Many Republicans want President Obama to fail. That’s completely understandable and defensible, if one is talking about success or failure in his re-election campaign. It’s stunning when that’s extended to the performance of the economy as a whole or any of the nation’s job-supplying industries.
Thus we have uber-political operative Karl Rove complaining about how offended he was by a Super Bowl TV ad, sponsored by Chrysler, which extolled the recent resurrection of the nation’s auto industry. The ad featured tough-guy actor Clint Eastwood talking about the remarkable comeback of the auto industry, and underscoring the qualities which truly characterize the best of America—resilience, optimism, sacrifice, and hard work. The script of the commercial, “Halftime in America,” is as inspiring as any speech made by an actor in a movie or a political candidate in a campaign:
It’s halftime in America, too. People are out of work and they’re hurting. And they’re all wondering what they’re going to do to make a comeback. And we’re all scared, because this isn’t a game.
The people of Detroit know a little something about this. They almost lost everything. But we all pulled together, now Motor City is fighting again.
I’ve seen a lot of tough eras, a lot of downturns in my life. And, times when we didn’t understand each other. It seems like we’ve lost our heart at times. When the fog of division, discord, and blame made it hard to see what lies ahead.
But after those trials, we all rallied around what was right, and acted as one. Because that’s what we do. We find a way through tough times, and if we can’t find a way, then we’ll make one.
All that matters now is what’s ahead. How do we come from behind? How do we come together? And, how do we win?
Detroit’s showing us it can be done. And, what’s true about them is true about all of us.
This country can’t be knocked out with one punch. We get right back up again and when we do the world is going to hear the roar of our engines.
Yeah, it’s halftime America. And, our second half is about to begin.
Really, could anyone have a problem with that ad? It featured scenes of Detroit, and of middle-class people, working hard in a struggling economy and trying to make their city and their lives better.
Yes, Rove had a problem with it. He said he was “offended” by the spot, adding on Fox News:
I’m a huge fan of Clint Eastwood, I thought it was an extremely well-done ad, but it is a sign of what happens when you have Chicago-style politics, and the president of the United States and his political minions are, in essence, using our tax dollars to buy corporate advertising.
Rove seems to be referring to President Obama’s bailout of the auto industry, and suggesting that somehow that money was used to pay for a thinly-disguised campaign ad for the Obama re-election campaign. A lot of Republicans were opposed to the bailout, saying the companies should be subject to the rules of capitalism. GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney famously penned a New York Times op-ed entitled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”
What is it about Detroit that so many conservatives despise? That it’s a still-breathing example of the “old economy?” Is it Motown music they hate, or the fact that it’s full of labor union members? Is the distaste for struggling Detroit so pronounced that people actually want the city to fail?
Had the auto companies indeed failed despite the bailout, Rove and Romney would have looked brilliant. But the companies are recovering nicely, paying back their loans (with interest), and making profits, in part because of concessions made by the labor unions so despised by conservatives.
There is surely a legitimate philosophical argument to be made that the government should not bailout out big businesses (an argument not often extended to include huge tax breaks for profitable industries). Pure capitalism indeed stipulates that businesses should succeed or fail on their own. Critics can legitimately argue that government should not prop up any industry, no matter what the implications for employment. They can be angry that the auto bailouts happened, but it’s unconscionable to be angry that the bailouts worked. Comebacks—as the New York Giants proved, winning the Super Bowl after an uneven season—are about as American as it gets.
By: Susan Milligan, U. S. News and World Report, February 7, 2012
The night of the Florida Republican primary, Hotline National editor Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) Tweeted, “Romney line about religious liberty CLEAR reference to Obama health law on contraceptives. Sleeper issue in general.”
With the Colorado Republican caucuses on Tuesday, I can only respond, “Oh please oh please oh please.”
Here’s the real question: How much will former Gov. Mitt Romney and the Republican Party’s hostility to birth control cost them with voters, especially women voters, in the fall?
