Just as Mitt Romney was making the case to Newsmax, that paragon of journalistic integrity, that the so-called Republican war on women is entirely concocted by Democrats, Republican Scott Walker was quietly signing a law that repealed Wisconsin’s Equal Pay Enforcement law, which made it easier for women to seek damages in discrimination cases. Driven by state business lobbies, the repeal passed the GOP-dominated Legislature on a strict party line vote, and Walker signed it, with no comment, Thursday afternoon.
President Obama, meanwhile, was hosting a White House summit on women and the economy Thursday. Predictably, Republicans howled that the president is merely courting another “interest group” and playing politics. There was no doubt some politics at play during the summit; at one point participants chanted, “Four more years!”
But really, when Republicans are repealing equal pay laws and proposing federal budgets that disproportionately hurt women, as well as restricting funding for contraception, who’s playing politics with women’s issues?
When GOP poster boy Scott Walker is repealing equal-pay protections for women, why shouldn’t Obama remind us that he signed the Lily Ledbetter Equal Pay Act? Since the Ryan budget repeals “Obamacare” and slashes Medicaid and Medicare – both of which disproportionately serve women — is it unfair to talk about how the Affordable Care Act provides cost-free contraception, preventive care like mammograms and Pap smears, and outlaws charging women more for insurance?
Yes, it’s an election year, so everything the president does will be scrutinized for its political agenda. That’s fine. But I continue to find it hilarious that Republicans insist that their troubles with women are the fault of nasty Democrats. Contraception aside, they’re the ones cutting programs for women and repealing equal pay protection. To Newsmax, Mitt Romney again complained that Democrats are distorting the GOP position on contraception. And again I say: Democrats didn’t crusade to defund Planned Parenthood. Democrats didn’t introduce personhood legislation that would outlaw certain types of contraception. They didn’t propose the Blunt amendment that would have allowed employers to deny insurance coverage for contraception as well as any health care treatment they don’t approve of.
I wrote the other day that concern about contraception isn’t the only issue driving the GOP’s widening gender gap.
But a recent USA Today poll found that women in swing states say their number one issue is women’s health care (men say deficits and the economy), and that makes an interesting point: Women see contraception as an integral part of their overall health care – as it is. We know that most women who use the pill, for instance, use it for a health reason other than contraception only. Republicans are the ones fetishizing birth control and putting it outside the boundaries of women’s health care.
Mitt Romney and the GOP just don’t get it. Everything about the way they’re approaching these issues is backfiring.
By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, April 6, 2012
Unions in Wisconsin made history by mobilizing the recall against Gov. Scott Walker, but it’s too soon to say whether the state will follow through and kick him to the curb. One thing that could work in his favor: The inability of some of the state’s powerful unions to consolidate behind a Democratic candidate to oppose him. Having come this far, some labor activists now question whether the best way to flex their muscle is to sit out the election altogether.
This is the drama unfolding at the Teaching Assistants Association, which represents graduate students and project assistants from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. No union is more identified with the anti-Walker mobilization. Days after he introduced his bill to gut collective bargaining, TAA members showed up at the state capitol, sleeping bags in hand, and kicked off what became a 16-day occupation. That emboldened Democratic senators to flee the state to deny Walker a quorum – bringing national media attention to the controversy.
Now a month before the May 8 primary, two Democrats, former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, are neck-and-neck at the front of the pack. And TAA members are split on what to do about it.
At issue is whether the union should support a candidate who hasn’t pledged to restore cuts to public workers’ wages and benefits — one of the criteria the TAA originally listed as a a prerequisite for an endorsement. Falk, who entered the race in January, is the only candidate who has pledged to veto any budget that doesn’t restore collective bargaining rights. But she also frequently touts the $10 million in concessions that she secured in negotiations with local unions as county executive. Barrett, who entered the race Friday, is more problematic when it comes to cuts: Last year, as the debate over collective bargaining raged, he told a conservative radio host that he opposed Walker’s collective bargaining changes but supported his proposed cuts.
“While Barrett was positioning himself as Walker-lite to the right-wing radio audience, Kathleen Falk was in court suing the state Senate for violating the state’s open meetings law,” says Mike Amato, the chairman of TAA’s Political Education Committee. Amato’s committee voted unanimously to recommend that the membership get behind Falk in February, but the rest of the union hasn’t accepted the advice. It voted in March to remove the endorsement conditions, but still did not endorse Falk.
Some now argue that it is better for the union to endorse no one rather than compromise on its principles. TAA’s co-president, Adrienne Pagac, says the union should have left the endorsement conditions in place. “Some people were frightened that it was asking too much … Are we asking too much when we say we just want back what we had when Governor Walker came into office?” Pagac says. Falk’s boasts about Dane County make her worry that, as governor, Falk would join Democrats like New York’s Andrew Cuomo in shortchanging workers rather than asking the wealthy to make sacrifices.
