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“Just Take A Look At The Man In The Mirror”: Saudi Money And The Moral Posturing Of Rand Paul

Expecting morally serious debate from any would-be Republican presidential contender is like waiting for a check from a deadbeat. It could arrive someday, but don’t count on it.

But listening to someone like Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) feign outrage over a real moral issue can still be amusing, if you know enough about him to laugh. The Kentucky Republican has seized on stories about millions of dollars donated by Saudi Arabian agencies and interests to the Clinton Foundation, demanding that the Clintons return those funds because of gender inequality under the Saudi version of Islam.

Speaking to reporters in New Hampshire, the senator said the Saudi monarchy is waging “a war on women,” turning a phrase often used to describe what Republican politicians do to women here. Like all aspiring leaders in the GOP, Paul wants to prove that he would be tough enough to take on Hillary Rodham Clinton in a national campaign. Women and men alike may admire her and hope that she will become America’s first female president — but how can she speak on behalf of women and girls if her husband’s foundation accepted support from the Saudis?

Certainly it is true that the Saudi monarchy inflicts special oppressions on its female subjects. But before examining how that should influence the policies of a charitable foundation – and a former president or secretary of state – it is worth considering the feminist credentials of Rand Paul and his fellow Republicans.

Presumably, Paul favors permitting women to drive and exercise other rights that they would be denied in Riyadh. In his habitual hostility to any legislation improving the status of women in this country, however, he is all too typical of his party. He opposed the Paycheck Fairness Act, designed to ensure that women are paid equally to men for similar work, as an assault on the “free market” worthy of the “Soviet Politburo” (which somebody should tell him no longer exists).

Like Senators Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham and other presidential hopefuls, he co-sponsored the Blunt Amendment, a mercifully defeated law that would have deprived millions of women of contraceptive and other vital insurance coverage at the whim of any employer. He sponsored a constitutional amendment to outlaw abortion and some forms of birth control. And he even opposed reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act – a vote that the ultra-right Saudi imams would no doubt approve.

If Paul wants to confront an enemy of women’s advancement, he need only glance in the mirror.

As for the Clinton Foundation, leave aside the fact that the senator only knows about any Saudi donations because the foundation’s transparency exceeds anything required under U.S. law – and that the Carter Center, the Bush 41 and Bush 43 presidential libraries, Oxfam, and the World Health Organization, among many other charities, have also accepted Saudi funding.

Paul and other critics ought to explain specifically how the foundation’s receipt of support from Saudi Arabia has compromised its mission of empowering women and girls. Anyone who has attended the annual meetings of the Clinton Global Initiative, for instance, has seen and heard that commitment repeated again and again, around the world, in Muslim countries and everywhere else.

The fact that economic and social development demand full gender equality has been the unmistakable message of those meetings, year after year, for more than a decade. And no Saudi official who looked at the foundation’s programs in health, education, or economic development could misunderstand what the Clintons and their foundation are saying and doing.

To consider just one example: Over the past dozen years, the Clinton Health Access Initiative has helped to save millions of lives, including many women and girls suffering from HIV/AIDS. In Ethiopia, the Saudi billionaire Sheik Mohammed Al Amoudi donated $20 million to a Clinton Foundation program providing AIDS drugs to infected men, women, and children.

Would it have been better to refuse the Saudi money, provide less medicine, and let some of those Ethiopians die?

While Bill Clinton’s answer is plain enough, let’s not pretend such moral quandaries really trouble Rand Paul and his ilk. We already know that politicians like him are quite prepared to “let ’em die” here as well as over there, because they are eager to repeal the Affordable Care Act, ruin Medicare, and gut the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

But it is a question for the rest of us to consider seriously.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editor’s Blog, The National Memo, March 20, 2015

March 25, 2015 Posted by | Clinton Global Inititiave, Hillary Clinton, Rand Paul | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“It’s The Kids’ Fault”: Why Women Still Earn Less Than Men

As thousands of high school graduates head off to college in the next few weeks, they’ll see a lot more women than men on campus — specifically, they’ll see three female students for every two male students they spot. These scenes are dramatically different from the ones their grandparents would have seen in the 1960′s when the percentages were reversed.

The surge in women’s college enrollment appears in their graduation figures.While only about 30 percent of women (and men) older than 25 have a college degree, in recent years, women have earned about 57 percent of bachelor’s degrees. Mark J. Perry, an economics professor at the University of Michigan and scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, estimates that there are now about 4.35 million more women with college degrees in the United States than men.

That’s some progress.

Yet, progress in college degrees received (women also earn a larger share of master’s and doctor’s degrees than men do) has not turned into progress in paychecks received.

In 2011, women working full-time earned about 77 cents for each dollar that a man earned, according to data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.The gap has narrowed over time, which is good news. But, as President Obama said on the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Equal Pay Act making it illegal to discriminate in pay on the basis of sex, “does anybody here think that’s good enough?”

I sure don’t.

