Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker and GOP leaders have launched a push to ram several years’ worth of conservative agenda items through the Legislature this spring before recall elections threaten to end the party’s control of state government.
Republicans, in a rapid sequence of votes over the next eight weeks, plan to legalize concealed weapons, deregulate the telephone industry, require voters to show photo identification at the polls, expand school vouchers and undo an early release for prisoners.
Lawmakers may also act again on Walker’s controversial plan stripping public employee unions of their collective bargaining rights. An earlier version, which led to massive protest demonstrations at the Capitol, has been left in limbo by legal challenges.
“Everything’s been accelerated,” said Republican Rep. Gary Tauchen, who is working on the photo ID bill. “We’ve got a lot of big bills we’re trying to get done.”
The speed-up is the latest move in a tumultuous legislative session that followed last fall’s midterm elections in which Republicans won the governorship and control of both houses of the Legislature. In other states where conservatives won major victories, such as Ohio, Florida and Michigan, the GOP has moved more deliberatively.
Walker got off to a fast start in January, passing a slew of measures before he unveiled a two-year budget designed to plug a $3.6 billion shortfall. That legislation, involving deep cuts to a wide range of programs, was expected to consume months. Other measures were on tap for next year. But a three-week boycott by Democrats in the winter and recall efforts targeting nine legislators have changed the strategy.
“They know there’s a very strong possibility their days of controlling every level of government are numbered,” Democratic Assembly Leader Peter Barca said. “You’re moving forward huge pieces of legislation that dramatically change the direction and traditions and values of this state. Generally, doing that takes much longer.”
Recall campaigns likely will force six Republican senators to defend their seats this summer. Three Democrats may also be on recall ballots. A net victory of three seats would give the Democrats control of the Senate, which the GOP now controls 19-14. The first elections are scheduled for July 12.
At least publicly, Wisconsin Republicans deny they’re rushing legislation for fear of losing their majority.
“Right now, I don’t foresee (losing the majority),” Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald said. “Obviously, I’m sure it will be in the back of your mind, but you’ll have to see how that plays out later this summer.”
But Rep. Robin Vos, co-chairman of the Legislature’s budget-writing committee, which will attempt to handle two months of budget legislation in half the usual time, acknowledged, “It’s a factor. For the budget, yeah, I want to get it done by June 30.”
Four of the 12 Republicans on the committee are targets of the recall.
The blitz has created an almost frantic atmosphere in the Capitol.
Major bills, like the one to legalize concealed weapons, were introduced just days before public hearings. A major revision to the photo ID proposal was released late on a Friday afternoon, just four days before a committee passed it, prompting complaints from the nonpartisan board that oversees elections.
“There has been no time for the careful evaluation and vetting needed to ensure the best options for voters and election officials is enacted,” wrote Kevin Kennedy, head of the nonpartisan Government Accountability Board.
Republican leaders scheduled a full Assembly vote on a bill deregulating the telecommunications industry only a week after a hearing, leaving little opportunity for public comment.
Walker said his plan to move his agenda is unchanged. “From our standpoint, it’s really been about being aggressive from the beginning,” he said in an interview.
At the same time lawmakers are pushing through conservative policies, they will be wrestling with Walker’s budget proposal. Walker wants to cut roughly $1 billion from schools and local governments, split the Madison campus from the University of Wisconsin System and slow the growth of Medicaid by $500 million.
The Legislature also may try to quickly pass a redistricting plan, a politically charged process that would reshape congressional and legislative districts with new 2010 census data.
If the Legislature votes again on Walker’s plan stripping public workers of their union negotiating rights, it can sidestep the legal challenges to the first vote, which came after 14 Senate Democrats fled to Illinois to deprive the Senate of a quorum. Unions and Democrats claim the original vote violated the open meetings law and the state constitution’s quorum requirement. The case is pending before the state Supreme Court.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said he and other leaders are just trying to make up the time lost during the earlier turmoil. “There is an expectation that some of these bills would be completed early on,” he said.
