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“It’s A Trap”: The GOP’s New Outreach To Women Is A Slick Attempt To Give Employers More Power

House Republicans are launching their first concerted effort to win back female voters on Tuesday with the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013, a bill that’s being packaged as a lifeline to working moms across the country.

Unfortunately, the legislation is a particularly cruel hoax—a slick attempt to give employers more power, and hourly workers much less.

At first blush, the idea sounds good. The bill would allow hourly workers to convert overtime pay into time off: in other words, instead of getting paid for extra hours, they could stockpile additional vacation time. The pitch here is that working parents could have more flexibility in their schedule and an enhanced ability to balance work and family. “This week, we’ll pass [Representative] Martha Roby’s bill to help working moms and dads better balance their lives between work and their responsibilities as parents,” House Speaker John Boehner said Tuesday.

The GOP is specifically invested in convincing women this bill is for them. The GOP spent $20,000 last week on a digital ad campaign focusing on so-called “mommy blogs,” like Ikeafans.com and MarthaStewart.com, and geo-targeting Democrats in swing districts. “Will Rep. Collin Peterson stand up for working moms?” one iteration of the ad asked.

A fawning National Review profile of Roby, the bill’s sponsor, explains how she wasn’t sure she could handle a run for Congress in 2009 because of concerns about taking care of her children while running for a House seat and potentially becoming a member of Congress—and how those concerns have now inspired her to push this important legislation.

But it’s not too hard to see how pernicious this legislation truly is. “Flexibility” is a word that should make hourly workers check for their wallets—employers hold most of the power in the relationship with hourly workers, which is all the more true if they are not unionized. So “flexibility” to decide if you want to get paid for overtime work, instead of getting fewer hours later on, can quickly become a way for employers to withhold payment for overtime work while also cutting your hours down the road.

Over 160 labor unions and women’s groups sent a letter to members of Congress on Monday, protesting that the Working Families Flexibility Act is “a smoke-and-mirrors bill that offers a pay cut for workers without any guaranteed flexibility or time off to care for their families or themselves.”

Republicans say this isn’t true, and that there are safeguards in the bill that would prevent employers from muscling their employees into surrendering overtime pay. “It is illegal for them to do that. There are enforcement mechanisms in the bill,” Eric Cantor said in February.

But this is where they’re being really tricky—the bill does give workers the right to sue over such intimidation, but denies them the right to use much quicker, and cheaper, administrative remedies through the Department of Labor. It also gives the Department of Labor no additional funds to investigate nor enforce provisions of the act.

So if hourly workers get intimidated into giving up overtime pay in exchange for working even fewer hours down the road, they’re more than welcome to hire a lawyer and sue—a rather improbable outcome given how expensive that might be. Otherwise, tough luck.

There also isn’t quite as much flexibility in the act as it seems. As the National Partnership for Women and Families points out, while the bill does allow hourly workers to turn overtime pay into as much as 160 hours of comp time, it gives them no right to decide when they can use that time—even if there’s a family emergency. That’s still entirely up to employers.

Further hampering workers’ flexibility is that once they bank more than eighty hours in comp time, employers can unilaterally decide to cash out any additional hours. Also, workers who decide later that they need to cash out the comp time they’ve earned can do so—but employers have thirty days to cut the check, which could certainly be a problem for hourly workers on a tight budget.

Moreover, this isn’t even a new idea. Republicans proposed this same bill ten years ago, prompting the late Molly Ivins to remark “the slick marketing and smoke on this one are a wonder to behold.”

The legislation, simply, is a straightforward boon to big employers. “It pretends to offer time off but actually asks [employees] to work overtime hours without being paid,” Judy Lichtman of the NPWF told reporters on a conference call Monday. She added that it’s simply a “no-cost, no-interest loan to the employer.”

House Democrats will be nearly, if not entirely, unified in opposition. “The Working Families Flexibility Act sounds good, but it is a sham and we are going to call it out for what it is. It would cause more harm than good and we are going to reject it,” Representative Rose DeLauro said yesterday during the same conference call.

Due to the Republican majority in the House, the bill is likely to pass on Tuesday, but Senate passage seems dubious at best, and the White House has already issued a veto threat.

Of course, if Republicans are indeed interested in providing extra flexibility to help hourly workers balance family concerns with their jobs, they could pass paid family leave legislation. Only 11 percent of all private industry workers have access to paid family leave, and the United States is the only high-income country in the world not to mandate it. Unlike the Working Families Flexibility Act, paid family leave is generally something the employee has the unilateral ability to exercise.

