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“Stuck On A Plateau”: Progress For Women Continues Flatlining At Top Ranks Of The Private Sector

After the election, word was that we had just lived through another Year of the Woman. After all, a record twenty women will now be serving in the US Senate next term, representing a fifth of all seats. We had previously failed to breach the 18 percent mark in that legislative body.

But women’s progress has stalled out somewhere else: the top of the private sector. The research organization Catalyst released its 2012 Census today, which tracks the number of women in executive officer and board director positions. Women held just over 14 percent of executive officer positions at Fortune 500 companies this year and 16.6 percent of board seats at the same. Adding insult to injury, an even smaller percent of those female executive officers are counted among the highest earners—less than 8 percent of the top earner positions were held by women. Meanwhile, a full quarter of these companies simply had no women executive officers at all and one-tenth had no women directors on their boards.

But as in the Senate, progress may be slow and even small percentages can be victories. Did this year represent a step forward? Not even close. Women’s share of these positions went up by a mere half of a percentage point or less last year. Even worse, 2012 was the seventh consecutive year in which we haven’t seen any growth in board seats and the third year of stagnation in the C-suite. Meanwhile, women may hold the majority of the jobs in growing sectors such as retail, healthcare and food service, but of the executive officers in those industries they represent less than 18 percent, under 16 percent and just 15.5 percent, respectively.

If this is the sign of the end of men or the richer sex, I fail to see how. Reversing these numbers may take time. But we’re not even on a steady uptick—we’re stuck on a plateau. Fortune tellers who tell us women are on track to dominate the economy need to explain how that can be if we aren’t seeing any movement in these top indicators. Representing half the workforce can still mean inequality if we aren’t breaking through to the top jobs.

 

By: Bryce Covert, The Nation, December 11, 2012

December 12, 2012 Posted by | Income Gap, Women | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Conservatives Get Glum”: Republican Are Very Worried About Whether They Can Break Out Of Its Fox Bubble

A look around the web today makes clear that the crisis of American conservatism in general, and conservatives’ relationship to the media in particular, is clearly our topic. First, none other than William Kristol, the very axis about whom the Republican establishment spins, is extremely worried about what has become of his movement:

And the conservative movement​—​a bulwark of American strength for the last several decades​—​is in deep disarray. Reading about some conservative organizations and Republican campaigns these days, one is reminded of Eric Hoffer’s remark, “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.” It may be that major parts of American conservatism have become such a racket that a kind of refounding of the movement as a cause is necessary. A reinvigoration of the Republican party also seems desirable, based on a new generation of leaders, perhaps coming​—​as did Ike and Reagan​—​from outside the normal channels.

There are elements of that racket on both sides of the aisle, but conservatives are particularly adept at fleecing their own people. Part of the problem the conservative movement faces now is that they’ve given so much power to media figures like Rush Limbaugh and the crew at Fox News, but those people’s primary interest is in making money, not in helping the GOP. Which is why Buzzfeed’s McKay Coppins finds a bunch of Republican operatives who are very worried about whether their party can break out of its Fox bubble, both as a psychological and practical matter. Here’s my favorite part:

One Republican official recalled working earlier this year to get a potentially damaging story about a Democratic candidate into The New York Times — only to have an impatient colleague leak the scoop to a conservative website. The story shot through the online right, but failed to gain mainstream traction.

“I was like, great, we made the people who were already voting for us even angrier,” the official snarked to BuzzFeed. “Mission accomplished.”

Obviously, the politicians can start speaking more through non-conservative media outlets on their own initiative; John Boehner can just decide that he’ll do Meet the Press and Face the Nation, not just Fox News Sunday (and the idea that he’d get impossibly difficult questions on the first two is laughable). But might the conservative media themselves ask whether they can do anything to broaden their audience’s perspective so they don’t create such a reality-denying bubble? Harold Pollack, hoping against hope that there are people on the right as reasonable and fair-minded as he is, urges them to come up with their own version of MSNBC’s Up With Chris Hayes, a program that would feature lengthy, substantive, interesting discussions between people who actually know things, as opposed to just “strategists” trading talking points:

What strikes me is the dearth of conservative-leaning shows built on the same model. Most FOX discussion shows are virtually unwatchable—not because they’re conservative, but because they offer so little intellectual nutrition to their core audience. Sticking to our home topic of health policy, legitimate conservative experts such as James Capretta and Tevi Troy are drowned out by less honest or reputable figures such as Betsy McCaughey and Dick Morris. The typical conservative FOX viewer is thus fed Pravda-style misleading information about what the Affordable Care Act really entails. The typical non-conservative FOX viewer—to the extent non-conservatives tune in at all—have no way of knowing what reputable Republican or conservative policy analysts are really thinking, or, indeed, who these experts really are.

