Nel's New Day

April 19, 2012

Romney Going in Circles

Do you call it circling the wagons? Or stalking? Or just plain going in circles? Whatever the definition, Mitt Romney supporters think that their time and their gasoline are best used by driving around and around and around the community college where President Obama spoke yesterday. The focus of his talk at Lorain County Community College (OH) was on the importance of retraining workers and meeting with students who have participated in LCCC’s worker-training programs.

Romney’s supporters seem to have quite a bit of time on their hands. One of them, a 69-year-old insurance salesman, has been to 117 Romney events in the past eight months and plans to keep on going until after the inauguration when he’s “going back to the farm in Virginia and whittle.”

Today Romney is speaking at the closed National Gypsum drywall plant in Lorain to explain why President Obama is a failure. Linking the plant’s closure to the president might not be a smart idea. The factory closed during George W. Bush’s administration because of the construction industry slump, and unemployment in Ohio shrank from 8.6 percent when Obama took office to 7.6 percent a month ago.

Officials also pointed out that the closed plant had opened in 1959, and National Gypsum’s 19 newer facilities used newer technology that give the company a 50-percent cost advantage over the older plants. Romney might also have made the disclosure that the company’s CEO, Thomas Nelson, is a big Romney donor.

Lorain is in the process of replacing the 58 jobs lost at the drywall plant. Republic Steel recently invested $85 million in a plant in the city, which Ritenauer predicts will create 450 new jobs and help retain 100 others. The company Camaco, which manufactures seat frames for automobile seats, is also investing in the area.

Perhaps President Obama would like to speak at one of the many places that Mitt Romney, through the candidate’s Bain Capital, closed down, closures that took money from the payroll and pensions of hundreds of thousands of workers. The president would have a very wide choice.

April 18, 2012

Republicans’ War on Religion

Republicans have declared a war on religion. Yes, you read it right—the Republicans. Earlier it was assumed that the Democrats had done this with its demand that women receive birth control. But now the proverbial shoe is on the other foot–and it’s pinching the Republicans’ feet.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has sent a letter to the House Agriculture Committee, criticizing Paul Ryan’s Republican budget because it leaves large holes in the safety net by cutting food stamps and other programs that “serve poor and vulnerable people.” The letter stated that the budget fails to meet certain “moral criteria.”

Not stopping there, the bishops fired off a letter to the House Ways and Means Committee, criticizing the provision making it more difficult for illegal immigrants to claim child tax credits. The bishops called the credit “one of the most effective antipoverty programs in our nation.”

Last week, Ryan commented that Catholic faith shaped the budget he authored and that the budget is consistent with Catholic teachings. His weak response to the bishops was that President Obama’s policies will hurt “the poor the first and the worst.” He said his own budget “lifts this crushing burden of debt, repairs our broken safety net, and tackles our generation’s defining challenge of ensuring opportunity for generations to come.”

This claim is at odds with the moral case that he earlier made on the Christian Broadcasting Network. There, he argued that it wasn’t the government’s responsibility to lift people out of poverty, that people themselves should be society’s caretakers. “Don’t keep people poor, don’t make people dependent on government so that they stay stuck at their station in life, help people get out of poverty, out into a life of independence,” he said.

The bishops didn’t buy Ryan’s argument. Their letter urged lawmakers to reject “unacceptable cuts to hunger and nutrition” programs for “moral and human reasons” and instead create spending cuts to subsidy programs that “disproportionately go to large growers and agribusiness.” Lawmakers should “protect essential programs that serve poor and hungry people over subsidies that assist large and relatively well-off agricultural enterprises,” said the letter, signed by Bishop Stephen E. Blaire. “Cuts to nutrition programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will hurt hungry children, poor families, vulnerable seniors and workers who cannot find employment. These cuts are unjustified and wrong.”

Other religious leaders took on Ryan’s justification for his budget. Nearly 60 prominent theologians, priests, nuns, and national Catholic social justice leaders wrote him in protest. “If Rep. Ryan thinks a budget that takes food and healthcare away from millions of vulnerable people upholds Catholic values, then he also probably believes Jesus was a Tea Partier who lectured the poor to stop being so lazy and work harder,” said John Gehring, Catholic Outreach Coordinator at Faith in Public Life. “This budget turns centuries of Catholic social teaching on its head. These Catholic leaders and many Catholics in the pews are tired of faith being misused to bless an immoral agenda.”

It’s not the first time that the bishops have objected to Ryan’s budgeting style. Joint letters to the House and Senate sent last year on March 3 addressed the “moral and human dimensions of the federal budget” and their fear that pressure to reduce the deficit would wipe out Pell Grants, workforce training and development, nutrition assistance, low-income tax credits, and safe and affordable housing for the less fortunate. One month later, almost exactly a year ago, bishops sent a letter to the House Appropriations Committee, opposing potential cuts to Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs that benefit the poor, elderly, veterans, and those with disabilities. HUD programs are those that Mitt Romney promised to eliminate at a private fundraising event when he thought that information would not get to the general public.