By: Scott Bauer, Huffington Post, May 7, 2011
One of the most enduring myths about feminism is that 50 years ago women who stayed home full time with their children enjoyed higher social status and more satisfying lives than they do today. All this changed, the story goes, when Betty Friedan published her 1963 best seller, “The Feminine Mystique,” which denigrated stay-at-home mothers. Ever since, their standing in society has steadily diminished.
That myth — repeated in Suzanne Venker and Phyllis Schlafly’s new book, “The Flipside of Feminism” — reflects a misreading of American history. There was indeed a time when full-time mothers were held in great esteem. But it was not the 1950s or early 1960s. It was 150 years ago. In the 19th century, women had even fewer rights than in the 1950s, but society at least put them on a pedestal, and popular culture was filled with paeans to their self-sacrifice and virtue.
When you compare the diaries and letters of 19th-century women with those of women in the 1950s and early 1960s, you can see the greater confidence of the earlier mothers about their value to society. Many felt they occupied a “nobler sphere” than men’s “bank-note” world.
The wife of the novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne, Sophia, told her mother that she did not share her concerns about improving the rights of women, because wives already exerted “a power which no king or conqueror can cope with.” Americans of the era believed in “the empire of the mother,” and grown sons were not embarrassed about rhapsodizing over their “darling mama,” carrying her picture with them to work or war.
In the early 20th century, under the influence of Freudianism, Americans began to view public avowals of “Mother Love” as unmanly and redefine what used to be called “uplifting encouragement” as nagging. By the 1940s, educators, psychiatrists and popular opinion-makers were assailing the idealization of mothers; in their view, women should stop seeing themselves as guardians of societal and familial morality and content themselves with being, in the self-deprecating words of so many 1960s homemakers, “just a housewife.”
Stay-at-home mothers were often portrayed as an even bigger menace to society than career women. In 1942, in his best-selling “Generation of Vipers,” Philip Wylie coined the term “momism” to describe what he claimed was an epidemic of mothers who kept their sons tied to their apron strings, boasted incessantly of their worth and demanded that politicians heed their moralizing.
Momism became seen as a threat to the moral fiber of America on a par with communism. In 1945, the psychiatrist Edward Strecher argued that the 2.5 million men rejected or discharged from the Army as unfit during World War II were the product of overly protective mothers.
In the same year, an information education officer in the Army Air Forces conjectured that the insidious dependency of the American man on “ ‘Mom’ and her pies” had “killed as many men as a thousand German machine guns.” According to the 1947 best seller “Modern Woman: The Lost Sex,” two-thirds of Americans were neurotic, most of them made so by their mothers.
Typical of the invective against homemakers in the 1950s and 1960s was a 1957 best seller, “The Crack in the Picture Window,” which described suburban America as a “matriarchal society,” with the average husband “a woman-bossed, inadequate, money-terrified neuter” and the average wife a “nagging slob.” Anti-mom rhetoric was so pervasive that even Friedan recycled some of this ideology in “The Feminine Mystique” — including the repellent and now-discredited notion that overly devoted mothers turned their sons into homosexuals.
For their part, stay-at-home mothers complained of constant exhaustion. According to the most reliable study of all data available in the 1960s, full-time homemakers spent 55 hours a week on domestic chores, much more than they do today. Women with young children averaged even longer workweeks than that, and almost every woman I’ve interviewed who raised children in that era recalled that she rarely got any help from her husband, even on weekends.
In the 1946 edition of his perennial best seller, “Baby and Child Care,” Dr. Benjamin Spock suggested that Dad might “occasionally” change a diaper, give the baby a bottle or even “make the formula on Sunday.” But a leading sociologist of the day warned that a helpful father might be suspected of “having a little too much fat on the inner thigh.”
Not surprisingly, these social norms led to widespread feelings of inadequacy and depression among stay-at-home mothers. “The female doesn’t really expect a lot from life,” a mother told pollsters from Gallup in a survey in 1962. “She’s here as someone’s keeper — her husband’s or her children’s.”
Study after study found that homemakers had lower self-esteem than women who took paid employment, even when it came to assessing their skills as parents. They experienced higher levels of stress and greater vulnerability to depression than women with paying jobs. And they had few legal rights: wives had little protection against abusive husbands, and only eight states in 1963 gave a homemaker any claim on her husband’s earnings.
