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Chad’s Morning Brief: Senate Block Minimum Wage Increase, Terror Threat on the Rise, and Other Top Stories

Here is your Morning Brief for the morning of May 1, 2014. Give me your feedback below and tune in to The Chad Hasty Show for these and many more topics from 8:30 to 11am. Remember, you can listen online at KFYO.com or on your iPhone/Android with the radioPup App.

Important Election Dates:

Early Voting for City and School Board Election: TODAY – May 6

Election Day for City and School Board: May 10

Early Voting for GOP and Dem. Primary Runoff: May 19 – May 23

Election Day for GOP and Dem. Primary Runoff: May 27

U.S. Capitol building
Brendan Stringer, Getty Images

Minimum Wage

A bill that would have increased the minimum wage failed Wednesday in the Senate according to FOX News.

A bill to increase the federal minimum wage stalled Wednesday in the Senate, in the latest setback for Democrats pushing a set of election-year economic bills.

Republicans argued that the change would be too expensive for employers and would backfire by costing jobs. Fueling their argument was a Wednesday morning Commerce Department report showing the economy grew at just a 0.1 percent rate in the first quarter.

The bill failed on a 54-42 test vote. It needed 60 to advance.

The bill by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, would gradually raise the $7.25 hourly minimum to $10.10 over 30 months and then provide automatic annual increases to account for inflation. Democrats argue that if fully phased in by 2016, it would push a family of three above the federal poverty line — a level such earners have not surpassed since 1979.

Republicans, though, cited a February study by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that estimated the increase to $10.10 could have the effect of eliminating about 500,000 jobs — but also envisioned higher income for 16.5 million low-earning people.

“Washington Democrats’ true focus these days seems to be making the far left happy, not helping the middle class,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

The debate was playing out half a year from this fall’s elections, in which Democrats are struggling to retain their Senate majority and the economy remains a marquee issue.

President Obama has made boosting the minimum wage a top priority. Its rejection marks a defeat for him and the latest setback for a stream of Democratic bills that stress the campaign-season theme of economic fairness.

Obama blasted Republicans for the vote Wednesday afternoon.

“Workers who benefit from a minimum wage increase often work full time, often in physically demanding jobs. They average 35 years of age. Most low paying jobs are held by women. But because Republicans in Congress said no to even allowing a vote on the floor of the Senate, these folks are going to have to wait for the raise they deserve,” he said, adding: “Change is happening whether Republicans in Congress like it or not.”

Obama also praised lawmakers in Hawaii, who voted Tuesday to raise the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 per hour over four years. Five other states have enacted increases so far this year, and 21 have minimums above $7.25.

“It’s time for Republicans in Congress to listen to the majority of Americans who say it’s time to give America a raise,” Obama said in a written statement.

Supporters note that the federal minimum wage’s buying power has fallen. It reached its peak value in 1968, when it was $1.60 hourly but was worth $10.86 in today’s dollars.

The legislation was opposed by business groups including the National Council of Chain Restaurants and the International Franchise Association. The National Restaurant Association has hundreds of members at the Capitol this week lobbying lawmakers on several issues, including opposition to a higher minimum wage.

Also opposed were conservative organizations including Heritage Action and Americans for Prosperity, which is backed by Charles and David Koch. The billionaire brothers are spending millions this year to unseat congressional Democrats, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and his allies are casting them as unfettered villains.

Underscoring the political value they envisioned from the minimum wage fight, Harkin and other Democrats said earlier if the measure was defeated Wednesday, the Senate would vote on it again this year.

According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, about two-thirds of the 3.3 million people who earned $7.25 an hour or less last year worked in service jobs, mostly food preparation and serving. More than 6 in 10 of those making $7.25 or under were women, and about half were under age 25. Democrats hope their support for a minimum wage boost will draw voters from both groups — who usually lean Democratic — to the polls in November, when Senate control will be at stake. The GOP’s hold on the House is not in doubt.

Harkin’s bill would also gradually increase the minimum wage for tipped workers like waiters to 70 percent of the minimum for most other workers. It is currently $2.13 hourly, which can be paid as long as their hourly earnings with tips total at least $7.25.

The minimum wage was first enacted in 1938 and set at 25 cents.

Congress has passed nine laws slowly increasing it, including one each decade since the 1980s. The minimum has been $7.25 since 2009.

An increase in the minimum wage would have killed jobs and hurt those that it was meant to protect. With a fragile economy, now is a bad time to talk raising the wage. A wage that was not meant to raise a family on.

Terror Spike

Remember when President Obama told Americans that al-Qaida was no longer a threat and that they were on the run? According to the AP, terrorism and al-Qaida are on the rise.

A surge in the number of aggressive al-Qaida affiliates and like-minded groups the Middle East and North Africa poses a serious threat to U.S. interests and allies, the State Department said Wednesday in reporting a more than 40 percent increase in terrorist attacks worldwide between 2012 and 2013.