Amato says that, while he supported the “No cuts” call at the capitol last year, reversing year-old concessions is the wrong place to draw a line in the sand. “Were she to say that she would restore every cut to every union … that would doom her candidacy, and on June 6 we would have Walker in the governor’s office,” he says. “I think we absolutely have to make sure that we defeat Walker.”
Pagac counters that a Falk endorsement would preserve political incentives that push candidates to the middle of the road while leaving unions under the bus. “The labor movement has become a fine-tuned machine in terms of being able to turn out voters …” says Pagac. “Organizing workers takes a lot longer.” If unions are strong enough, she says, “it doesn’t matter what political party is in office, because you have the ability to use that power, the power that you have in the workplace, to extract wins from your employer and the state.”
Amato says “one of the false ideas” held by some TAA members is that there’s “a zero-sum relationship where we have to do workplace organizing or political organizing.” Rather, he says, political activism is an opportunity to engage more members in the union. He worries that sitting out the election will hurt the union’s relevance, and will send the wrong message to others who occupied the capitol: “As an organization that is looked to for leadership, we have a responsibility to lead.” He also worries that rejecting Falk for excessive moderation could hand the primary to Barrett. “The idea that we’ve come this far and then we’re going to sit out the election boggles my mind.”
The TAA membership will meet again next Thursday. Amato says he doesn’t know whether he’ll revive the motion to endorse Falk. “It’s become a really contentious issue,” says Amato, “and I think a lot of us are starting to question how hard we’re going to push on it. I think it will absolutely be a big mistake if we don’t endorse Kathleen Falk.” But if both sides remain adamant, says Amato, “I also don’t think it’s worth tearing apart the union.”
By: Josh Eidelson, Salon, April 5, 2012
Everyone practices a little bit of self-delusion, every once in a while, when it comes to the opposite sex. But Mitt Romney and the folks around him are living in a dream world when it comes to women. Clearly female voters are just not that into Romney – and his troubles get worse by the day.
It’s not that Romney’s backers don’t see the problem. Former Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich counsels patience: Women will warm to Romney once they know his “real views” on the issues. This comes just after Ann Romney quipped, “I guess we better unzip him and let the real Mitt Romney out.” Note to Romney team: Having “supporters” continue to suggest that we don’t yet know Romney’s “real views,” with or without Etch A Sketch metaphors (or icky zipper imagery), isn’t helping your guy, with anyone.
Female Romney surrogates like South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte are specifically trying to minimize the role the damaging birth control battle will play among women in November. “Women don’t care about contraception,” Haley insisted, a little bit delusionally, on Tuesday, while Ayotte insisted Romney will be fine in November because “women voters very much care about the state of the economy.”
Let me concede something to Romney’s defenders: His troubles with women aren’t mainly about contraception. They’re mainly about Romney.
The latest Gallup poll shows how bad things have gotten for the former Massachusetts moderate. He now trails President Obama in 12 swing states, largely because of the defection of independent women. Female independents now back Obama 51 to 37 percent – and that’s a 19-point swing just since the end of 2011, when they preferred Romney. But here’s a little data point for Haley: Only two in 10 independent women polled by Gallup even knew Romney’s stance on contraception. Those who did disagreed with Romney 2-1. More independent women – four in 10 – knew Obama’s contraception position, and they were divided about evenly. Still, 60 percent didn’t know either candidate’s stance. That suggests contraception matters, but it’s not the only thing driving independent women away from Romney and the GOP. But that’s not good news for Republicans, either.
Ayotte is right: Women care about the economy. And that’s hurting Romney in two ways. First, the economy is getting better, which always helps the incumbent, with both genders. But also, women have been more reliable Democratic voters since the age of Ronald Reagan largely because they support safety net programs and they dislike candidates who pledge to eviscerate them. Paul Ryan’s budget, which Romney thinks is “marvelous,” shreds the safety net into lint, and it will turn off at least as many women as the GOP’s contraception policies.
Bob Ehrlich may be correct; women might like Romney better if they knew his “real views.” If he has any. The man who once supported abortion rights because a relative died of a botched illegal abortion, whose wife gave money to Planned Parenthood, and who signed Massachusetts’ innovative universal healthcare plan might well have fought Obama among women voters. But that guy is long gone. In his place is a man who will say virtually anything to get elected. Women know that guy, and they don’t like him. I’m not sure what Ann Romney sees when she “unzips” her husband, but the man who’s running for president is a turn-off.