Almost a year ago, 27 Protestant bishops sent a letter to the Senate protesting Ryan’s budget that had sailed through the House. The bill, that proposed a dramatic overhaul of Medicare, was described as “morally indefensible” because the proposal’s cuts target America’s most vulnerable citizens. The budget “fails the basic tests of justice, compassion and a commitment to the common good,” according to the letter. “This budget eviscerates vital nutrition programs for mothers and infants (WIC), and makes cuts to Medicaid that will hurt sick children, struggling families and seniors in nursing homes,” the letter continued. “Unlike the Good Samaritan, who stopped to care for a wounded stranger on the side of the road, the House budget turns its back on the most vulnerable at a time of grave economic uncertainty even as it endorses policies that gives tax breaks for the privileged few.”

At the same time last year, however, Bishop Timothy Nolan, new president of USCCB, sent a letter to Ryan that stated, “I commend your letter’s attention to the important values of fiscal responsibility.” Not all Catholics agreed with Nolan. More than 75 professors at Catholic University and other prominent Catholic colleges wrote House Speaker John Boehner last spring:

“Mr. Speaker, your voting record is at variance from one of the church’s most ancient moral teachings. From the apostles to the present, the magisterium of the church has insisted that those in power are morally obliged to preference the needs of the poor. Your record in support of legislation to address the desperate needs of the poor is among the worst in Congress. This fundamental concern should have great urgency for Catholic policy makers. Yet, even now, you work in opposition to it.”

This year Boehner is justifying his actions, first by saying that the budget doesn’t hurt the safety net (the one that includes $34 billion in cuts to food stamps) and second by declaring that he is more concerned with the debt. The bishops just don’t see the big picture, according to Boehner. We’ll guess that Ryan is not interested in following the bishops’ request: as I write, the House Republicans are trying to make more cuts for the poor instead of replacing taxes for the wealthy.

When Republicans also voted en mass against the Buffett Rule, they missed this part of the Bible: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”—Luke 12:48.

Questions for conservatives:  Does Ryan’s budget violate the responsibility that government has to religion, according to recent conservatives’ statements that Democrats should do exactly what Catholics demand? Should the government follow religious demands only in the case of women’s reproductive rights? Do Catholic demands trump the Protestant ones–the belief that the government should help the poor and demand more from those who have “been given much”? Should the country return to the separation of church and state? Will anyone notice that the Republicans have declared a war on religion?

April 17, 2012

unEqual Pay Day Returns

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 3:05 PM
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Most people know that today is the deadline for paying 2011 taxes; fewer people may recognize this date as unEqual Pay Day. April 17, 2012 represents how far into 2012 women must work to match what men earned in 2011—an additional 107 days because,on average, women are paid 77 cents for each dollar that men receive. Over a lifetime, pay inequity costs the average woman between $700,000 and $2 million, losing women not only wages during their working years but also Social Security benefits after they retire. Millions of women are single mothers, so the lack of equal pay hurts millions of children in their households. Single women earn only 78.8 percent of what married women earn, and only 57 cents for every dollar that married males earn.

Think of what women could by if the wage gap were eliminated:

  • 62 more weeks of food;
  • four more months of mortgage and utility payments;
  • seven more months of rent;
  • 25 more months of family health insurance premiums; or
  • 1,914 additional gallons of gas.

Occupations dominated by men pay more, and then within occupations, men are paid more. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research analysis reviewing the gender wage gap in the 20 most common occupations for men and women shows “women have lower median earnings than men in all but one of the 20 most common occupations for women, ‘bookkeeping and auditing clerks,’ where women and men have the same median earnings.” Women doctors earn 63 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts while female attorneys take home 78 cents for every dollar earned by male attorneys.

More than 40 percent of the wage gap cannot be explained by occupation, work experience, race, or union membership. More than one-quarter of the wage gap is due to the different jobs that men and women hold, and about 10 percent is due to the fact that women are more likely to leave the workforce to provide unpaid care to family members. But even when controlling for gender and racial differences, 41 percent is “unexplainable by measureable factors.” Even if women and men have the same background, the wage gap still exists, highlighting the fact that part of the discrepancy can be attributed to gender-based pay discrimination.

The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap, released by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), identifies state-by-state pay rankings. The wage gap is narrowest in the nation’s capital, where women have the best earnings ratio–91 cents, on average, for every dollar earned by their male counterparts. The worst earnings ratio is in Wyoming, where women make 64 percent of men’s earnings. White and Asian women earn, respectively, 82 percent and 88 percent of white men’s earnings; African American and Hispanic women earn much less, just 70 percent and 61 percent of what white men earn, on average. Age also makes a difference: for working women between the ages of 25 to 29, the annual wage gap is $1,702 while in the last five years before retirement the annual wage gap jumps to $14,352.

