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“The Republican Self-Preservation Act”: Texas Voter ID Law Discriminates Against Women, Students And Minorities

Texas’s new voter ID law got off to a rocky start this week as early voting began for state constitutional amendments. The law was previously blocked as discriminatory by the federal courts under the Voting Rights Act in 2012, until the Supreme Court invalidated Section 4 of the VRA in June. (The Department of Justice has filed suit against the law under Section 2 of the VRA.) Now we are seeing the disastrous ramifications of the Supreme Court’s decision.

Based on Texas’ own data, 600,000 to 800,000 registered voters don’t have the government-issued ID needed to cast a ballot, with Hispanics 46 to 120 percent more likely than whites to lack an ID. But a much larger segment of the electorate, particularly women, will be impacted by the requirement that a voter’s ID be “substantially similar” to their name on the voter registration rolls. According to a 2006 study by the Brennan Center for Justice, a third of all women have citizenship documents that do not match their current legal name.

Just yesterday, this happened (via Rick Hasen), from KiiiTV in South Texas:

“What I have used for voter registration and for identification for the last 52 years was not sufficient yesterday when I went to vote,” 117th District Court Judge Sandra Watts said.

Watts has voted in every election for the last forty-nine years. The name on her driver’s license has remained the same for fifty-two years, and the address on her voter registration card or driver’s license hasn’t changed in more than two decades. So imagine her surprise when she was told by voting officials that she would have to sign a “voters affidavit” affirming she was who she said she was.

“Someone looked at that and said, ‘Well, they’re not the same,’” Watts said.

The difference? On the driver’s license, Judge Watts’s maiden name is her middle name. On her voter registration, it’s her actual middle name. That was enough under the new, more strict voter fraud law, to send up a red flag.

“This is the first time I have ever had a problem voting,” Watts said.

The disproportionate impact of the law on women voters could be a major factor in upcoming Texas elections, especially now that Wendy Davis is running for governor in 2014.

Moreover, the state is doing very little to make sure that voters who don’t have an ID can get one. As I mentioned, 600–800,000 registered voters don’t have an acceptable voter ID, but according to the Dallas Morning News “only 41 of the new cards were issued by DPS [Department of Public Safety] as of last week.”

Getting a valid photo ID in Texas can be far more difficult than one assumes. To obtain one of the government-issued IDs now needed to vote, voters must first pay for underlying documents to confirm their identity, the cheapest option being a birth certificate for $22 (otherwise known as a “poll tax”); there are no DMV offices in eighty-one of 254 counties in the state, with some voters needing to travel up to 250 miles to the closest location. Counties with a significant Hispanic population are less likely to have a DMV office, while Hispanic residents in such counties are twice as likely as whites to not have the new voter ID (Hispanics in Texas are also twice as likely as whites to not have a car). “A law that forces poorer citizens to choose between their wages and their franchise unquestionably denies or abridges their right to vote,” a federal court wrote last year when it blocked the law.

Texas has set up mobile voter ID units in twenty counties to help people obtain an ID, but has issued new IDs to only twenty voters at the sites so far.

Supporters of the voter ID law, such as Governor Rick Perry, argue that it’s necessary to stop the rampant menace of voter fraud. But there’s no evidence that voter impersonation fraud is a problem in Texas. According to the comprehensive News21 database, there has been only one successful conviction for voter impersonation—I repeat, only one—since 2000.

Texas has the distinction of being one of the few states that allows you to vote with a concealed weapons permit, but not a student ID. Provisions like these suggest that the law was aimed less at stopping voter fraud and more at stopping the changing demographics of the state. Based on what we’re seeing thus far, the law might better be described as the Republican Self-Preservation Act.

 

By: Ari Berman, The Nation, October 23, 2013

October 28, 2013 Posted by | Voter ID, Voting Rights, Women | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Another Great Anti-Obamacare Lie Exposed”: Data Proves ACA Not Responsible For Growth In Part-Time Jobs

One of the more popular economic myths spun by the anti-Obamacare forces is the suggestion that employers are avoiding the law by moving to an employee model based on part-time workers rather than full-time employees.

For those committed to destroying the Affordable Care act by any means possible, who can blame them for seeking to misdirect based on using only a small part of the data as it pertains to employment when telling the full story blows up the entire meme? Such a claim is, after all, ear candy for an audience looking for any reason to hate the law, even if they don’t quite know why they so are so displeased.

The problem, however, is that this popular line of attack comes with a rather significant flaw—the claim is provably false.