So, after all these years, why does the pay gap still exist? Is it because women choose to become social workers rather than rocket scientists, as some have noted? Or is it because they have decided to stay home with the kids and stop working or to work part time, as others have noted?

On the first point, rocket scientists certainly do make more than teachers. The median wage for an aerospace engineer in 2012 was $103,720, almost double the $53,400 a typical elementary school teacher could expect to make that year. It’s also true that only about 14 percent of architects and engineers are women, while more than 80 percent of elementary and middle school teachers are women. Over all occupations, women’s wages would be lower than men’s wages due to differences in occupational choices.

On the second point, fathers are more likely to work full-time than mothers. Nearly 40 percent of mothers worked part-time or not at all compared with 3 percent of fathers, according to a study by the American Association of University Women. Women who leave the labor force don’t gain much work experience so that when they return to work, they’re likely to make less than another person, male or female, with the same qualifications who has an unbroken career record.

Again, the data support this assertion. Judith Warner recently wrote for the New York Times Magazine about the cost to mothers when they leave their careers to spend more time with their families. Warner found that the women she interviewed who had returned to the work force a decade after leaving their jobs to take care of their kids were generally in lower paying, less prestigious jobs than the ones they left.

A separate study found that women who returned to work after an extended time off were paid 16 percent less than before they left the work force, while another study Warner cites found that only one-quarter of women who returned to the work force took a traditional hard-driving job, such as banking, compared with the two-thirds of women who were employed in such jobs before taking time off.

One final factor helps explain the pay gap: kids. In a paper published in the late 1990s, Columbia University professor of social work and public affairs Jane Waldfogel showed that having children has a negative impact on a woman’s wages, while it has no or even a positive effect on a man’s wages. The fact that the pay gap between women without children and women with children is larger than the pay gap between men and women further highlights the negative impact of kids on earnings. Waldfogel noted that it’s as true in 1998 as Victor Fuchs reported a decade earlier, that “the greatest barrier to economic equality is children.”

The research shows that having kids is bad for your paycheck. What the research doesn’t seem to show, however, is that many moms may actually not care.

 

By: Joanne Weiner, She The People, The Washington Post, August, 13, 2013

August 19, 2013 Posted by | Economic Inequality, Women | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Growing Inequality”: Not All Kinds Of Inequality Are Created Equal

In America, not all kinds of inequality are created equal.

For the past half-century, the de jure inequality of demographic groups has proven increasingly vulnerable to public pressure. From the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to last week’s Supreme Court decision striking down a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act, legal barriers against racial and sexual minorities as well as women have crumbled. Changes in the law have followed the same pattern: First, a handful of generally radical activists brought attention to the existence of a legal double standard; then, a mass movement grew in support of eliminating discriminatory laws and practices; only after this did government respond with legal remedies.

In each case as well, the movements’ success in diminishing their “otherness” — that is, establishing their full humanity — in the eyes of the majority of their fellow Americans has been key to ending legal discrimination. The shift in public opinion on same-sex marriage, for instance, follows decades when growing numbers of gay men and lesbians felt just secure enough to out themselves to their families, friends and co-workers, in the process normalizing what had been a concealed, and presumably shameful, status. The immigrant rights movement’s focus on the Dream Act kids — young people, many of whom are talented students, brought here as children and still forced to lurk in the shadows — put the most appealing human face on undocumented immigrants. That is at least partly responsible for what is now majority public support for enabling the undocumented to become citizens. (Whether that majority support carries any weight with xenophobic House Republicans, secure in their gerrymandered districts, is another question.)

Some forms of legal inequality persist in other guises. Another Supreme Court decision last week, striking down provisions of the Voting Rights Act that limited discriminatory practices in particular Southern states, will make it easier for black and Latino electoral participation to be limited. Just as those states once required voters to pass absurd tests or pay taxes to vote — measures almost always designed to apply only to blacks — now they will likely require voters to produce documents that the poor and students disproportionately lack (as, in fact, Texas did within hours of the high court’s ruling). Today’s vote supressionists are driven less by discrimination for its own sake than fear that their hold on power will weaken if minorities and the young vote in large numbers.

But while social and legal inequality has diminished over the past century, economic inequality has been on the rise since Ronald Reagan’s presidency. The public policies of the past 30 years — deregulating finance and encouraging the sector’s growth, failing to bolster workers’ declining bargaining power — are rightly understood to have reversed the more egalitarian economic policies of Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. But the economic inegalitarianism of the past three decades also makes a mockery of Thomas Jefferson’s vision of equality, which went beyond mere equality of creation. Jefferson believed that a nation of yeoman farmers was the best defense against the inequalities of wealth and power that would threaten the republic if cities grew too populous. He also believed, of course, in the institution of slavery — the paradox that haunts his legacy and our history to this day.