To close this gender pay gap, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is co-sponsoring the Paycheck Fairness Act which earlier failed in 2010. To update the ineffective Equal Pay Act of 1963, the new act prohibits retaliation for disclosure of compensation data from private sector employers while mandating that this information be available to employees. Those who fight this legislation fail to see that equal pay is also key to economic growth. Estimates show that the U.S. GDP would grow by up to 9 percent if women were given equal pay. These men also fail to realize that they would benefit if their female spouses were to earn equal salaries.

With conservatives currently controlling legislation, it’s highly unlikely that the Paycheck Fairness Act will make much progress this election year. Former Michigan Rep. Pete Hoekstra, again running for Congress, is an example of narrow view these people hold. He would like eliminate the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay act because it’s “hurting business.” About the existing law, he said, That thing is a nuisance. It shouldn’t be the law.” Michigan is next door to Wisconsin where Gov. Scott Walker just signed into law a bill that removes the state equal pay requirement

During tonight’s interview of Mitt Romney by ABC’s Diane Sawyer, the Republican presidential candidate refuses to say whether he would have signed the Lilly Ledbetter Act which clarifies that the 180 day statute of limitations for filing a pay discrimination suit begins again with each new paycheck that contains the unfair pay. Romney claims that he doesn’t want to address prior laws, a very strange comment from the man who declares that he would have vetoed—and will work to repeal—several other laws including the Affordable Care Act and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law.

Romney is walking a very narrow line with during the next six-plus months. Almost 60 percent of women over the age of 16—66 million women—work, and we might assume that most of them think that they should earn equal pay for an equal job.

As ridiculous as equal pay for men and women may sound at this time, we cannot forget that women fought for the vote for 72 years. Despite the “war on women” that Republicans have declared, women can fight back—if not for themselves, then for their daughters and granddaughters and great-granddaughters.

April 16, 2012

Tax Day, Tax Debate

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:27 PM
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Taxes are due tomorrow after a two-day reprieve, one because April 15 was on a Sunday and the other because Washington, D.C. commemorates Emancipation Day on April 16. Today saw a vote against moving forward to debate the ”Buffett Rule,” President Obama’s proposal for guaranteeing that millionaires pay a minimum federal income tax of 30 percent. The Senate vote was 51 yes and 45 no, which means failure in today’s Senate because the new majority for passing anything is 60 votes. The Republicans seem to be ignoring the voters’ poll about passing the  Buffett Rule: 72 percent in favor and 27 percent opposed.

Almost-anointed Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, also made news today when he was taped at a private fund raiser giving his suggestions about tax reform to solve the debt crisis: eliminate or limit the mortgage interest deduction for second homes as well as those deductions for the state income tax and property tax deductions. He would also cut budgets  within the Department of Education and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. It’s a double whammy: keep the poor ignorant and homeless.

Romney has thus far presented two tax plans. The first one proposed $6.6 trillion (yes, that’s a “t”) in tax cuts, giving each of the Koch brothers $8.7 billion from just one part of his plan. Romney’s own taxes—at the 13.9 percent level on his $21 million-dollar earnings—would be cut almost in half. These “cuts” would raise—yes, raise—taxes on nearly half the middle-class families with children. But that’s just the first one.

His second plan cuts taxes for the wealthy another 20 percent on top of Bush’s tax cuts averaging $264,000 to each one of the wealthiest 0.1 percent. But the poorest 20 percent of people in the United States would have their taxes raised because, you know, everyone has to have some skin in this game. With its goal of decreasing the deficit, Romney’s plan would add $10 trillion to the nation’s debt while ending Medicare, slashing Social Security, and cutting everything else except defense, the same department that lost $6.6 billion in cash that it sent by plane to Iraq.

It’s understandable that Romney would want to reduce taxes for himself. One of his campaign officials complained to the Wall Street Journal about the tax burden on Romney’s retirement account of $100 million, as compared to the average working person who has $144,000 in a 401k account. Romney’s “problem” is that he would have to pay regular income rates on the money when he withdraws it instead of the 15 percent he is allowed now. His solution for his personal tax problem is to raise the taxes for everyone but the wealthy.

As for the 13.9 percent he paid last year, no one but Romney and his accountants know how little he has paid in taxes before then because he has released only two years and has requested a six-month extension for this year’s filing. He has also state that he will definitely not release any more tax reports. President Obama has already completed this year’s taxes, paying 20.5 percent last year for his $789,674 income in addition to releasing the past 12 years of his tax returns.