Unfortunately, that’s something Congressional Republicans are deeply opposed to enacting. They blocked a proposal from President Obama in 2011 that would have created a $1.5 billion fund to push paid family and medical leave programs at the state level, and several similar efforts to enact such laws at the federal level.

In 1993, when Congress considered and ultimately passed the Family and Medical Leave Act—which mandates only twelve weeks of unpaid family time off—Republicans were apoplectic. One House member from North Carolina called it “nothing short of Europeanization—a polite term for socialism.” A young John Boehner, years from becoming House Speaker, said the legislation would “be the demise of some [businesses].

“And as that occurs,” he said, “the light of freedom will grow dimmer.”

Additional reporting by Nation DC intern Anna Simonton.

UPDATE: The final vote on the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013 has been pushed back to Wednesday.

Also, it’s worth knocking down a particular Republican talking point on the bill, as expressed by Eric Cantor’s communications director to me over Twitter, among many other places. They argue that, since federal workers already enjoy the ability to trade overtime pay for extra time off, workers in the private sector should enjoy the same rights.

The problem with this argument is that the federal government is not a profit-driven employer likely to muscle workers into giving up overtime pay in return for reduced hours. If that did happen, federal workers are unionized and enjoy many employment protections that Walmart workers, for example, do not.

It’s important to note here that, during the mark-up for this bill last month, Representative Timothy Bishop, a Democrat from New York, offered an amendment that would make the Working Families Flexibility Act apply “only if the employer enters into an employment contract with the employee that provides employment protections substantially similar to those provided to Federal, State or local employees under civil services laws.”

Every Republican voted against it, and the measure was defeated.*

*A prior version of this story said four Democrats also voted against the Bishop amendment, but they were just not present for the vote.

 

By: George Zornick, The Nation, May 7, 2013

May 9, 2013 Posted by | Republicans, Women | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Watergate Revenge”: Republican Psycopaths Yearning To Impeach President Obama Over Benghazi “Cover-Up”

Less than four months after Barack Obama’s inauguration, the right-wing propaganda machine is already promoting the only imaginable conclusion to a Democratic administration that dares to achieve a second term: impeachment. Once confined to the ranks of the birthers, the fantasy of removing President Obama from office is starting to fester in supposedly saner minds.

Certainly impeachment is on the mind of Mike Huckabee, the Fox News commentator who — as a former governor of Arkansas and political antagonist of Bill Clinton – can be expected to know something about the subject. On Monday, he predicted that the president will be forced from office before the end of his term by the controversy over the Benghazi consulate attack last September. According to Huckabee, while the Watergate scandal was “bad,” Benghazi is worse because four Americans died there, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

The proximate cause for impeaching Obama, he suggested, is the “cover-up” of the facts concerning Benghazi. Moreover, he said, if the Democrats “try to protect the president and their party, and do so at the expense of the truth, they will go down.” When “the facts come out,” predicted Huckabee, “something will start” and ultimately the Democrats will lose “the right to govern.”

Presumably Huckabee believes impeachment would be easier than winning a national election. He isn’t alone in ruminating on the removal of a president who just won re-election last November — not on Fox News, anyway. (The ever-crafty Huck hedged by noting, however, that none of this will come to pass if Democrats win the midterm elections next year.)

Meanwhile, former UN ambassador John Bolton, whose cranky pronouncements continue to embarrass responsible conservatives, upped the ante by confiding what Huckabee left out – namely, that like every desperate Republican, he yearns for a Benghazi scandal that will stick. If there was no cover-up, Bolton insisted with characteristically twisted logic, that would prove Obama (the president who dispatched Osama bin Laden) simply doesn’t understand the ongoing threat from al Qaeda. “If it was merely a political cover-up,” he noted with satisfaction, “then there can be a political cost to pay.”

No doubt both Bolton and Huckabee — not to mention Rep. Darrell Issa, whose House Government Reform Committee maintains an ongoing Benghazi probe — plan to charge that cost not only to Obama but to a certain woman who now leads every 2016 presidential poll.

The meager substance of the “cover-up” canard was debunked months ago – and to date nothing has emerged to change those facts. (Indeed, even some of the most gullible denizens of Fox Nation have rejected the attempted frame-up lately.) Were the Republicans interested in constructive change rather than invented conspiracies, they might consult the Benghazi testimony of former general David Petraeus and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well as the unvarnished report by former ambassador Thomas Pickering and Admiral Mike Mullen.

