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“GOP’s Clueless Ploy To Woo Women”: Accuse Them Of Whining And Lying!

If you liked GOP messaging on contraception – from Rush Limbaugh’s attacks on Sandra Fluke to Mike Huckabee insisting women who support the ACA’s contraception mandate “cannot control their libidos” – you’ll love the latest Republican campaign against pay equity, newly minted for Equal Pay Day.

Fox News may be the funniest, insisting there’s no such thing as pay inequity — except at the White House, where an American Enterprise Institute study found women still earning less than men. From the Heritage Foundation comes this wisdom: “Equal pay and minimum wage: Two ways to hurt women in the workplace.”  No really, that’s the headline. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has called the pay gap “nonsense,” while Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker called it “bogus.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has called equal pay “the left’s latest bizarre obsession” and accused Harry Reid of “blowing a few kisses” to advocates.

Essentially the GOP campaign against pay equity advocates comes down to telling women to stop lying.

Pay inequity means that women lose an average of more than $400,000 in wages over the course of their lifetimes. The infamous “77 cents on the dollar” figure approximates the overall difference between men and women, and conservatives like to claim it compares apples and oranges: Female teachers to male congressmen, for instance. The truth is, multiple studies by the American Association of University Women and others show that the gap exists across all professions and all education levels. In some fields, it’s wider, in some it’s smaller, but it’s omnipresent. And it’s much worse for African-American and Latino women, who make 62 and 54 percent of white men’s wages, respectively. (Asian American women suffer the smallest wage gap, earning 87 percent.)

Democrats believe they can ride those issues to victory in 2014, despite a tough climate for vulnerable incumbents and the propensity of its base to turn out for presidential elections but skip the midterms. One key will be turning out unmarried women, who have become one of the party’s most reliable constituencies after African-Americans. A recent survey by Democracy Corps shows that unmarried women are less likely to vote in 2014 than in 2012 – but that a strong women’s economic agenda could send many more of them to the polls.

Pay equity plus equal health insurance are the policies that score highest among unmarried women voters in the Democracy Corps poll. Right behind are proposals for paid family leave and affordable access to childcare. Democracy Corps found those issues had the capacity to significantly increase the turnout of unmarried women in 2014. Once they were read a list of women’s economic agenda policies favored by Democrats, the percent saying they were “almost certain” to vote in the midterm jumped from 66 to 83 percent.

And although those zany Heritage Foundation scholars last week told Republicans that the secret to solving their problems with unmarried women was to get more of them married, Democracy Corps found that unmarried women were skeptical of GOP policies to encourage marriage. Two-thirds favored greater emphasis on policies that enable work-family balance, to help women and children rise out of poverty, as opposed to 24 percent who backed policies that encouraged marriage.

That’s why President Obama signed two executive orders to narrow the wage gap. One prohibits federal contractors from punishing workers who disseminate information about wages (one way employers hide wage discrimination). Obama will also direct the Labor Department to collect data from federal contractors detailing wages by gender and race.  Obama is also urging Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act – which it won’t – and a minimum wage hike, which is also unlikely.

The Democracy Corps poll also makes clear what many Democrats have suspected: Women like the fact that the Affordable Care Act prevents insurance companies from charging them more than men. Rep. Paul Ryan, who insists the GOP will still push to repeal Obamacare, is handing Democrats another weapon, the poll found.

There was one other interesting finding in the Democracy Corps survey: Unmarried women are very concerned about preserving Medicare and Social Security. That led pollsters to advise Democrats to include those issues in their women’s economic agenda. It makes sense: Women live longer, and are more economically insecure at every stage of life. Unmarried women in particular rely on Social Security and Medicare in old age. It’s just another reason centrist Dems should avoid the lure of the “grand bargain” that ensnared the president and his allies for years.

Earlier this year, a CNN poll found that 55 percent of Americans believe Republicans don’t understand women. That increased to 64 percent among women over 50, who represent a pillar of the GOP base. So smart, aggressive messaging on women’s economic issues could not only help Democrats turn out their base, but conceivably cut into the GOP’s. Republicans are unlikely to help their cause with a strategy that essentially calls women who worry about pay inequity “liars.”

 

By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, April 8, 2014

April 9, 2014 Posted by | Economic Inequality, Gender Gap | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The War Against American Citizens”: Metastasizing Money Drowns Out The Voices Of Actual Americans

In 1971, before becoming a Supreme Court justice, Lewis F. Powell Jr. penned a memo to his friend Eugene Sydnor of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce advocating a comprehensive strategy in favor of corporate interests. Powell wrote, “Under our constitutional system, especially with an activist-minded Supreme Court, the judiciary may be the most important instrument for social, economic and political change.”