With all the conservatives screaming about taxes being too high, a comparison of 50 years ago is in order. In 1955, the country’s 400 wealthiest taxpayers had an average income of $13.3 million (in 2008 dollars) and paid 51.2 percent of that in federal income taxes. In 2008, according to IRS calculations, they had an average income of $270.5 million and paid 18 percent of that in federal income taxes. Going back only 20 years, only 33 of the same top 400 paid less than 20 percent of their income in taxes; in 2008, 253, more half, paid less than 20 percent of their income. As a result of the wealthy paying so little in taxes and the rest of the people in the United States having stagnant wages for decades, the government can’t even afford to fix lethal bridges or repair roads. Certainly we can’t educate people.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has presented his personal revisionist history to justify destroying the country: “Americans were known and admired everywhere for their hopeful determination to assume responsibility for the quality of their own lives; to rely on their own work and initiative. . . . But over time, Americans have been lured into viewing government . . . as their main source of support; they have been drawn toward depending on the public sector for growing shares of their material and personal well-being. The trend drains individual initiative and personal responsibility.” That’s Ryan’s description of reducing taxes from 51.2 percent to 18 percent.

Another Republican idea to save corporations money is the tax holiday, allowing them to bring money stashed illegally in other countries back to the United States totally tax-free. After a tax holiday in 2004 for these so-called “job creators,” many of the largest companies cut tens of thousands of jobs over the subsequent two years. A few companies that actually used the money for domestic investment, like Dell, spent their windfall on projects that they knew they would undertake without a tax break. Overall, corporations used 92 percent of the money they brought back under the tax holiday to enrich their executives and buy back their own shares, not to invest in job creation.

Corporations and the wealthy should be appreciative for decreased state taxes that have gutted public services. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a tax on New Jersey millionaires which would have generated $500 million mostly for public schools but raised taxes on the working poor by cutting about $45 million from the Earned Income Tax Credit. He also shredded the budget for police protection, health care safety, and college tuition grants while setting aside $640 million in surplus. Michigan cut business taxes by well over $1 billion dollars while raising taxes on the working poor by reducing the Earned Income Tax Credit by 70 percent. Ohio Gov. John Kasich eliminated the estate tax so that he could cut about $630 million in aid to local government, $700 million from public schools, and $340 million from nursing home. Kasich also campaigned to repeal Ohio’s personal income tax while Florida Gov. Rick Scott and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley repealed corporate taxes.

Republicans like to talk about the myth that half the population doesn’t pay taxes. First, they are referring to people who don’t pay federal income taxes but pay other taxes. Second, they are referring to senior citizens, students, disabled, and unemployed. Only 20 percent of all taxes are federal income taxes. If one adds up all the taxes  for people making $20,000 a year, they pay  the same rate as people making $500,000, give or take 5 percent. The difference between these two groups is that the top earners have seen their tax rate decline almost 50 percent in the last 30 years while the bottom earners pay a slightly higher percentage. Because of tax loopholes, corporations now pay 8.9 percent of federal revenue, dropping from 27.3 percent over 50 years ago.

In addition, Republicans should note that extremely low-income people owe no federal income tax because of the earned-income tax credit introduced by Republican President Gerald Ford and expanded by Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) said, “Not all tax relief is created equal.” Rep. David Camp (R-MI) said that that tax reductions, “no matter how well-intended,” will push the deficit higher. A spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said the legislator “has never believed that this type of temporary tax relief is the best way to grow the economy.” These are the arguments to raise taxes for the poor and the middle-class. Their statements are forgotten, however, when they vote for reducing taxes for the wealthy.

In 2000 the government had a budget surplus. Bush spent trillions of dollars on new tax cuts, two wars, and a new drug program making the deficit on track to top $1 trillion the year that Obama took office. Now Republicans want to take more money from the poor and middle-class while giving to the rich.

Even Republicans can’t stomach Romney’s and Ryan’s proposals. David Frum, former economic speechwriter for George W. Bush, recently wrote: “Rather than workable solutions, my party is offering low taxes for the currently rich and high spending for the currently old, to be followed by who-knows-what and who-the-hell-cares. This isn’t conservatism; it’s a going-out-of-business sale for the baby-boom generation.”

April 15, 2012

Republicans’ War on Caterpillars

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 2:29 PM
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Reince Priebus, chair of the Republican National Committee, is prescient! In complaining about the Republicans being accused of declaring a war on women (they have!), Priebus said, “If the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars and every mainstream media outlet talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we’d have problems with caterpillars.” And now the Republicans have a problem with caterpillars in Florida. Priebus is a mind reader!

The Florida Legislature became the first legislature in the former Confederate states to be under Republican control when the GOP took over the House and Senate in 1996. It’s stayed that way for the past seven elections. Although the U.S. senators are split 50/50 between Republican and Democrat (one of each), 80 percent of the members of the U.S. House of Representatives are Republicans. The governor, lieutenant-governor, and attorney general are also Republicans. So if Florida has a problem with caterpillars, it’s a Republican problem.