This is not about religion. This is about a Republican party actively campaigning against contraception, something that is enormously popular with the electorate. I would love nothing more than Mitt Romney going around the country telling voters he wants to take their birth control away, which he’s pretty much doing already. Seriously dude, bring it.
According to the Center for Disease Control, 99 percent of American women use birth control during their reproductive lifetime. According to a Reuters report on a Guttmacher Institute study, 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women use some form of birth control banned by the church. And a NPR/Thompson Reuters poll found that 77 percent of Americans favor insurance coverage for the birth control pill.
In swing state Colorado, there are approximately 114,000 more women voters than men, and they vote in higher percentages than men do. Personhood measures that would ban birth control have failed repeatedly by landslide margins, and the 2010 version probably cost Ken Buck a Senate seat. Personhood even failed in Mississippi, the most religious-conservative state in the country.
Meanwhile all the Republican candidates are actively campaigning against Title X and family planning funding. A plank in the Republican platform upholds the “life begins at conception” foundation of “personhood”, which would ban the most commonly-used forms of contraception such as the Pill and IUDs. Mitt Romney has repeatedly embraced “personhood”, most notably in 2005 when he vetoed a bill expanding access to emergency contraception for rape survivors “because it would terminate a living embryo after conception”.
For those of you, like Mitt Romney, unsure how birth control works and why “personhood” would ban it Rachel Maddow goes into the Man Cave to explain it all to you.
As for the Obama administration’s decision that Catholic institutions have a year to figure out how to include birth control in their insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act, Rep. Xavier Becerra, a Catholic, explained it beautifully on Meet the Press: Religious employers, like any other business that offers insurance, can’t discriminate against women by excluding reproductive healthcare.
Anyone who doubts the power of contraception and women’s healthcare as an issue need only see the blowback against the Komen foundation by supporters of Planned Parenthood. I’ve been in politics for 20 years, and I’ve never seen a public fusillade like this one. Komen badly underestimated not only how many Americans have used Planned Parenthood’s services—1 in 5—but how many people support Planned Parenthood because they provide healthcare, including birth control, without judgment.
The pundit class piled on George Stephanopoulos for asking a question about contraception at the January ABC News debate. Apparently since it didn’t fit within the Cool Kids Acceptable Topics list, it wasn’t worth asking. And Romney fumbled the question badly, just as badly as he did the question on releasing his taxes. It was the rhetorical equivalent of strapping the dog kennel to the top of his car.
But it’s entirely worth asking for the millions of average American working families who get by on $50,000 a year and can’t afford to have another kid. It’s entirely relevant to millions of American women whose economic and physical well-being is dictated by when and if they get pregnant. Self-determining the size of your family is a baseline economic issue.
Mitt Romney and the Republicans are welcome to campaign against contraception all they want, because they are on the wrong side of that issue with voters by a landslide.
By: Laura Chapin, U. S. News and World Report, February 6, 2012
Gov. Jan Brewer is pushing a radical anti-union bill that makes Wisconsin’s law look lax.
Not content to let Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Ohio’s John Kasich get all the fame (and recall elections, and ballot referenda) for their attempts to curtail union workers’ rights, a new crop of GOP governors and state legislators have jumped into the fray and proposed their own anti-union bills in recent weeks.
Along with South Carolina’s Nikki Haley and Indiana’s Mitch Daniels, Arizona’s Jan Brewer, not content with making her state the least friendly to immigrants and people of color, has decided to get in on the union-busting action as well, introducing a bill that makes Walker’s and Kasich’s attacks on public workers look mild.
Brewer, the Republican left in charge of the state after President Obama tapped Janet Napolitano to be his secretary of Homeland Security, has been planning anti-union moves since last spring with the backing of the Goldwater Institute. (Named for Barry Goldwater, the think tank pushes for “freedom” and “prosperity” — as long as it’s not the freedom or prosperity of state workers.)
