotage the U.S. economy. Sadly, for them, economic growth is robust, unemployment is going down and the stock market is on a trajectory skyward. But they have succeeded in keeping wages flat, so they can drink to that.

But for an insecure middle class who haven't seen a pay raise in what must seem like an eternity -- and work an average of 47 hours per week -- a raise in overtime pay would make a huge difference. Venture-capitalist Nick Hanauer in his op-ed in The Hill last Thursday:

Overtime pay is to the middle class what the minimum wage is to low-wage workers. In 1975, more than 65 percent of salaried American workers earned time-and-a-half pay for every hour worked over 40 hours a week, but by 2013, that number had dropped to less than 11 percent. That's because the income threshold at which employers are required to pay overtime has been allowed to erode to only $23,660 a year, less than the poverty line for a family of four. The 89 percent of salaried workers who now earn over that threshold can be forced to work unlimited overtime hours for no additional pay at all.

And according to a recent Gallup poll, that's exactly what's happening. Salaried Americans now report working an average of 47 hours a week--18 percent report working more than 60 hours per week. If it feels like you're working more hours for less money than your parents did a generation ago, it's probably because you are.

But it doesn't have to be this way: President Obama could raise the overtime threshold to $69,000--enough to cover the same 65 percent of salaried workers that it covered 40 years ago--and with no prior congressional approval. Because unlike the minimum wage, the overtime threshold is set through the Department of Labor's existing regulatory authority.

Hunger Games Republicans, who sabotage economic growth and therefore working Americans, won't do anything to boost wages. A middle class that's taken it on the chin can have more money in their pockets to reward their hard work (remember when Republicans supported that?), providing a nice stimulus right around gift-buying time. And Republicans will further lose their collective shpadoinkle.

Is there a downside here that you can see?

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