After a mild winter, warm weather is bringing out stinging caterpillars in southern Florida. Last year, the Florida Poison Information Center received 227 calls about stings because of the tremendous pain it causes. “It’s a very painful sting,” Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein, the center’s medical director, said. “We even see people pass out from the pain. We don’t see any deaths from it, but it is very painful, judging by the number of people that just are out-of-control hysterical when they call.” Michael Stanwyck, stung six times, described the feeling as a “bee sting times a hundred.” He said, “It’s like somebody lit you on fire.”

According to the University of Florida, these caterpillars sting through their spines that are connected to poison glands. Severe reactions, especially for people with asthma or allergies, may need medical attention. People encountering these ferocious beings should put Scotch tape over the stung area and keep stripping it off to remove spines. (Ouch!) Ice packs could help reduce the pain as might applying a paste of baking soda and water.

Those who want to declare war on caterpillars need to check out the four major enemies: the saddleback caterpillar, the puss caterpillar, the io caterpillar, and the hag caterpillar. And Mr. Priebus, that’s no fiction! This is war!

April 14, 2012

Romney ‘Mostly False’ – PolitiFact

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 4:50 PM
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Some 3.4 million men and 1.8 million women have lost jobs since the recession started in 2007. , according to the government. That’s why economists called it a “man-cession.” Mitt Romney, however, has figured out a way to blame President Obama for women’s lost jobs for women, accusing Obama of “turning the clock back 20 years on American women.” Over a week ago, Romney began campaigning with his claim that “92.3 percent of all the jobs lost during the Obama years have been lost by women.”

What’s wrong with this picture—other than the fact that the economy is struggling to survive with conservative policies from Romney’s party?

First, Romney’s statistics start 20 days before Obama took office, on January 1, 2009. George W. Bush’s policies were still in effect at that time and stayed there even after Obama took over. Changing the direction of a country is like trying to turn around a battleship: it takes a great deal of time and room. Combine that with the fact that conservatives consistently clogged up the fuel lines of the battleship, and the battleship of the nation turned even more slowly.

Second, Romney could have looked at the employment situation differently, except these statistics would have hurt him. Two years ago, the unemployment rate was 10.1 percent for men and 8 percent for women. Those figures have evened out, with men at 8.3 percent and woman at 8.1 percent. According to an Institute for Women’s Policy Research analysis of the January employment report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women’s employment now appears to be rising. The past three months saw equal job growth for men and women (206,000 for each). Overall, the percentages of employed men and women are just about equal to when Obama took office: in January 2009, 49.5 percent of jobs in the U.S. were held by women compared to 49.3 percent now.

Third, men historically lose their jobs in massive numbers at the beginning of recessions, followed by women a year or two later. The reason is that male-dominated construction and manufacturing jobs are the first to go; once these jobs disappear, the public sector jobs such as teaching vanish, jobs largely held by women. Women represented 57.2 percent of the public workforce at the end of the recession but lost 79 percent of the 573,000 jobs cut in this sector between June 2009 and March 2012.

The number of lost women’s jobs accelerated after the Republican sweep during the 2010 elections when they gained control of both legislative branches in 11 states. Instead of working on improving the economy, conservatives in those 11 states cut state and local public workforces by 87,900 while focusing on destroying women’s rights, breaking unions, and limiting the number of voters in the states. Texas added another loss of 67,900 public sector jobs. While cutting jobs, they also cut corporate and high-income earner taxes, creating more problems with their economies.

Fourth, data indicates that women are more selective about the kinds of jobs they take. During a poor job market, they are more likely than men to go back to school, investing in their skills instead of settling for a dead-end job.

As PolitFact said, Romney’s percentage is useless because he used raw data to show how many jobs women had lost as compared to men. From March 2009 through March 2012, the net gain in jobs was 783,000 while women lost 221,000 jobs. Men, however, had lost two-thirds of the 11 million fewer jobs during the first two years of the recession. By 2009, men were getting jobs back, and women were losing theirs because of draconian government measures, only made worse after the 2010 election. Mitt Romney, look in a mirror! Republican policies are causing women to lose our jobs. And you know, women care about the economy.

April 13, 2012

Women Still under Attack–Unlike Caterpillars

Iowa parents (translate mostly women) who receive child support would be forced to have drug tests every six months if state Sen. Mark Chelgren got his way. Democrats openly laughed at him yesterday while Sen. Jack Hatch said that Chelgren’s proposed amendment is anti-woman and can be unfairly used by vindictive spouses. (No mention of unconstitutional.) Chelgren withdrew his proposal, but another Chelgren idea, that of drug-testing welfare recipients, was debated today. That’s the latest Republican salvo in the war on women that Republicans claim doesn’t exist.

David Weigel’s Slate article describes the birth and recent death of the war during the past year, but he’s evidently not following the media. If anything, the war geared up after Hilary Rosen’s statement about Ann Romney that she “had never worked a day in her life.” Despite Rosen’s apology that she meant that Romney had not worked outside her home while she raised five children, everyone from President Obama on down to Rosen herself criticized this statement.