But defending American diplomats and promoting American prestige are both foreign to the Republican agenda, which is concerned with nothing more elevated than partisan power.

With his far-fetched comparison to Richard Nixon’s disgrace, Huckabee helpfully unveiled a flashing neon clue to GOP psychopathology. The desire for revenge over Watergate, a Republican obsession for decades, was the underlying motivation for the outlandish Whitewater investigations that targeted the Clintons almost 20 years ago. Now, as the Obama presidency continues, America’s political predicament increasingly resembles the worst moments of that era, when the furious derangement that grips the opposition began to emerge in full.

For years we have seen the same campaign to demonize the president, the same systematic obstruction, the same refusal to accept a democratic verdict – and now the same urge to invent high crimes and misdemeanors. The only difference is that the timetable for impeachment – which didn’t commence for Clinton until the end of 1997 — appears to be accelerating.

 

By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, May 8, 2013

May 9, 2013 Posted by | Politics, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Growing Opposition”: More GOP Lawmakers Balk At Chained CPI

At least officially, the White House’s offer for some kind of grand debt-reduction deal is still on the table. To the chagrin of the left, President Obama is prepared to accept the “reforms” Republicans asked for in social-insurance programs, in exchange for concessions on tax revenue.

GOP lawmakers, true to form, continue to reject the idea of compromise, and to date, have not pointed to any concessions they’re willing to even entertain. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) acknowledged yesterday what everyone already knew — there will be no deal.

But of particular interest is the growing Republican opposition to the one thing they said they really wanted as part of a possible compromise.

Two House Republicans have told constituents they oppose proposed cuts to Social Security and veterans benefits by reducing the cost of living adjustment, according to letters they sent to constituents. President Barack Obama included the plan, known as chained CPI, in his annual budget, but specified that he was only offering it as a concession to entice Republicans into a compromise. For Reps. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) and Sean Duffy (R-Wis.), however, the concession is itself objectionable.

Note, we’re not just talking about two random House Republicans. Immediately after Obama said he’s willing to give GOP lawmakers what they asked for, when Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee who’ll oversee his party’s 2014 midterm efforts, accused President Obama of waging “a shocking attack on seniors.”

Then Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.) said he’s “not a fan” of the policy. Rep. James Lankford (Okla.), the chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee, called chained CPI “draconian.” Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) said of the policy, “It’s not my plan… This is the president’s plan.” Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), a House Ways and Means Committee member, added, “I’m very sensitive to the fact that you’re impacting current seniors in particular. It’s something I’m very hesitant to jump up and down and support.”

Let’s be clear about the chain of events:

1. Congressional Republicans demand that the White House put chained CPI on the table as part of budget talks.

2. President Obama reluctantly agrees to put chained CPI on the table as part of budget talks.

3. Congressional Republicans criticize the chained CPI policy they said they wanted.

To reiterate a point from a month ago, it’s only fair to mention that plenty of congressional Republicans, including members of the GOP leadership, have welcomed Obama’s offer — while refusing to point to any comparable concessions they’d accept, of course — so this isn’t a party-wide phenomenon.

But we’re well past the point of Greg Walden acting as a solo hack, condemning a policy he supports because he thinks it might boost the GOP in the 2014 midterms. There’s a sizable contingent of congressional Republicans who have publicly criticized the exact same policy congressional Republicans said they wanted Obama to accept.

Shouldn’t that affect the larger discussion rather dramatically?

Remember, the White House doesn’t actually like chained-CPI. Obama freely admits he doesn’t want this policy, and only offered it because Republicans are such enthusiastic supporters of the idea. From the president’s perspective, he and his team are going to have to tolerate some measures they don’t like if there’s going to be a bipartisan compromise in which both sides accept concessions they would otherwise reject.

But that was before GOP lawmakers called this policy — the one Republicans demanded — a “shocking attack on seniors” and a “draconian” policy.