The belief that diminishing economic inequality would help build a more robust economy underpinned the legislation of both the New Deal and the Great Society. Granting workers the power to bargain with their employers, the preamble to the 1935 National Labor Relations Act states, would increase their capacity to consume and give the economy a shot in the arm. So, too, the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act, which created the national minimum wage. Social Security and Medicare, by reducing poverty among seniors, also bolstered the national economy. Repeal any one of these and the economy would crumple. Indeed, the de facto repeal of the National Labor Relations Act — as employers have learned to exploit its loopholes and deny employees bargaining power — is a major factor in the decline of wage income.

How, then, do we decrease economic inequality — the one kind of inequality that continues to expand even as other forms contract (if slowly and unevenly)? The challenge isn’t to persuade the majority to embrace a minority but, rather, to embrace itself. Americans tend to blame themselves rather than changes in economic rules and arrangements for failing to achieve financial security. But with most of the nation falling behind, the problem and the solution aren’t individual. Like Jefferson’s generation, Americans must band together to create a more egalitarian land.

 

By: Harol Meyerson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, July 2, 2013

July 6, 2013 Posted by | Economic Inequality | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Already In The Line Of Fire”: Predictable Republican Response To Women’s Roles In The Military

The conservative reaction to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s announcement that the military would abolish its arbitrary restriction against women serving in positions defined as “combat roles” is predictable but a bit behind the times. As Adam Serwer at Mojo quickly pointed out, a lot of women are already placing themselves in the line of fire without technically being in a combat role. Check out Serwer’s response to the Daily Caller‘s Tucker Carlson, who has been prominent among opponents of the rule change:

Carlson is a political journalist, so he might be expected to know that there is a woman US Army veteran amputee named Tammy Duckworth currently serving in Congress. Duckworth, who represents Illinois’ 8th congressional district, lost her legs after an attack brought down the helicopter she was piloting in Baghdad.

But this development is actually a bit older than you might think. Back in 2002, on the brink of the second Iraq War, in a Washington Monthly article, Phillip Carter predicted thousands of women would serve in de facto combat roles in Iraq, based on earlier experience:

Since the Gulf victory in 1991, a series of largely unnoticed policy changes have opened new opportunities for women to fight alongside, and even to lead, front-line troops. The Navy and Air Force, with some fanfare, allowed women into the cockpits of fighters and bombers. But less well known is how vastly the Army has expanded the role of women in ground-combat operations. Today, women command combat military police companies, fly Apache helicopters, work as tactical intelligence analysts, and even serve in certain artillery units–jobs that would have been unthinkable for them a decade ago. In any war in Iraq, these changes could put thousands of women in the midst of battle, far more than at any time in American history.

Carter, like Serwer, notes that having combat roles officially opened will be extremely helpful to women who want a professional career in the armed services, since combat experience is often crucial to promotion opportunities. And in any event, elimination of the gender barrier does not mean women unqualified for combat roles will assume them, any more than unqualified men, a point Serwer makes:

Most men cannot meet the necessary mental and physical requirements for service in combat. Any woman who can meet those standards should not be denied the opportunity because of an arbitrary gender restriction. Moreover, removing the restriction is not about celebrating militarism. The military has long been a path for historically disfavored groups to claim the full benefits of citizenship. Justifying discrimination against blacks, gays and lesbians, or women becomes much more difficult when they’re giving their lives for their country.

Perhaps that’s an underlying motive for conservatives deploring the change: it helps give discrimination a bad name!

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, January 24, 2013

January 25, 2013 Posted by | Womens Rights | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Skewed Equilibrium”: Mitt Romney Is Wrong About The Wage Gap

Asked about the gender wage gap last night, Mitt Romney changed the subject. “What we can do to help young women and women of all ages is to have a strong economy, so strong that employers are looking to find good employees and bringing them into their workforce and adapting to a — a flexible work schedule that gives women the opportunities that — that they would otherwise not be able to — to afford,” he said. Sensing that he was going to be forced to actually answer the question, Romney added, “I’m going to help women in America get — get good work by getting a stronger economy and by supporting women in the workforce.”

There are so many half-formed assumptions and pseudo-promises here that it’s hard to know where to start, but let’s go to the basic premise: That the wage gap narrows when the economy is strong. That premise, so far as we can see from the data, is wrong.

“In good economic times, bonus payments, overtime hours and merit pay increase,” says Ariane Hegewisch, a study director at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. “Women are under-represented in the top echelons,” where compensation has soared in good times. “Women are less likely to work overtime,” she adds, and “research suggests that merit and performance-related pay still is a key area for gender discrimination.” There’s also research suggesting that “salary increases related to promotions might differ by gender.”

In fact, the recent economic woes actually narrowed the wage gap, because while both men and women suffered, men lost more ground, according to a 2011 IWPR analysis: “Real earnings for both men and women have fallen since 2010, by 0.9 percent for women and 2.1 percent for men.” That’s likely because male-dominated sectors like construction were hard hit in the recession. Since then, the majority of job gains in the recovery have gone to men, suggesting that (skewed) equilibrium will likely be restored.

 

By: Irin Carmon, Salon, October 17, 2012

October 19, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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