His initiatives stymied in Congress, President Barack Obama will take a swath of executive actions in 2014 to advance his middle-class agenda.
Senior administration officials stress that these moves are not at odds with — but rather in conjunction to — working with legislators to enact new laws only they can do. Here are four things Obama will do with the stroke of his pen.
— Hike the minimum wage to $10.10 for federal contract workers. While Congressional Republicans block his push for a federal minimum wage increase to $10.10, the president will boost it where he can by ordering that federal contract workers are paid no less than $10.10 per hour. The change only applies to new contracts, not existing ones. The direct macroeconomic impact will be minimal, but senior administration officials say it would pressure businesses to pay their workers more and push Congress to act on lifting the federal wage.
— Impose new fuel efficiency standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks to build on his new fuel efficiency standards for cars. It’s part of a series of executive actions aimed at combating climate change, which Obama set in motion once it became clear Congress wouldn’t act. He’ll also order his administration to partner with cities, states and tribes to shift to cleaner and more efficient sources of energy.
— Create a “starter savings account” option for employers who don’t provide retirement benefits via 401Ks or IRAs, to encourage workers to get into the habit of saving money. Senior administration officials acknowledge that it has to be simple and efficient to work, but they expect millions of Americans, including those with low incomes, to take advantage of and benefit from it.
— Launch four new manufacturing institutes this year. These institutes will be financed through administrative grants and are aimed at boosting manufacturing jobs. He announced one institute in Raleigh, North Carolina earlier this month with a five-year grant of $70 million from the Department of Education. Part of the goal is to modernize the labor force by matching future skills training to the new sorts of jobs required in the 21st century.
In addition to these executive actions, Obama’s “pen and a phone” initiatives include using his office to encourage CEOs to devise a set of best practices to help the long-term unemployed, senior administration officials said. Studies say people who are out of work for extended periods of time have trouble even getting interviews.