In last week’s ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission , the Supreme Court was not a mere instrument so much as a blowtorch, searing a hole in the fabric of our fragile democracy.

This predictable decision from the 1 Percent Court to repeal federal limits on overall individual campaign contributions overturns nearly 40 years of campaign finance law.

It also completes a trifecta of rulings that started in 1976 with Buckley v. Valeo, and the Midas touch of judicial malpractice, turning money into speech. As Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in an impassioned dissent to McCutcheon, taken together with the 2010 ruling in Citizens United, “today’s decision eviscerates our Nation’s campaign finance laws, leaving a remnant incapable of dealing with the grave problems of democratic legitimacy that those laws were intended to resolve.”

This, foreshadowed in Powell’s decades-old memo, has always been the right’s plan — to shift the system in favor of the wealthy and powerful. Put it this way: If the limit hadn’t existed in 2012, the 1,219 biggest donors could have given more money than over 4 million small donors to the Obama and Romney campaigns — combined.

But McCutcheon was not the only body blow to our democracy, in what was possibly the worst week in the history of campaign finance reform.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) let his proposal for publicly financed statewide elections die after years of promises to restore the public trust. In a state that’s often a laboratory of democracy, the governor has agreed to what is little more than a clinical trial — a single comptroller’s race this year — that some experts claim is “designed to fail.”

The American experiment seems to be run by a smaller and smaller control group as billionaires — like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson — get expanding seats at the shrinking political table.

NASCAR drivers wear the corporate logos of their sponsors on their suits. The justices who sided with plutocracy ought to wear sponsorship logos on their robes, too.

Conversations about court rulings and policy proposals can obscure what’s really at stake: the well-being of the American people. The Court and Cuomo gave the 1 percent even more opportunities to, effectively, buy the kind of access to elected officials that most voters and small donors could never dream of. The weakening of campaign finance laws tracks with the widening income gap, as the wealthiest have secured policies, from lower taxes to deregulation — that enrich themselves at the expense of everybody else.

This, to paraphrase Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D), is why the system is rigged. Metastasizing money drowns out the voices of actual Americans, and suffocates policies such as raising the minimum wage and equal pay that would benefit workers. It also skews the playing field, not just between the haves and have-nots, but also between male and female candidates.

We live in a world where elected officials care less about checks and balances and more about their checkbooks and balance sheets. Where fundraising is more important than legislating. Where public policy is auctioned off to the highest bidder.

That’s why getting money out of politics is not a partisan issue. According to Gallup, nearly eight out of 10 Americans think campaigns should be limited in what they can raise and spend, while a 2012 CBS poll shows that about two-thirds of Americans believe in limiting individual campaign contributions.

Hopefully, popular outrage will boost the pressure for reform; there has already been a sharp increase in grassroots action. In the hours and days after the ruling, coalitions such as Public Citizen have mobilized thousands of people in 140 demonstrations across 38 states to protest the McCutcheon ruling. Nearly 500 local governments and 16 states and the District have called for a constitutional amendment to wrest our elections back from the elite. Move to Amend, which supports a constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United and McCutcheon, and end the fiction that corporations are people and money equals speech, already has over 300,000 members.

A resolution from Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) — with a House companion introduced by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) — calling for a constitutional amendment to allow Congress to fully regulate campaign contributions, and to encourage states to regulate and limit campaign spending, already had 29 co-sponsors and picked up 3 more on the day the Roberts Court announced its decision. Citizens in New York, who are furious at Cuomo for failing to enact reform, are renewing the drive to hold him accountable for his actions. And even while pushing for a constitutional amendment — an uphill battle —supporters of clean elections in Congress and outside are fighting for increased disclosure and public financing of elections.

The all-out assault against campaign finance reform, on the heels of the Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder , is just one more example of our democratic system in crisis. “Under the leadership of Chief Justice John Roberts,” my Nation colleague Ari Berman recently wrote, “the Supreme Court has made it far easier to buy an election and far harder to vote in one.” But the fear of democracy’s premature death doesn’t look like it’s silencing people; instead, it is inspiring a renewed commitment to fight for its survival.

 

By: Katrina vanden Heuvel, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, April 8, 2014

April 9, 2014 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Democracy, SCOTUS | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Race Is Not An Intellectual Exercise”: The “Story Of Race In The Obama Years” Cannot Be Told In A Race-Neutral Way

I offered a preliminary take yesterday on Jonathan Chait’s vast New York piece on racial politics, and will probably take another run at the topic at TPMCafe tomorrow. But for now, I’ll suggest a reading of Jamelle Bouie’s tart response to Chait at Slate:

If I were outlining a racial history of the Obama administration, it would begin with policy: A housing collapse that destroyed black Americans’ wealth; a health care law attacked as “reparations” and crippled by a neo-Calhounite doctrine of “state sovereignty”; a broad assault on voting rights and access to the polls, concentrated in the states of the former Confederacy. Indeed, it would focus on the deep irony of the Obama era: That the first black president has presided over a declining status quo for many black Americans.