Even the Catholic League got into the fray when its director, Bill Donohue, tweeted, “Lesbian Dem Hilary Rosen tells Ann Romney she never worked a day in her life. Unlike Rosen, who had to adopt kids, Ann raised 5 of her own.” There has been little negative reaction to Donohue about his putdown of adoptions–and lesbians. Meanwhile some Republicans are crowing that they just won the war on women. The idea is so absurd that some Republican pundits are supporting Rosen.

Romney the candidate is obviously so worried about the voting gender gap that he skewed statistics, saying that women have lost 92.3 percent of the jobs since January 1. His position  is so off target that it will take an entire blog to explain. Suffice it to say, he had to use a date 20 days before Obama took office because using his method beginning with Obama’s inauguration would mean that women lost 300% of the jobs, a statistical impossibility. (More about that in the next few days.)

Women know about the war on their freedoms: forced invasive ultrasounds,  inability to achieve equal pay, and other issues. Nancy Carter and Christine Silva wrote a three-part series for the Washington Post to show how the myths about women are bogus. For example, women ask for raises and promotions, but they don’t get as much in return. The gender gap in level and pay got even wider between men and women as their careers progressed. People take a much tougher position against women in negotiations, for example in selling cars, than against men.

Ryan’s budget that passed the House targets women and their families by gutting programs that help children get nutrition and education. The devastating cuts to SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, mostly affects women, children, disabled, and elderly while it boosts the economy. Budget cuts to Medicaid also hits low-income and middle-class women and families supporting the elderly. Ryan and his cronies would leave poor women to fend for themselves.

Issues keep rising to show this war—and not on caterpillars. This past week, Herman Cain, former Republican presidential candidate, explained why President Obama is over 20 points ahead of women in a recent poll: men are more familiar with policy and women know just about Obama’s family. Answer: men are much smarter than women, so Romney is losing between the two genders because women are dumber.

In Virginia, William Howell, past ALEC board chair and current Speaker of the state’s House of Delegates, was asked about the amount of money that Virginia taxpayers spend to send legislators to ALEC conferences, a place where they find conservative bills that they can take back home and force on the state’s residents. When he questioned the accuracy of a report from Anna Scholl, executive director of ProgressVA, about the expenditures and the 50 plus bills in the Virginia Legislature, including one that called for shutting down companies that hire illegal immigrants and another that would allow people to use deadly force to protect their homes, he said, “I guess I’m not speaking in little enough words for you to understand.” Howell apologized to Scholl after a video of the exchange went across the Internet and onto The Rachel Maddow Show.

Yesterday Arizona governor Jan Brewer signed a bill prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks. Although this new law sounds like those in several other states, it technically prevents abortions after 18 weeks because it calculates the fetus’s age from the pregnant woman’s last menstrual period. Republican males suffer greatly from an understanding of women’s reproductive functioning; they fail to understand that ovulation (Republicans, that’s when there’s a chance for pregnancy if the sperm hits the egg) occurs two weeks after menstruation. As always with Republicans, Brewer added a statement about protecting the health of women.

The new Arizona law also moves the mandatory ultrasound to 24 hours before the abortion instead of one hour. In addition, both Arizona and Kansas are passing bills that allow doctors to legally lie to pregnant women about any health issues in the fetus or pregnant woman.

Less than two weeks ago, Georgia also passed a 20-week abortion limit. In a classic statement, state Rep. Terry England compared pregnant women carrying stillborn fetuses to the cows and pigs on his farm. According to England, if farmers have to “deliver calves, dead or alive,” then a woman carrying a dead fetus, or one not expected to survive, should have to carry it to term. Illinois agrees that women are cattle. The bill that required asking women if they want to see an image of the fetus went through the House Agriculture Committee.

Last fall Heritage Christian Academy in Texas fired 29-year-old Cathy Samford, a teacher and coach, when she asked for a short leave. She and her fiancé had planned to marry a few weeks earlier, but the wedding was delayed. Samford, with two other young children, lost her health insurance. The headmaster said she was fired because of her “behavior out of wedlock” as well as her “being an unmarried mother.” Samford filed a charge of gender and pregnancy discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and is suing the school.

An appeals court in Atlanta is currently hearing the case of fourth-grade teacher Jarretta Hamilton, fired after the principal at her non-denominational Christian school found out that she was pregnant before getting married. Catholic school teacher Christa Dias was fired in 2010 by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati after it learned that she had used artificial insemination to conceive; her case is still in court.

Romney has a record of warring on women. He pledged to repeal funding for Planned Parenthood or repeal title X which provides important health services for poor women. When he was a Bishop in the Mormon Church, he went to a congregant’s hospital room and told a young single mother who had just given birth that she was shaming the church and should give her baby away. When Romney ran Bain Capital, less than 10% of the senior workforce were women. The reason, he said in his 1994 Senate race, was that he had trouble finding qualified women to be executives.