Contrary to myth, “The Feminine Mystique” and feminism did not represent the beginning of the decline of the stay-at-home mother, but a turning point that led to much stronger legal rights and “working conditions” for her.
Domestic violence rates have fallen sharply for all wives, employed or not. As late as 1980, approximately 30 percent of wives said their husbands did no housework at all. By 2000, only 16 percent of wives made that statement and almost one-third said their husbands did half of all housework, child care or both.
Most researchers agree that these changes were spurred by the entry of wives and mothers into the work force. But full-time homemakers have especially benefited from them.
From 1975 to 1998 men married to full-time homemakers increased their contributions to housework as much, proportionally, as men whose wives were employed. And from 1965 to 1995, homemakers decreased their own housework hours more than did wives in dual-earner families. As a result, most stay-at-home mothers now have shorter total workweeks than their husbands.
There also seems to have been a significant shift in the relationship between depression and homemaking. Stay-at-home mothers still recount more feelings of loneliness than working mothers. But in a new Council on Contemporary Families briefing paper, the sociologists Margaret Usdansky and Rachel A. Gordon report that among mothers of young children, those who were not working and preferred not to have a job had a relatively low risk of depression — about as low as mothers who chose to work and were able to attain high-quality jobs.
Mothers who want to work outside the home but instead are full-time homemakers, however, have a higher risk of depression. This is a significant group: in 2000, 40 percent of full-time homemakers said they would prefer to be working at a paid job. So telling women who want to work that they or their children will be better off if they stay home is a mistake. Maternal depression is well known as being harmful to children’s development.
These findings suggest that it is time to stop arguing over who has things worse or who does things better, stay-at-home mothers or employed mothers. Instead, we should pay attention to women’s preferences and options.
Feminism has also fostered increased respect for men’s ability and desire to be involved parents. So we should also pay attention to expanding men’s ability to choose greater involvement in family life, just as we have expanded women’s ability to choose greater involvement in meaningful work.
While stay-at-home mothers may not have the aura of saintliness with which they were endowed in the 19th century, it’s indisputable that their status and lives have improved since their supposed heyday in the 1950s. On this Mother’s Day, it’s too bad that nostalgia for a golden age of motherhood that never existed still clouds our thinking about what’s best for mothers, fathers and their children.
By: Stephanie Coontz, Op-Ed Contributor, The New York Times, May 7, 2011
Here’s a Mother’s Day thought: There’s a way to save many of the world’s 350,000 women who die in childbirth each year. But it’s very controversial, for it’s called family planning.
Republicans in Congress have gone on the warpath this budget season against family planning programs at home and abroad. To illustrate the stakes, let me share a Mother’s Day story about a pregnant 30-year-old Somali woman named Hinda Hassan.
Ms. Hassan lived in a village near this remote town of Baligubadle in Somaliland (a self-ruling enclave carved from Somalia). She never used family planning, for none is available within several days’ walk. When her eighth child was still an infant, she became pregnant again.
“I was happy when she became pregnant,” said her husband, Muhammad Isse, who tends a herd of 13 camels with his family. “I was very happy, because I had faith in God.”
When Ms. Hassan went into labor, she was looked after by two traditional birth attendants, both of them unschooled, untrained and unequipped. “We try to wash our hands with soap and water,” one of them, Amina Ahmed, told me. “But sometimes we don’t have soap. And if there is no water, we rub our hands in the sand to clean them.”
Ms. Hassan’s labor did not go well. After 11 hours, her husband paid a man with a pickup truck $50 to drive her three hours to the clinic here in Baligubadle. The clinic couldn’t help Ms. Hassan and sent her on another two-and-a-half-hour bone-rattling drive in the back of the pickup to the Somaliland capital of Hargeisa. Shortly after Ms. Hassan arrived at the Edna Adan Maternity Hospital (mentioned in my last column), she died.
Her death was infuriatingly unnecessary — and I felt doubly saddened when I met some of her eight orphans.