In short, it would treat race as a real force in public life that has real consequences for real people.

You should contrast this with Jonathan Chait’s most recent feature for New York magazine, where the story of race in the Obama administration is a story of mutual grievance between Americans on the left and right, with little interest in the lived experiences of racism from black Americans and other people of color. It’s a story, in other words, that treats race as an intellectual exercise—a low-stakes cocktail party argument between white liberals and white conservatives over their respective racial innocence….

What’s odd about the argument is that Chait clearly shows the extent to which conservatism—even if it isn’t “racist”—works to entrench racial inequality through “colorblindness” and pointed opposition to the activist state. But rather than take that to its conclusion, he asks us to look away: “Impressive though the historical, sociological, and psychological evidence undergirding this analysis may be, it also happens to be completely insane. Whatever Lee Atwater said, or meant to say, advocating tax cuts is not in any meaningful sense racist.”

Of course, it’s not accusing conservatives of “racism” to note that particular policies—say, tax cuts to defund the social safety net, or blocking the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act—have a disparate impact. That’s just reality. And it’s not tarring your opponents to note that race plays a huge part in building popular support for those policies. But again, for as much as this is interesting as a matter of political combat, it’s less important to telling the story of race in the Obama years than, for instance, the tremendous retrenchment of racial inequality during our five years of recession, recovery, and austerity.

I personally think part of the problem here is that Chait seems to regard “racism” as a subjective phenomenon and a moral blight; thus conservatives charged with promoting policies that have a disparate racial impact have every reason to feel aggrieved if they are (or perceive themselves to be) innocent of racist feelings. But that’s no excuse for pretending the “story of race in the Obama years” can be told in a race-neutral way.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, April 8, 2014

April 9, 2014 Posted by | Politics, Racism | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Faith, Family And Libido”: Louisiana’s McAllister Says He’s ‘Fallen Short’

When politicians get caught in extra-marital dalliances, there’s usually a controversy that follows a predictable trajectory. There are the allegations, followed by denials, then apologies, all wrapped up in humiliation. These messes usually last several days, if not weeks.

Rep. Vance McAllister, a Louisiana Republican who’s only been in office for about five months, truncated the lifecycle considerably yesterday, going from revelation to contrition over the course of an afternoon.

A married House Republican, who ran on a devout Christian conservative platform, apologized Monday after a video surfaced that reportedly shows him kissing an aide.

“There’s no doubt I’ve fallen short and I’m asking for forgiveness. I’m asking for forgiveness from God, my wife, my kids, my staff, and my constituents who elected me to serve,” said Rep. Vance McAllister in a statement. “Trust is something I know has to be earned.” He added, “I promise to do everything I can to earn back the trust of everyone I’ve disappointed.”

The extra-marital romance was first uncovered by a local outlet, the Ouachita Citizen, which obtained a video of McAllister kissing an aide in his district office in late December – about a month after the congressman won a special election in his Louisiana district.

The exact nature of the relationship is unclear, but it’s worth noting that the aide was reportedly removed from the congressman’s payroll “during the past 24 hours.”

Complicating matters a little more, it appears the aide and her husband were generous McAllister campaign contributors.

As a general rule, I tend to believe these incidents are private matters, but the standards for scrutiny change when hypocrisy is involved.

For example, when Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) was caught hiring prostitutes, the political problem had less to do with his behavior and more to do with the fact that Vitter ran as a “family values” conservative, urging voters to elect him in part so he could champion traditional morality.

Personal mistakes are one thing; hypocrisy is something else.

McAllister, a married father of five, has a similar problem: “McAllister cited his faith, family and hard work in ads run during the campaign last year. His wife and kids were featured prominently in the ads as well.”

On his campaign issues page, the Republican puts “Faith and Family” on top, touting his family’s membership in a local Baptist church, and citing his values as an explanation for why he “opposes President Obama’s policies of bigger government.”

Looking ahead, the congressman will reportedly seek re-election. In the interim, it’s unclear if McAllister’s personal missteps will run afoul of the House GOP leadership’s “zero tolerance” policy on lawmakers and ethical lapses.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 8, 2014

April 9, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, Family Values | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Same As The Last Time”: What’s The GOP’s Excuse For Opposing Equal Pay This Time?

When Congress considered the Equal Pay Act in the spring of 1963, few objected to the values motivating the legislation. “The principle of equal pay for equal work is one which almost any citizen would strongly support,” wrote the National Retail Merchant Association in prepared testimony for the US Senate that April. Nevertheless, the NRMA opposed the bill “on the grounds that Federal legislation is not needed, that the added cost to administer such a law is unnecessary, and that an equitable law would be complex, confusing and difficult to enforce.”