It’s not just Arizona’s right-wingers who are pushing Brewer to beat up on unions – John Nichols at the Nation notes that Walker may have had a hand in helping push an anti-labor agenda, and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is involved. In a speech to the right-wing policy shop behind many of these anti-union bills last year, Brewer complained about her inability to fire government employees and supervisors’ difficulty “disciplining” workers.
This week, the Republicans in the state Legislature introduced moves that would make collective bargaining for public workers completely illegal. Here, we break down what you need to know about Brewer and the GOP’s anti-worker agenda.
1. The bill would go further than Wisconsin’s, making collective bargaining completely illegal for government workers.
SB 1485, the first of the bills to take on union rights, declares that no state agency can recognize any union as a bargaining agent for any public officer or worker, collectively bargain with any union, or meet and confer with any union for the purpose of discussing bargaining.
While Wisconsin’s law bans public employees from bargaining over everything but very small wage increases, Arizona’s bill bans collective bargaining outright and refuses to recognize any union as a bargaining unit. Existing contracts with unions will be honored, but not be renewed if this bill passes.
2. Arizona includes police and firefighters in its ban.
Scott Walker famously exempted public safety workers — police officers and firefighters — from his attacks on union workers, but many of them joined the protests anyway. In Ohio, John Kasich’s bill, overturned by his constituents this past November, included the police and firefighters in its elimination of bargaining rights. Now Brewer and her legislative compatriots have decided that police and firefighters should lose their bargaining rights as well.
Arizona, as Dave Dayen at FireDogLake noted, “is changing to a purple state because of an extreme legislature which first demonized immigrants, in what could start a backlash among the Hispanic community. Now, flush with that success, the legislature will demonize police and firefighters. It’s not exactly a textbook strategy for a lasting majority.”
Walker’s attempt to divide and conquer public sector unions by attacking some and not others didn’t work; perhaps that’s why later attempts at similar bills didn’t bother giving special treatment to public safety workers. But as we saw in Ohio, the support of the traditionally conservative police and firefighters’ unions helped unite the state’s voters and bring out record numbers to vote down the bill. Arizona seems to be asking for trouble by targeting police and firefighters with this bill.
3. The state would ban government employers from deducting union dues automatically from a worker’s paycheck.
Not content with banning bargaining, the Arizona legislature is also out to make sure unions can’t collect any money for the work they do. SB 1487 inserts language into existing law that says “This state and any county, municipality, school district or other political subdivision of this state may not withhold or divert any portion of an employee’s wages to pay for labor organization dues.”
This move obviously is aimed to hit unions right in their wallets — taking away the funding they need in order to do more organizing, and carry out political activity.
4. Arizona would ban the government from allowing employees to do union work on company time.
Laura Clawson at Daily Kos notes that in addition to the other measures, Arizona’s Republicans also want to eliminate “release time,” a practice “in which union stewards and other representatives are allowed to spend work time on certain union functions, such as contract negotiations or handling grievances.”
Union stewards and representatives are full-time employees who take on additional responsibilities on top of their jobs—a move like this makes it harder for them to carry out those responsibilities to their fellow workers without fear of facing sanctions from their bosses. Specifically banned by the bill, SB 1486, are “activities that are performed by a union, union members or representatives that relate to advocating the interests of member employees in wages, benefits, terms and conditions of employment.”
5. Brewer also wants to eliminate any job protections for workers, buying them off with pay raises.
Brewer plans to offer public workers their first pay raise in years, a 5 percent increase. The tradeoff? They have to opt out of job protections some of them currently enjoy, including the right to appeal demotions and protection from being fired without cause – they have to become at-will employees.
Like most “merit pay” arrangements, this one sounds good at first — hard-working people will get raises! — but workers see right through it. Odalys Hinds, who works in the state health lab, told the Arizona Republic, “No way will I do it. I won’t take it — it basically would take away our rights. My retirement’s gone up. My insurance has gone up. There’s going to come a day when I’m going to have to pay the state to work.”