So, given all of this, can someone remind me what’s stopping the president from simply walking away from the idea he doesn’t like anyway? At this point, Obama could hardly be blamed for declaring, “I thought Republicans wanted this policy, but if they consider this a draconian attack on seniors that they cannot support, I’ll gladly drop the idea and we discuss something else.”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 8, 2013

May 9, 2013 Posted by | Politics, Social Security | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Fun And Games Until People Get Killed”: Constitutional Conservatism’s Non-Violent March To Threaten Violence

As readers have probably noticed, I’m on something of a campaign the last few days to train a spotlight on the revolutionary rhetoric and gun-brandishing of many Second Amendment activists and “constitutional conservatives,” which has leeched over into standard conservative and GOP messaging to an alarming degree. Like anyone shining a spotlight into previously dark shadows, I’m not always familiar with what I’m seeing. That’s definitely the case with Adam Kokesh, an Iraq War vet and omni-libertarian who is planning a non-violent march of armed citizens on Washington for Independence Day to show, best I can tell, that resistance to the demands of people like him that government radically retract its size and scope will eventually face real fire. Here’s Paul Szoldra’s write-up of Kokesh’s scheme at Business Insider:

Adam Kokesh, 31, is planning a July 4 rally of pro-gun activists openly carrying rifles from Virginia to Washington as an act of “civil disobedience.” The plan, according to his Facebook event page, is to march across Memorial Bridge with rifles loaded and slung across the back “to put the government on notice that we will not be intimidated [and] cower in submission to tyranny.”

The invite continues, stating, ” … This will be a non-violent event, unless the government chooses to make it violent.”

Kokesh writes that if 10,000 attendees RSVP by June 1st, “we have the critical mass necessary to pull this off.” He said he wants to have at least 1,000 actually marching in the event, and as of this writing, more than 1,400 have said they were going.

As the headline at Karoli’s post on this plan at Crooks & Liars rightly says: “Marching On DC With Loaded Rifles: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?”

But even if no violence ensues, this exercise is actually typical of an awful lot of the stockpiling-guns-to-resist-tyranny talk on the Right (and on rare occasions, the Left) these days. It’s actually the inverse of what Kokesh says: it’s an effort to intimidate political opponents with the threat, if not the immediate actuality, of violence. Otherwise, what’s the point of carrying guns to your nonviolent protest? The point, it seems clear, is to make extraconstitutional claims for the legitimacy of the “constitutional” protests against Big Government. We can peacefully debate, the potential “armed resistance” forces suggest, this or that aspect of gun regulation or Obamacare or drone policy or taxes or “welfare looters” via conventional politics. But in the end, our conviction that your “progressive policies” represent “tyranny” trumps all civil discourse, and that’s when the shooting may start.

And that, of course, is why this sort of talk is not limited to anarchists or even to the kind of “constitutional conservatives” who really do think the policies of Calvin Coolidge or Grover Cleveland or the doctrines of John C. Calhoun came down from heaven and were enshrined eternally by the Declaration of Independence. Consciously or unconsciously, regular conservative politicians see this sort of militancy as a crucial difference-maker (or in times of Democratic political success, an “equalizer”), and so they exploit it. It’s all fun and games until people start getting killed.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, May 6, 2013

May 9, 2013 Posted by | Conservatives, Gun Violence | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A No Good, Very Bad Year”: Louisiana Supreme Court Strikes Down Bobby Jindal’s Voucher Plan

This just isn’t Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s (R) year. First his plan to end state hospice care was deemed so unpopular, he had to back down. Then his regressive tax plan, which would have eliminated state income taxes altogether, was rejected by his own allies.

And now his school voucher scheme has been rejected by state courts, too.

The Louisiana Supreme Court has ruled that the current method of funding the statewide school voucher program is unconstitutional. Act 2, part of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s 2012 package of education reforms, diverts money from each student’s per-pupil allocation to cover the cost of private or parochial school tuition. The act authorizes both the Louisiana Scholarship Program and the new Course Choice program.

The vote was 6-1, with Justice Greg Guidry dissenting. The plaintiffs in the case include the Louisiana Association of Educators, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers and the Louisiana School Boards Association.

The ruling states that the per-pupil allocation, called the minimum foundation program or MFP, must go to public schools. Justice John Weimer writes, “The state funds approved through the unique MFP process cannot be diverted to nonpublic schools or other nonpublic course providers according to the clear, specific and unambiguous language of the constitution.”

Jindal’s voucher policy has been plagued by a series of problems, including directing public funds to “schools” with truly bizarre lesson plans, and financing religious ministries led by some, shall we say, eccentric pastors.

But in the end, Jindal just couldn’t get around the fact that the state constitution won’t allow him to divert public education funds to private entities.

It’s all part of the governor’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 7, 2013

May 9, 2013 Posted by | Education Reform | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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