By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, April 4, 2012
“Bad Idea Legislation”: When Fools Try To legislate, Women, Science, And Dwarves Are Among The Targets
March turned to April a couple days ago, and with it came a raft of April Fools’ jokes. (It also elicited a new round of sighs from Republicans who had hoped to find out that their presidential field was really an elaborate reality TV punking.)
In the spirit of the season, I’m devoting this column to April’s Fools and fools. Guess which of these are bills actually introduced in state legislatures around the country, and which are gags of my own creation (answers at bottom).
Ladies first. It should come as no surprise that many of the weirdest, most outrageous bills that have popped up around the country in recent months focus on women. Take a recent Wisconsin Senate bill that would have required the state’s Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board to “emphasize” single parenthood “as a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect.” The bill, which happily died this month, had two sponsors. One, state Sen. Glenn Grothman, thinks liberals want children to be born out of wedlock “because they are more likely to be dependent on the government.” The bill’s other sponsor, a state representative named Don Pridemore, has said that spouses in abusive relationships should try to stay in them rather than divorce.
He might be comfortable with a prize of a bill introduced this year in the New Hampshire state House that would have required police to obtain a warrant before making an arrest in a domestic violence case unless they had seen the abuse taking place firsthand. Happily, that bill also met its deserved fate when the legislature killed it as “inexpedient to legislate.”
No discussion of legislative assaults upon women would be complete without touching on contraception. A law shot down just this week in the Arizona state Senate would have allowed any employer (not just religiously affiliated ones) to refuse to provide contraception coverage on moral grounds … unless a woman produced a note from her doctor certifying that she needed it for medical reasons (rather than the presumed moral turpitude).
“Feticide.” I’ll skip over conservatives’ insistence that women must undergo (sometimes invasive) ultrasounds before getting the perfectly legal medical procedure known as abortion. (The same people who object to warnings on cigarette packs because everyone knows the hazards of smoking simultaneously believe that a woman who wants an abortion must not realize how pregnancy works.) That’s not the only abortion-related fight going on. A proposed Iowa law would classify abortion as “feticide,” bringing life in prison without parole for the doctor.
For sheer weirdness, though, nothing beats Oklahoma. State Sen. Ralph Shortey wants to ban “food or any product intended for human consumption which contains aborted human fetuses.” Even he admitted, “I don’t know if it is happening in Oklahoma.” No word on whether he’s going to follow on with a bill banning Soylent Green. Oklahoma also brought what has been called the “every sperm is sacred” bill, for the old Monty Python sketch, which, in the spirit of granting personhood at the moment of conception, would deem any waste of sperm (as in, for example, masturbation) “an action against an unborn child.” This month a local Delaware council approved a similar resolution.
Don’t say gay. Tennessee has become a culture wars battleground. One bill in the Volunteer State’s legislature would ban teachers from talking about homosexuality in elementary and middle school sex ed classes (hence its nickname: the “don’t say gay” bill). Homosexuality “happens in nature, but so does bestiality,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Stacey Campfield. “That does not make it right or something we should be teaching in school.” Campfield and his allies agreed to let the bill stall when they realized that Tennessee currently has no sex ed in elementary and middle school.
The Tennessee state Senate this month passed a bill encouraging teachers to give both sides of “controversial” topics such as evolution and global warming. Maybe they hope to set up a modern-day Scopes monkey trial.
The never-ending crazy. The Tennessee House also voted overwhelmingly this month to condemn a two-decade-old nonbinding United Nations sustainable development plan as a “destructive and insidious” communist plot. Not to be outdone, Wyoming’s legislature debated (and killed) legislation that called for the state to start making plans for a catastrophe that incapacitated the federal government—including the possibility of setting up an “alternative currency” to the U.S. dollar. Another provision, which would have looked into setting up a draft and acquiring an aircraft carrier, was added with the intent of sinking the bill. It succeeded.
Not all state lawmakers look abroad with fear. Three New Hampshire representatives proposed a bill (since killed) requiring that all Granite State legislation include a quotation from the Magna Carta “which sets forth the article from which the individual right or liberty is derived.”
Of course, this would have run afoul of the movement against sharia, or Islamic law. Legislators in 22 states have introduced bills banning courts from applying foreign or sharia laws, a mystifying solution in search of a nonexistent problem.
And did I mention the Florida lawmaker who wants to repeal the state’s ban on dwarf-tossing?
You can’t make this stuff up—literally. If you guessed that all of these examples are real, you get full credit. If you guessed the “every sperm is sacred” bills were too absurd to be true, you get half credit: Their sponsors proffered them with legislative tongues planted firmly in cheeks.
By: Robert Schlesinger, Washington Whispers, U. S. News and World Report, April 7, 2012