There are any number of ways that Ms. Hassan’s life could have been saved. She had an off-the-charts hemoglobin level of just 4, reflecting a stunning level of anemia. A trained midwife could have given her a deworming pill and iron supplements early in the pregnancy, addressing that anemia and strengthening her. Later, Ms. Hassan developed a complication called eclampsia that would have been detected if she had had pre-natal care.
Yet maybe the simplest way to save her life would have been contraception. If Somali women had half as many pregnancies (they now average six births), there would be only half as many maternal deaths. But modern contraception doesn’t exist in this part of Somaliland.
“The only method of family planning we have is breast-feeding,” said Nimo Abdi, the midwife at the clinic here, noting that breast-feeding reduces the likelihood of a new pregnancy. Ms. Abdi thinks that some local people would accept modern contraceptives if they were available.
“If I had injectables and condoms, people would accept them,” she said. “They would want them.”
I wonder if that isn’t a bit optimistic; in a place like this, family planning requires much more than just handing out contraceptives. Ms. Hassan’s husband told me that he had never heard of contraception, and he sounded wary of the idea.
Many people in poor countries want large families, partly to ensure that some will survive despite high death rates. Or a woman may distrust contraceptives or fear her husband’s reaction if she is caught using them.
By United Nations estimates, 215 million women worldwide have an “unmet need” for family planning, meaning they don’t want to become pregnant but are not using effective contraception. The Guttmacher Institute, a widely respected research organization, estimates that if all the unmet need for contraception were met, the result would be 94,000 fewer women dying of pregnancy complications each year, and almost 25 million fewer abortions each year.
Greater access to birth control would also help check the world population, which the United Nations warned a few days ago is rising more quickly than expected. The U.N. now projects the total population in 2100 will be 10.1 billion.
Yet this year, Republicans in Congress have been trying to slash investments in family planning. A budget compromise last month cut international family planning spending by 5 percent, but some Republicans are expected to seek much bigger cuts in future years.
If they succeed, the consequences will be felt in places like this remote Somali town. Women won’t get access to contraceptives, and the parade of unwanted pregnancies, abortions, fistulas, and mothers dying in childbirth will continue.
Ah, but there was one Republican-sponsored initiative for family planning in Congress this year. It provided contraception without conditions — for wild horses in the American West. It passed on a voice vote.
Maybe on Mother’s Day, we could acknowledge that family planning is just as essential for humans as for horses.
By: Nicholas D. Kristof, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, May 7, 2011
Whenever I read pieces like David Brooks’s column this morning — pieces that attribute our budget deficits to the public’s irresponsibility and lack of realism — I find myself wondering how so much recent history went down the memory hole.
To be fair, polling on budget questions does suggest a popular demand that we repeal the laws of arithmetic — that we not raise taxes, not cut spending on any popular program, and balance the budget.
But if we look at actual policy changes, it’s hard to see that too much democracy was the problem.
Remember, we had a budget surplus in 2000. Where did it go? The two biggest policy changes responsible for the swing into deficit were the big tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, and the war of choice in Iraq.
And neither of these policy changes was in any sense a response to public demand. Americans weren’t clamoring for a tax cut in 2000; Bush pushed his tax cuts to please his donors and his base. And the decision to invade Iraq not only wasn’t a response to public demand, Bush and co. had to spend months selling the idea to the public.
In fact, the only budget-busting measure undertaken in recent memory that was driven by popular demand as opposed to the agenda of a small number of powerful people was Medicare Part D. And even there, the plan was needlessly expensive, not because that’s the way the public wanted it — it could easily have been simply an addition to traditional Medicare — but to please the drug lobby and the anti-government ideologues.
Now, a lot of historical rewriting has taken place — I’ve even seen pundits solemnly describe the Iraq war fever as an illustration of the madness of crowds, somehow erasing the fact that it was Bush and Rumsfeld, not the masses, who wanted the thing.
But the reality is that if you want to see irresponsibility and self-indulgence at the expense of the nation’s future, you don’t want to visit Main Street; you want to hang out in the vicinity of Pennsylvania Avenue.
By: Paul Krugman, The New York Times, Opinion Pages, May 6, 2011