While there are, no doubt, a few companies out there moving to increase part-time employees at the expense of full-time workers—mostly involving retail and fast food companies that have always depended heavily on a part-time employee model—it turns out that the frantic claims arguing that the ACA is causing some massive loss of full-time work is simply not supported by the empirical data.

While we will get to that data in just a moment, to better understand how the opponents of healthcare reform are selling this bit of disinformation, it is important to know the basis of their claim.

It begins by acknowledging that 27 million Americans are currently employed in part-time jobs—a number that is, in fact, well above the historical norms.

Left on its own, that bit of information ties in quite nicely with the suggestion that we can hold Obamacare responsible for these numbers when one considers that employing full-time workers holds the potential for greater benefits obligations for a company with 50 or more employees.

However, when one looks just one layer beneath the surface—a bit of research one might expect honest brokers to perform before informing the public that the sky is falling—a very different picture emerges.

There are—as defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)—two classifications of part-time workers.

Those who are working 35 hours or less because they cannot accomplish the full-time employment they desire are called “part-time for economic reasons”, while those who work 35 hours or less because that is all the work they want are part-time by choice.

A more careful review of the latest BLS jobs report out last week—a review in which the anti-Obamacare forces do not want you to  engage in—reveals that while we do, indeed, currently have 27 million part-time workers in the economy,  only 8 million of these people are working part-time because they cannot find a full-time job.

That means that 19 million Americans are working part-time because that is all the work they desire to have.

What’s more, not only does the September jobs report reveal that the number of part-timers wishing for full-time work showed no increase when compared to the previous month’s numbers, the report provides a piece of data far more important—

In September of 2012, the number of part-timers seeking full-time work comprised 6 percent of the workforce. One year later, the September jobs report reveals that the number has shrunk to 5.5 percent.

Thus, not only has this supposed employer desire to avoid Obamacare not increased the number of part-time workers in the country; we actually see that the numbers are on the decline.

Now, before you launch into a cynical attack on the numbers as something ‘fudged’ by the Obama Administration, you might want to bear in mind that the opponents of the ACA have based their own argument on the very same numbers—albeit using only the top-line figures to make their misleading point rather than conveying the full data that shows a very different result.

As the old saying goes, what is good for the goose is good for the gander.

There is something else you should probably know when attempting to make sense of the part-time worker picture—

As the following BLS chart reveals, the number of part-time workers as a percentage of the entire workforce has been on the decline since the numbers peaked with the onset of our deep recession in 2008—well before the concept of Obamacare entered into the public lexicon and conscious. 

Does it surprise anyone that, as the economy has improved—even if far slower than we would like—the number of part-time workers have declined?

Yet, to hear the anti-Obamacare forces tell the story, not only is part-time work increasing—when it very clearly is not—they have chosen to pretend that this is the result of the Affordable Care Act rather than obvious impact our economic circumstances would naturally play in the part-time versus full-time worker scenario.

Clearly, more part-time workers seeking full-time employment have found more success as the economy has improved.

So, should we give Obamacare the credit for the reduction in part-time numbers? I don’t think so as, to do so, would be as ridiculous as the efforts to blame Obamacare for the large top-line number of part-time jobs.

More liberal babble from an Obamacare apologist?

While you are entitled to think so if this brings some measure of comfort,  you should probably know that even the staunchly anti-Obamacare publication, The Wall Street Journal—relying on data rather than right-wing hysteria—has reached the very same conclusion.

If you find yourself surprised that so much of the part-time workforce is comprised of people preferring a shorter workweek to a full-time job, you might ask yourself who, typically, seeks part-time work?

Many of us can recall our younger days as students in need of some spending money. We were not the least bit interested in full-time employment at that time, only that weekend job to earn some gasoline and date money.

Nothing much has changed in this regard for today’s high school and college students as they continue to occupy their spot in the count of part-time workers by choice.

So, where did the growth in part-time workers by choice come from following our recession?

The answer can be found in two categories—

First, we have the homemakers who elect to make the children their priority when allocating their time.

When the recession hit, many of these people found that the breadwinner in the family was being adversely affected by the poor economy and resolved to help the family finances by getting a part-time job to augment income. Now, as the economy slowly improves, some of these people are able to leave the workforce entirely and return full-time to their desired day job—”stay-at-home” mom or dad. This is, no doubt, playing a role in the declining number of part-time workers in the workforce.

Secondly, we have those who hit retirement age only to discover that their savings and Social Security payments were insufficient to support the lifestyle they had hoped to experience during their sunset years.