Two days ago, when Sam Stein of the Huffington Post asked a Romney campaign aide if the candidate supported the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a six-second pause was followed by the answer that he would get back to Stein.   The final answer was that Romney wouldn’t try to repeal it. That’s questionable because Romney’s four favorite Supreme Court judges, models for those he would select, all voted against the case that led to Congress passing the act, the first one that Obama signed. Romney also strongly supports Wisconsin governor Scott Walker who just signed the repeal of that state’s equal pay law.

How did Congressional Republicans feel about the Ledbetter Act? Only three House Republicans and five Senators voted for the act: one, Arlen Specter, changed to the Democratic Party; another, Lisa Murkowski, was teabagged by her own party in 2010; and a third, Olympia Snowe, just quit because of her party’s attack on women.

To put some of the war on women into perspective, Alyssa Rosenbert put together A Pop Culture Guide to Surviving the War on Women, “ten pieces of pop culture that will make you laugh, think, and keep you in the fight for women’s rights at a time when the war on women makes America seem more like The Handmaid’s Tale than a modern country.” She highlights satire and science fiction to show the insanity of what’s happening in the 21st century regarding women’s reproductive rights.

Sometimes black humor helps. I laughed out loud this morning when I read Ruth Marcus’ column about Romney’s attempt to have his wife solve his “women problem.” Here are some excerpts:

“Romney, asked last week about the gender gap, twice said he wished his wife could take the question. ‘My wife has the occasion, as you know, to campaign on her own and also with me,’ Romney told newspaper editors, ‘and she reports to me regularly that the issue women care about most is the economy.’ Note to candidate: Women aren’t a foreign country. You don’t need an interpreter to talk to them. Even if you’re not fluent in their language, they might appreciate if you gave it a try.

“On the campaign trail with her husband, Ann often talks about the old days when she would be at home dealing with her rambunctious brood and Mitt would call from the road. ‘His consoling words were always the same: Ann, your job is more important than mine.’ This story is supposed to buttress Mitt’s bona fides as supportive husband, and Ann is, no doubt, a more tolerant spouse than I am. But every time I hear that patronizing line, I imagine responding, ‘Great. If my job is more important, then you come home and do it and I’ll check into the nice room at the Four Seasons.’

Will we women continue to put up with the Republicans’ arrogant, controlling attitude toward us? Maybe we should incorporate our uteruses so that they have the same rights as corporations!

April 12, 2012

Santorum Leaves a Pink Bowling Ball

Whenever I went on a vacation for a couple of decades, it seemed someone important to the future of the world resigned—like Supreme Court justices—or died–like some legislators, who were disappeared from this earth under suspicious circumstances. The same thing happened earlier this week. I was gone for only two days, and Rick Santorum “suspended” his campaign. And just when I was ready to put together more of his outrageous statements!

I can’t resist one last story. Less than two weeks before his family values speech about how he’s leaving the campaign for his family, showing what a good husband and father he is, Santorum had some fatherly advice for a college student at a Lacrosse (WI) bowling alley. When the young man reached for a pink bowling ball, Santorum said, “You’re not gonna use the pink ball. We’re not gonna let you do that. Not on camera.” Not satisfied with what he had already said, he continued, “Friends don’t let friends use pink balls.” Thus the man obsessed by bullies, calling Mitt Romney a “bully” and unions “bullies” and accusing New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny of trying to “bully” him, shows his bullying nature, just like a school kid, who thinks that pink is only a female or gay color.

Although Santorum has to join the one big happy family of Republican life, his stories about Romney will follow him. Santorum has continually called the presumptive Republican presidential candidate a liar and an ultimate flip-flopper. He also told his adoring crowds that they might as well re-elect Obama as vote for Romney and finished that statement off by saying that Romney is the worst Republican in the country. Approached by Zeleny about that claim, Santorum lost his temper and shouted an expletive at Zeleny.

Santorum also sneered at Romney for being a “Wall Street financier.” This claim will be hard for Romney to live down because his super PAC, Restore Our Future, gets over half its money from the financial industry, $20.5 million out of the $43.2 million thus far raised. Newt Gingrich got $16 million from Sheldon Adelson; now the candidate is broke. Santorum got only $1.7 from Wyoming investor who now promises to pass his money along to Romney but managed another $5 million from other donors to his super PAC. Adelson has hinted that his money will go to Romney if Gingrich ever gets around to quitting.

One of Santorum’s claims might get Romney some votes from independents. “He created the blueprint for Obamacare and advocated for exactly what Obamacare is, which is a mandated health insurance program…it is exactly the Massachusetts health care plan. …He is uniquely disqualified.” Those who like the Affordable Care Act would disagree.