Fifty-one years later, the conservative, anti-feminist Independent Women’s Forum has this to say about the Paycheck Fairness Act, which expands on the 1963 legislation and will likely succumb this week to a Republican filibuster in the Senate: “Clearly, sex-based wage discrimination is wrong. Furthermore, it’s already illegal…This latest legislation—the Paycheck Fairness Act—won’t lead to more fairness or better pay. It will lead to more lawsuits, more red tape and fewer job opportunities for women and men.”

Not as much has changed since 1963 as one might have hoped, either in the workplace or in politics. Back then opponents of the Equal Pay Act said states were adequately addressing the issue of of equal pay. Others made excuses for the fact that women made 59 cents for every dollar their male colleagues earned, arguing, as Council of Economic Advisors chair Walter Heller did, that the “added costs” of hiring women were to blame. Skepticism about labor protection for women wasn’t strictly partisan; the Democratic chairman of the House subcommittee on labor reportedly kept documents related to the Equal Pay Act filed under B, for “Broads.”

No one says now that the 1963 law was unnecessary or insignificant, though as its supporters acknowledged at the time of its passage, it was only a first step. Today, women make 77 cents to a man’s dollar—or just 64 cents and 55 cents for Black and Hispanic women, respectively— and Republicans are dusting off arguments from last century to block updated legislation, claiming that while they still support its underlying principles, today’s pay really is equal, or else the work is not. (Whether filing methods have changed in the new millennium is unclear.)

Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, for example, called the concern about equal pay a “meme,” and Texas governor Rick Perry dismissed it as “nonsense.” Conservatives who do acknowledge the existence of a gender gap often attribute it to the concentration of women in lower-wage jobs. Two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women, and traditionally female industries—like education, nursing and domestic work—usually pay less than industries dominated by men, like engineering and IT. The fact that women are funneled into lower-paying fields is certainly a problem. But it’s also true that in almost every single occupation for which data is available, women earn less than male co-workers. That’s true within low-wage industries and in those traditionally dominated by women. For example, women make up nearly 90 percent of the nursing workforce, and they collect $1,086 in median weekly earnings. Male nurses take home an extra $150 each week, according to Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

Although the Paycheck Fairness Act is unlikely to pass the Senate, President Obama will sign two executive orders today regarding fair pay for women. One prevents federal contractors from retaliating against employees who discuss their wages; the other requires contractors to share information about compensation, broken down by race and gender, with the government. The orders won’t accomplish as much as the PFA, which extends those two provisions to private employers, as well as putting the burden on employers to prove that unequal pay is job-related and allowing workers to sue for damages based on gender discrimination, as they can for racial, disability and age discrimination. Still, joint White House and Senate campaigns on equal pay could have symbolic power as Democrats leverage the GOP’s resistance to bread and butter economic measures to spur turnout in the midterms, particularly among women.

Smartly, the GOP has given opposition to the PFA a new face—a female one, telling women to use their own bootstraps to scale the pay gap. “I would encourage women, instead of pursuing the courts for action, to become better negotiators,” said Texas GOP Beth Cubriel, explaining her party’s opposition to fair pay legislation. Targeting legislation at working women is “making us look like whiners,” Minnesota state Represenative Andrea Kieffer said in March. “All Republicans support equal pay for equal work,” wrote Republican National Committee press secretary Kirsten Kukowski, communications director Andrea Bozek and NRSC press secretary Brook Hougesen in a memo. “And while we all know workplace discrimination still exists, we need real solutions that focus on job creation and opportunity for women.”

Conservatives have been pushing back against claims that the GOP is anti-women with the argument that it’s Democrats who demean women by focusing on structural disadvantages. The Independent Women’s Forum, for example, says the PFA “perpetuates the myth that all women are workplace victims.” The idea that government action turns women into victims, or makes them dependent, flows through conservative messaging around the Affordable Care Act, the social safety net, really any program that would help the people whose bootstraps have been stolen. “The fact is the Republicans don’t have a war on women, they have a war for women, to empower them to be something other than victims of their gender,” Mike Huckabee said at the Republican National Committee winter meeting in January.

The basic point here is that government can’t do anything good for women, or for people in general. Only individuals themselves, and an unfettered private sector, can. “Not every problem in America can be fixed by Washington,” Katie Packer Gage, Mitt Romney’s deputy campaign manager, wrote in opposition to the PFA. This anti-government agenda has nothing to do with women’s equality. It is, however, one of the oldest lines in the book.

 

By: Zoe Carpenter, The Nation, April 8, 2014

April 9, 2014 Posted by | Gender Gap | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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