It is no secret that the lack of sufficient savings to support of seniors in retirement is turning into an epidemic problem. If you are, somehow, unaware of this, I recommend that you read a piece entitled, “The U.S. To Face A Married  Couples Retirement Crisis” written by my Forbes colleague, Richard Eisenberg, to get up to speed.

As a result of the difficulties facing retirees, it can come as no surprise that, as the baby boomers have reached the age of retirement, they play—and will continue to play—a major part in increasing the number of part-time workers in the country. These are people who want to, at the least, accomplish semi-retirement if they cannot afford to fully retire and opt to augment their savings and Social Security with part-time work.

When you consider how and why the numbers of part-time by choice employees grew following the onset of the recession and the arrival of baby boomer retirement, only the hardest of heads can fail to see how the top-line number of part-time workers grew, why it is now decreasing and why a full two-thirds of the part-time work force chose to be part-time workers. It would also take a very committed ideologue to avoid the stark fact that these part-timers by choice are not relevant to an analysis of the impact of Obamacare on the availability of full-time work.

What is relevant to the question are the eight million part-timer for economic reasons.

Given that the data is crystal clear that these numbers are falling year-to-year, it defies logic to claim that Obamacare is forcing these numbers upward. Indeed, even if the number of people forced to work part-time because they cannot find full-time work was on the rise, it would not make the case that Obamacare is to blame as the weak economy would present a better explanation. Such a result would, however, at least give some basis for the possibility that the ACA is as fault.

But with the numbers of those who are part-time because they can’t find full time work falling, the argument becomes absurd.

As I often note, there are some valid arguments—even if I might disagree with the much of the logic behind theses arguments—to support those who wish to take a stand against the Affordable Care Act.

However, when the opinion-leaders who seek to guide your point of view away from a fair, reasonable and rational assessment of the law by feeding you false arguments and half-stories easily disproven by readily obtainable data, it defies reason that anyone—whether for or against the law—would believe anything else these people are trying to peddle.

Simply put, if you are going to hate this law, don’t you think you should hate it based on actual information and data rather than half-truths and misrepresentations?

 

By: Rick Ungar, Op-Ed Contributor, Forbes, October 27, 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 28, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Jobs, Obamacare | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“More Of The Same”: Keeping Alive A Flawed And Self-Destructive Strategy, The GOP Fights On Against Obamacare At Its Own Peril

In the wake of the public uproar over the government shutdown, Democratic hopes for recapturing control of the House of Representatives next year have risen sharply. The party needs to pick up 17 seats, and the main question is whether the current furor against the Republicans will remain until the midterm elections of November 2014.

The House Republicans and their tea party allies, unbowed by their failure to defund President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, have signaled that they have just begun to fight. They have seized on his administration’s inexplicable botching of the law’s rollout to breathe new life into their efforts to kill “Obamacare.”

In so doing, however, they may be keeping alive the flawed and self-destructive strategy that took the country to the brink of financial default. Public opinion polls cited a record plunge in Republican popularity during the government shutdown, attesting to how poorly the tea party scheme to strangle Obamacare in its crib played on Main Street.

House Speaker John Boehner, still nursing the political wounds suffered for trying to appease the get-Obama caucus in the House, told the still-faithful on Wednesday, “We’ve got the whole threat of Obamacare continuing to hang over our economy like a wet blanket.”

Boehner may or may not be proved correct in that view. However, his observation suggests he and his caucus have no intention of getting off the track that led them over a cliff in the executive-branch shutdown, a fiasco for which the GOP gets primary blame.

Much will depend on whether the Obama administration can recover from the amateur hour of the law’s initial implementation and begin to deliver health insurance to the millions of Americans without it. The president seems to have taken his head out of the clouds over the technological screw-up by calling in more experts to straighten out the mess.

Contrary to its foes’ insistence that the law is Public Enemy No. 1, the uninsured public showed unexpectedly heavy interest in enrolling, or at least to exploring whether insurance offered under Obamacare would be good for them and their families. The jury is still out, much as it was on Social Security and Medicare when these programs were first enacted amid even louder laments of “socialism” and “socialized medicine.”

In any event, if the administration manages to overcome the law’s growing pains, the Democrats will have at least a chance to gain new political support among beneficiaries. Many of them are of income levels and ethnicities customarily inclined to vote for the party of Franklin D. Roosevelt and his breakthrough New Deal.

Meanwhile, exertions to keep the flame burning against Obamacare among the House Republicans and their self-appointed leader from the other side of the Capitol, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, could be a blessing in disguise to Democrats pointing to next year’s congressional elections.