The department also singled out Iran as a major state sponsor of terrorism that continues to defy demands it prove its atomic ambitions are peaceful even as Washington pursues negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear program.

In its annual global terrorism report, the department said that losses in al-Qaida’s core leadership in Pakistan and Afghanistan “accelerated” the network’s decentralization in 2013. That has resulted in more autonomous and more aggressive affiliates, notably in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, northwest Africa, and Somalia, it said.

“The terrorist threat continued to evolve rapidly in 2013, with an increasing number of groups around the world – including both AQ affiliates and other terrorist organizations – posing a threat to the United States, our allies, and our interests,” according to the strategic assessment of the “Country Reports on Terrorism.”

The report identified a 43 percent increase in the number of terrorist attacks in 2013 from 2012, according to statistics provided by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism.

It counted 9,707 terrorist attacks around the world in 2013, resulting in more than 17,800 deaths and more than 32,500 injuries. Most of those occurred in Afghanistan, India, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Somalia, Syria, Thailand and Yemen. In 2012, the figures were 6,771 terrorist attacks, with more than 11,000 deaths and more than 21,600 injuries. Most of those where in the same 10 countries as in 2013.

Despite the spike in the number of attacks, the report pointed out that nearly half of them caused no fatalities and 53 percent caused no injuries.

The most lethal attacks in 2013 were conducted by the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Pakistani Taliban, Nigeria’s Boko Haram, al-Qaida in Iraq, al-Qaida in Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, according to the report.

“While the international community has severely degraded AQ’s core leadership, the terrorist threat has evolved,” it said. “Leadership losses in Pakistan, coupled with weak governance and instability in the Middle East and Northwest Africa, have accelerated the decentralization of the movement and led to the affiliates in the AQ network becoming more operationally autonomous from core AQ and increasingly focused on local and regional objectives.”

Those groups have subsequently taken advantage of conditions on the ground “to broaden and deepen their operations,” it said, noting deadly attacks against religious pilgrims in Iraq, hospital staff and patients in Yemen by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and a popular shopping mall in Kenya last year by the Somali-based al-Shabab organization.

In addition to spurring more and deadlier activity, al-Qaida’s decentralization has led to its affiliates increasing their financial independence from the core by staging a growing number of kidnappings for ransom and other crimes, like extortion and credit card fraud, the report said. It said the Yemeni affiliate and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, which is active in North Africa, have become “particularly effective” at such activities.

And, it said, 2013 saw groups like these boost their presence on social media platforms, although with mixed results, as various online voices often led to “confusion and contradictions” in their messaging. Nevertheless, it said, the wider audience reached through new media compounds the extremist threat.

The report also pointed out a “worrisome trend” in that a significant amount of terrorism in 2013 was sectarian in nature, especially in Syria, Lebanon, and Pakistan.

It noted that thousands of al-Qaida inspired extremists flooded into Syria to join that country’s civil war, ostensibly to protect Sunni Muslims from Syrian President Bashar Assad’s Alawite-dominated government. Despite divisions among themselves and with al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, these groups, including al-Nusrah Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant remain a serious threat, the report said.

At the same time, Iran and the radical Lebanon-based Hezbollah movement stepped up the provision of critical support to Assad, “dramatically bolstering” his capabilities and exacerbating the conflict, it said.

On Iran, which has been designated a “state sponsor of terrorism” by the United States since 1984, the report said Tehran last year persisted in supporting Palestinian terrorist groups, boosted its presence in Africa and tried to smuggle weapons to separatists in Yemen and Bahrain.

Tehran used the al-Quds Force of its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as its “primary mechanism for cultivating and supporting terrorists abroad” with the intent of destabilizing the Middle East and fomenting anti-Israel attacks and sentiment, it said.

While it continued to sponsor terrorism, Iran also remained a concern for the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the report said.

Despite ongoing negotiations with world powers to address concerns about its nuclear program, Iran remains in violation of international demands to come clean about its intentions and prove it is not trying to develop atomic weapons, it said.

Along with Iran, the 2013 report identified Cuba, Syria and Sudan as “state sponsors of terrorism,” designations that remain unchanged from last year.

Other Top Stories:

Cruz Meets to Talk Immigration

Opponents of Voter ID See Time Running Out

TX House Committee to Re-Examine “Dark Money” 

Democratic Governors Association Has No Faith in Wendy Davis

Davis Campaign Furious

Sriracha to San Antonio?

Religious Left and Economic Justice 

47% Say US Should Stay Home 

China Set to Pass US

These and many more topics coming up on today’s edition of The Chad Hasty Show. Tune in mornings 8:30-11am on News/Talk 790 KFYO, streaming online at kfyo.com, and now on your iPhone and Android device with the radioPup App. All guest interviews can be heard online in our podcast section after the show at kfyo.com.

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