The first thing you’d need for such a program to be created is an audience that would watch it. After all, MSNBC doesn’t air Hayes’ show as a public service. The people who produce the show are trying to create the best program they can, but the network’s bottom line is its bottom line. If it wasn’t making money, it would get cancelled (the show’s ratings are pretty good if not spectacular).

That doesn’t mean, however, that every potentially lucrative market niche is exploited. There might well be an audience waiting for more intelligent conservative programming, but as long as Fox is still the number-one cable news network (which they are) and is making money hand over fist (ditto), there’s little reason for them to go looking to change what is for them an extremely successful formula. And don’t forget that a Democratic president is great for their business; it gives them an endless supply of things to get mad about, which means more viewers.

Since the conservative media is unlikely to change, maybe there’s little people on the right can do but wait around, as Kristol says, for a new generation of leadership to come along and change things.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, December 11, 2012

December 12, 2012 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Speaking Ill Of The Dead”: Robert Bork, An Unrepentant Reactionary Who Had Boundless Contempt For Modern America

What do you say when a public figure you find repellent dies? Do you hold your tongue, not speak ill of the dead, and wait some decent interval before saying what you really thought of them? After all, there’s no time like their death. Robert Bork died today, and the truth is that in a few months nobody is going to be talking much about his legacy. So now’s the time to weigh in, which Jeffrey Toobin does, in a rather unrestrained way:

Robert Bork, who died Wednesday, was an unrepentant reactionary who was on the wrong side of every major legal controversy of the twentieth century. The fifty-eight senators who voted against Bork for confirmation to the Supreme Court in 1987 honored themselves, and the Constitution. In the subsequent quarter-century, Bork devoted himself to proving that his critics were right about him all along.

Hard to disagree—Bork’s philosophy was a particularly nasty one, and he spent much of his public life expressing his boundless contempt for modern America, particularly the ways it had become more humane than it once was. For all I know he was beloved by his family, and I could offer them my sympathies, but that would be meaningless for them; they don’t know me from Adam.

I think it’s possible to talk honestly about someone’s contributions, and your criticisms of them, without getting needlessly uncivil. For instance, the media provocateur Andrew Breitbart died earlier this year at the young age of 43. That was a personal tragedy for his family and friends. But there are few people who injected as much poison into American politics in as short a time as Breitbart did, and when he died that had to be acknowledged. You don’t have to do that in a vulgar way, of course, but like Bork or anyone else who chooses to participate in a visible way, he chose the life he did.

Being criticized, even harshly, is the price you pay for participating in public life. If you can live with it while you’re alive, you shouldn’t have too much of a problem with having it happen when you die. So even though my death won’t be reported on the evening news, I’d like to state for the record that should anyone want to take the occasion of my demise to remind their audience that in their opinion I was a knave and a fool, go ahead and have at it.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, December 19, 2012

December 12, 2012 Posted by | Judges, Politics | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“It’s All Or Nothing”: The Obama Administration Plays Hardball On Medicaid

When the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act, it also gave Republican states a gift by saying they could opt out of what may be the ACA’s most important part, the dramatic expansion of Medicaid that will give insurance to millions of people who don’t now have it. While right now each state decides on eligibility rules—meaning that if you live in a state governed by Republicans, if you make enough to have a roof over your head and give your kids one or two meals a day, you’re probably considered too rich for Medicaid and are ineligible—starting in 2014 anyone at up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level will be eligible. That means an individual earning up to $14,856 or a family of four earning up to $30,657 could get Medicaid.

Republican governors and legislatures don’t like the Medicaid expansion, which is why nine states—South Dakota, plus the Southern states running from South Carolina through Texas—have said they’ll refuse to expand Medicaid (many other states have not yet said whether they’ll do it). But some states asked the Obama administration whether they could expand Medicaid a bit—maybe not cover everyone up to 133 percent like the law says, but add a few people to the rolls. And yesterday, the administration said no. It’s all or nothing: either you expand Medicaid up to 133 percent, or you get none of the new money. Was that the right thing to do? Well first, let’s talk about that money.