Their fund-raising arms are experiencing an usual upswing compared to the Republican cash solicitors. The Democrats will be targeting key House GOP incumbents up for re-election in admittedly strong conservative districts who have benefited from gerrymandering. At the same time, moderate Republicans in Congress are starting to band together to purge the tea party influence in their ranks.

The heavy hit on the Republican brand has been emphatically underscored by the post-shutdown polls. The question is whether voters fed up with the party’s increasingly sharp turn to ultraconservatism, one not seen since the days of Barry Goldwater, will remain turned off at voting time a year from now.

By then, Obamacare may or may not be a principal catalyst for decision-making at the ballot box, pro or con, on midterm election day. The same polls also indicate that Americans still worry much more about the state of the economy and, particularly, high unemployment than about the state of federally subsidized health insurance.

But for now, the House Republicans’ reply to all the criticism of their stand against Obamacare is a promise of more of the same, along with hope that the law will indeed collapse, helping them recover from the severe political damage they have inflicted upon themselves.

 

By: Jules Witcover, The Chicago Tribune, October 25, 2013

October 28, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, GOP, Obamacare | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A New Group Whipping Up Right-Wing Fear”: Predatory Lenders Fight Regulators With Offer Of $500 Visa Gift Cards

Visitors this weekend to Townhall.com were welcomed with a pop-up advertisement soliciting a petition against the Obama administration. “Help us send 1 million letters to stop reckless regulators,” the ad beckons, atop images of President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder.

The advertisement is sponsored by Consumers for Choices, a new group whipping up right-wing anger at the Obama administration for supposedly using his “Reckless, Elitist, Overzealous Regulators” to destroy “small-dollar” and tribal lenders. Visitors to the Consumers for Choices website, which is being advertised on conservative news portals like Townhall, are encouraged to contact their local representatives to send an angry  pre-written letter. Consumers for Choices says their supporters will be automatically entered into a weekly raffle, with a grand prize $500 Visa gift card.

The advocacy website repeatedly references Western Sky Financial, an online installment loan company that recently suspended lending after being sent cease-and-desist letters from government agencies. Left unsaid on the Consumers for Choices site are the types of loans offered by the company, which feature interest rates of 355 percent.

A single $5,075 loan from Western Sky cost $40,872.72 to pay back—more than eight times the original amount.

A commercial from the company featured a Native American woman exclaiming, “Making the six monthly payments is good for your credit profile!”

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman recently sued Western Sky Financial, CashCall Inc. and other online lenders for violating New York state usury laws, which cap interest at 16 percent for such loans. In August, the Department of Justice began investigating a broad range of banks that handle payments for payday and installment lending companies accused of deceiving customers and charging predatory interest rates.

Regulators say predatory lenders are pairing to Native American groups to exploit tribal sovereignty.

Western Sky, which operates on a reservation in South Dakota but markets its loans through national television and Internet advertising, says its location on tribal land prevents authorities from using state law to regulate its business. The Consumers for Choice site takes that argument a step further, declaring, “With your help, we can tell our elected leaders to put a stop to baseless attacks on tribal business and eliminate government fraud!”

Though the website contains no information about the type of loans in jeopardy of being eliminated, there is plenty of incendiary language designed to incite readers into action. Consumers for Choice warns of “elitist Federal regulators” seeking to deny “access to much-needed credit and funding for the average American family.”

The Consumers for Choice site, registered in August shortly after the New York State and Department of Justice probe began, also does not disclose any information about who is behind the effort. The Contact Us page lists an address for Aristotle, a political website company.

The only names listed on the site are Republican members of Congress who have issued supportive blurbs.

“I applaud the efforts of Consumers for Choice to promote free market principals and help make the general public aware of how federal and state regulators are now working to limit consumers and small businesses ability to access consumer credit,” reads one message from Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS). Similar quotes are provided from Representatives Dennis Ross (R-FL), Dave Schweikert (R-AZ) and Tom Graves (R-GA). In August, thirty-one House Republicans signed a letter to the government, accusing the Department of Justice of “intimidating” banks for working with online lenders.

A look into Florida state business records, where Consumers for Choices Inc. is registered, provides more clues.

On August 30, 2013, an attorney named Andrew L. Asher filed documents to change the name of “Floridians for Good Government, Inc.” to “Consumers for Choices, Inc.”

Asher is attorney with Jenkins Hill Consulting, a lobbying firm that represents a trade association for installment lenders called the American Financial Services Association.