6. Arizona is already a “right-to-work” state
The kicker to all this? Arizona workers already enjoy fewer protections than those in Ohio and Wisconsin. Arizona is a so-called right-to-work state, where unions cannot collect a fair share of the direct costs of representation from workers who opt out of joining the union — even though the union is compelled to represent all workers.
This means that unlike the Midwestern states, Arizona has few union members already and that means there are fewer people who are likely to be outraged and moved to protest by attacks on collective bargaining. Yet Brewer, the Goldwater Institute and the Republicans in the Legislature aren’t content with what they have and are moving to make public sector unions all but irrelevant, by making it nearly impossible for them to do their jobs.
Arizona now has a strong Republican majority in the Legislature, and so barring a change of heart by a handful of GOPers, the anti-union measures are likely to pass. But if Brewer continues to antagonize working people in her state, John Nichols notes, Arizona does have something else in common with Wisconsin — provisions that allow for the recall of the governor and state legislators, provisions that were used just last year to remove Russell Pearce, the state senator responsible for the state’s hideous anti-immigrant law, from office.
A study by two economists sheds doubt on whether right-to-work laws are all they’re cracked up to be.
Most people watching the Super Bowl last night probably had no idea that only a few days before, in the same city of Indianapolis, Governor Mitch Daniels signed a law that will cripple unions. As I’ve written before, Indiana is the first Rust Belt state to pass a right-to-work law, which prohibits both mandatory union membership and collecting fees from non-members. The news, however, has hardly gotten the attention the labor-minded might have expected. Blame it on the big game or the GOP presidential primary. Or blame it on the loss of union power that allowed the law to pass in the first place.
Whatever the reason, this lack of stories has meant little discussion of the actual impact of right-to-work legislation. Daniels, along with many proponents of such measures, argues that companies choose to locate in right-to-work states rather than in states with powerful unions. And the Indiana governor says he’s already seeing the fruits of the newly passed law. Union advocates, meanwhile, say the laws decrease not only union power but also wages and workplace protections. According to conventional wisdom, it seems, the choice is between fewer good jobs and more cruddy jobs.
But according to Gordon Lafer, an economist at the University of Oregon’s Labor Education and Research Center, that’s a false choice. In fact, he says, there’s no evidence that right-to-work laws have any positive impact on employment or bringing back manufacturing jobs.
While 23 states have right-to-work legislation, Lafer says that to adequately judge the law’s impact in today’s economy, you have to look at states that passed the law after the United States embraced the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and free trade in general. “Anything before the impact of NAFTA started to be felt in the late ’90s is meaningless in terms of what it can tell us,” he says.
Because of free-trade agreements, companies can go to other countries and get their goods made for a fraction of the cost. Even in the most anti-union state in the country, there are still basic worker protections and a minimum-wage law to deal with. Such “roadblocks” to corporate profit can disappear if the business relocates overseas. “The wage difference that right to work makes … is meaningless compared to the wage savings you can have leaving the country,” Lafer says.
Only one state has passed right to work since NAFTA: Oklahoma in 2001. (Before that, the most recent was Idaho in 1985.) About a year ago, Lafer and economist Sylvia Allegretto published a report for the Economic Policy Institute* exploring just what had happened in the decade since Oklahomans got their “right to work.” The results weren’t pretty.
Rather than increasing job opportunities, the state saw companies relocate out of Oklahoma. In high-tech industries and those service industries “dependent on consumer spending in the local economy” the laws appear to have actually damaged growth. At the end of the decade, 50,000 fewer Oklahoma residents had jobs in manufacturing. Perhaps most damning, Lafer and Allegretto could find no evidence that the legislation had a positive impact on employment rates.
“It will not bring new jobs in, but it will result in less wages and benefits for everybody including non-union workers,” says Lafer.
*Full disclosure: I was a writing fellow at the Economic Policy Institute in 2008.
By: Abby Rapoport, The American Prospect, February 6, 2012