These Republican states offer worries about cost as their reason for rejecting the Medicaid expansion. But in truth, it’s an incredibly sweet deal for them. Right now, the federal government generally pays half of the cost of Medicaid, with the state picking up the other half. But the federal government will pay 100 percent of the cost of new Medicaid recipients signed up because of the expansion between 2014 and 2016. After that the federal contribution will step down to 90 percent by 2020, where it will stay forever more. So the state gets to insure a whole bunch of its citizens for nothing at first, and eventually for only 10 cents on the dollar. And in return they get reduced costs for uncompensated care, and a healthier, more productive citizenry with more money to spend. Some studies have projected that states will more than make up for their 10 percent contribution with health care savings they’ll get from an insured population; that’s likely to be particularly true among those states whose Medicaid eligibility standards are currently the stingiest, who not coincidentally have the highest rates of uninsured citizens (and, also not coincidentally, are precisely those states where the Republican leadership is refusing to accept the expansion).

And yet, the most conservative among them won’t take the deal. The federal government is saying to the states, Here is a bunch of free money for you to give health insurance to your uninsured poor citizens. And these states are saying, No way! Their justification of budget worries is so unpersuasive that it’s impossible to avoid the conclusion that they would rather see people have no insurance, and thus be poorer, sicker, and die sooner, than get Medicaid via Obamacare. It’s truly a moral abomination.

By playing a little bit of hardball and not letting states get away with a partial expansion, the administration is betting that before long the states will find all this free money to insure their citizens irresistible. And they may be right. That’s what happened when Medicaid was established in 1965; few states signed up at first, but before long they all did. Right now these governments are being pressured by some powerful interests to take the expansion, particularly the hospitals who have to deal with patients with no way to pay their bills. If they expanded Medicaid a little but not fully, that pressure wouldn’t be as intense and they could claim they expanded coverage. This way they won’t be able to hide behind a partial expansion and claim they did the right thing. Let’s hope the administration is right, because millions of Americans’ futures depend on it.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, December 11, 2012

December 12, 2012 Posted by | Health Care | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Democracy Loses”: Michigan Passes “Right To Work” Law With Support Of Koch Brothers

Without one hearing or any public comment in the midst of a lame-duck session after an election where Republicans lost five seats in the State House and their presidential candidate lost the state by 9.5 percent, Republicans in both Michigan’s House and Senate have passed so-called ‘right to work’ legislation.

Republican governor Rick Snyder, who campaigned as a moderate and continually said that ‘right to work’ was not on his agenda now, says he will sign the legislation.

Thus Michigan will become the 24th state in the union to pass legislation that bars unions from automatically collecting dues from all employees covered under a collective bargaining agreement. This highly symbolic move to strike at the heart of unions in the state where unionized auto workers helped create the middle class would not be possible without the support of multi-billionaires, specifically the Koch brothers and Rich DeVos, founder of Amway.

The bill that Snyder will sign is nearly identical to model legislation written by Koch-funded group American Legislative Exchange Council. Another Koch-funded group, Americans for Prosperity, has been advocating for the legislation, reportedly pressuring lawmakers including Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, who had previously refused to support the anti-union measure. For the Kochs, the intent of the bill is to clearly to diminish the power of the group that fuels the progressive movement–organized labor.

A group calling itself “Freedom To Work” has deluged Michigan’s TV airwaves in support of the legislation, arguing that the bill would both create jobs and “protect collective bargaining.”

According to state rep. Brandon Dillon, Freedom To Work is funded by Amway’s DeVos, a Michigan resident who ran for governor against Jennifer Granholm in 2006 and lost.

Longtime Michigan political advisor Dana Houle insists that this bill isn’t about making Michigan more competitive, as Governor Snyder suggests. It’s a about enacting a vast scope of right-wing legislation.

“Don’t anyone think that passing ‘right to work’ in Michigan is about economics, about jobs, about business,” Houle said. “It’s about wiping out the political and electoral power of unions so they can’t stand in the way of Dick DeVos electing apparatchiks who will enact his radical religious-right and anti-public schools agenda.”

Outside the Capitol, thousands of union supporters protested and several were hit with pepper spray, including former congressman Mark Schauer.

Unions are considering their options to undo the bills, which were designed so they cannot be overturned by a popular vote.

For those still wondering how ‘right to work’ or ‘right to work for less’ or ‘freedom to freeload’ could happen in a union stronghold like Michigan, take a look at this helpful breakdown of where the AFL-CIO thought the votes would come from. It turns out they were right.

Photo: AP Photo/Carlos Osorio; Chart: AFL-CIO

 

By: Jason Sattler, The National Memo, December 11, 2012

 

 

December 12, 2012 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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