The group spends about $6 million a year, with a large portion of its budget devoted to advocacy and government relations. Last week, AFSA held its annual meeting at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington, DC, where member companies, along with their lobbyists, met with lawmakers and were treated to a private talk on “inside politics” by Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace.

 

By: Lee Fang, The Nation, October 28, 2013

October 28, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Credit, Consumers | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Health Care Sabotage 101”: The GOP, Not A Botched Website, Is The Real Obstacle To Implementing Obamacare

It’s the latest chapter of Barack vs. the Health Care Killers, The Continuing Saga of Posturing, Bad Faith, Spite and Ineptitude.

Republicans, who have used every trick in their playbook to gum up the works of the Affordable Care Act, are now holding hearings to investigate how the works got so gummed up.

They could save themselves the trouble by looking in the mirror, just as O.J. Simpson could have done to find his wife’s killer. But that would rob them of the chance to grandstand.

In fairness, they do have one point. The Obama administration botched the debut of its insurance marketplace website so badly that it fairly begged for an investigation. And since Republicans had little or nothing to do with the website, the blame for its failures falls squarely on the president and his deputies.

The screw-up was a gift. GOP lawmakers were calling the law a failure before most of it went into effect, but lacking any evidence they had to rely on mere accusation. Now, finally, they can say that their worst predictions had some validity.

Nevertheless, Republican “outrage” over the glitches is hard to take seriously. If they’re really looking to find what went wrong — and there was plenty — one suspects it’s only so they can clone the virus. Then anyplace where the law is working, such as Kentucky, Washington and Oregon, they can infect the system, watch it crash, shake their heads and snicker.

Come on, folks. Republicans want to “fix” what’s broken here as much as they want to “protect” women by targeting their reproductive rights and “defend” the vote by obstructing it. But because Healthcare.gov went live on the same day that the party crazies shut down the government over the law’s funding, they were too deep in their own morass to capitalize on it. Worse, they had to fold on the shutdown without getting anything in exchange. No wonder they’re pouncing on the chance to grill the people whose job it was to enable what they’ve called the worst law in the history of man.

Yes, the administration deserves to be on the hot seat. There was more than enough time to make sure the website worked properly and there is no excuse for its failure to do so.

Mr. Obama had to know that the first weeks would set the tone for public perception. If he had wanted to raise doubts about the program or shoo people away, he couldn’t have done a better job of it.

Once again, we have to wonder what goes on in his mind. This legislation is only the most important accomplishment of his presidency. He put everything on the line for it. Millions of people are counting on it for coverage they cannot otherwise afford. If he can’t get the introduction right, well, let’s just say it’s a good thing he won’t be running again.

But then there’s that pesky caveat called perspective. A botched website, which can and will be repaired, is nowhere near the biggest obstacle to the success of health care reform. That distinction goes to the program’s sworn enemies, who have been conducting a misinformation campaign of false claims and scare tactics since the law was passed. To hear them tell it, “Obamacare” will turn people into devil worshipping socialist homosexual vegetarians who want the terrorists to win. So of course they will do everything they can to stop it.

Exhibit One: The quickest and easiest way for states to enact the law’s reforms is to expand Medicaid, which would trigger a huge infux of federal dollars for the first several years. Yet Republican governors in 26 states have refused to do so. The primary excuse is that they won’t be able to afford it once the federal money stops. The subtext is that they’d rather sabotage the president than help their own citizens get the treatment they need. Thanks to them, according to a New York Times analysis, the new law will leave out two-thirds of the nation’s black citizens and single mothers, and half of the low-wage workers who currently lack insurance.

In addition, GOP governors (including our own Tom Corbett and, regrettably, a few Democrats) have refused to create insurance exchanges that would facilitate reaching the uninsured. Instead, those people will have to go to the federal exchange.

They’re also refusing to assist applicants and blocking the use of so-called “navigators,” whose job is to help people understand the law and sign up for its benefits. When a constituent calls with questions, they are making sure they’ll get no answers.

Then there was the government shutdown, during which Republicans offered more than 40 measures to cripple the law. They failed in every sense, but it still cost the country $24 billion.

It doesn’t take a genius to see where the real obstruction lies. For all its screw-ups, the Obama administration is trying to make health care reform work. And for all their public posturing, Republicans are trying to ruin it. But the law was duly passed, it’s here, and it’s not going away. They should save the fake righteousness for a cause that isn’t already lost.

 

By: Sally Kalson, Pittsburg- Post Gazette, October 26, 2013

October 28, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, Republicans | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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