The one statement that will stick to Romney throughout his campaign, coming from one of his aides but widely repeated by Santorum, is the “Etch-a-Sketch Candidate.” Santorum said, “Governor Romney, after he wins the primaries, will be like an [Etch A Sketch]–you take whatever he said and you can shake it up and it will be gone, and he’s going to draw a whole new picture for the general election.”

In his 1919 essay “Hamlet and His Problems,” T.S. Eliot suggested that using a concrete thing to represent an abstract idea would cement the concept in the brain, like stereotypes that relieve people of the need to think. Hearing the term “etch a sketch” automatically brings up the image of Romney wiping out all his past statements and coming up with new, probably very different, policies. Too, the excessive comparison of  broccoli to health care, even by Supreme Court Justices, creates an equity between these two in many people’s minds, allowing them to negate the importance of health care.  The GOP tried to do the same thing with women and caterpillars, but that attempt seems to have backfired.

Ironically, Santorum’s legacy—in addition to the disgusting definition for his name acquired after he compared homosexuality to bestiality—may be the pink bowling ball. Whether he believes that the color pink is associated with being gay or being female doesn’t matter. What matters is that his rigidity in color choice for men shows his sense of superiority to both these groups. [Note: sportswear might capitalize on the “pink” concept!]

Beyond choosing the “right” color for a bowling ball, however, is evangelicals’ decision regarding their votes for U.S. president in 2012. Will they settle for the fake Santorum, or will they just let Obama win, waiting for Santorum to run again in 2016? After all, he left the door open for this choice.

April 9, 2012

Women Aren’t Caterpillars

The war continues. Mitt Romney keeps saying that women are interested in the economy. Finally I agree with him. But he, like all other Republican conservatives, try to separate the economy from their legislation against women in the economy.

The most recent example is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signing the bill that rolls back the state Equal Pay Law that offered protection from discrimination based on race, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, etc.—and gender. Glenn Grothman, co-sponsor of the bill, thinks that women don’t need money the way that men do. “You could argue that money is more important for men. I think a guy in their first job, maybe because they expect to be a breadwinner someday, may be a little more money-conscious.” He’s overlooked the fact that 40 percent of women voters aren’t married.

Male conservative legislators opposing providing birth control for women use that key word “dependency,” a handy-dandy term showing how bad the safety net is. According to Michael Steele, former RNC chairman, government should not support women because then it would take over the role of husband and father. (Yes, I’m still shaking my head over that argument. Read it for yourself!) This follows Sen. Jim DeMint’s claim that the president wants to make people more dependent so that they will vote Democratic. According to Santorum and Steele, men who don’t have women dependent on them won’t be responsible to their children, their wives, and even themselves.

Mitt Romney has said “the issue that women care most about is the economy. They’re concerned about high gasoline prices, the cost of getting to and from work.” Romney doesn’t understand that women without birth control may not have jobs because they will be pregnant and then responsible for babies. The same with getting an education, useful in raising their wages and improving the economy. Women are also worried about whether they can live on their wages, even more of a problem if Republicans pass laws allowing men to be paid more than women.

Republicans have always had trouble getting women to vote for them; their recent actions are making this worse. Last week’s USA Today/Gallup Poll of voters in 12 swing states showed President Obama leading women by 18 percentage points—up 20 points from a month ago.

Both political parties hope that their sins will be forgotten by Election Day so that they can persuade voters with a fresh slate. The Republicans keep repeating their anti-women legislation. Last year, the first three votes of the triumphant Tea Party swarm in Congress were anti-abortion. This year, they continued to arguing about whether birth control should be covered as health care, a discussion that they consider more important than the eminent demise of the transportation authorization bill. Most women have noted Rick Santorum’s complaint that birth control allows lifestyles that are not “how things are supposed to be.” Of course, there’s also the infamous House committee panel on birth control with only men. Women are also concerned because of the Republicans’ determination to defund Planned Parenthood.

Where in the nation are women the worst off? In the states where they lack affordable hgher education, reproductive health care, and representation in Congress. And by coincidence in the South. Approximately 20 percent of women live in poverty in Mississippi, Oklahoma, Arkansas, West Virginia, and Kentucky. West Virginia is the only state in the nation that doesn’t give women the right to breast-feed in either public or private places. The state also joins Arkansas in having a median income under $30,000. One-fourth of the population in both Arkansas and Oklahoma lack health insurance.

Missouri is following Arizona’s lead with its bill that permits employees to deny insurance coverage for birth control pills unless employees prove that the pills are used for a “medical need.” The Missouri House passed a bill permitting health care workers from participating in anything that conflicts with their conscience.

National Review columnist John Derbyshire has a new book, The Case Against Women’s Suffrage, that declares the United States would be a better country if women could not vote. It’s  “bad for conservatism” and therefore “bad for society.” Countries that rank the highest in the World Economic Forum’s gender gap index (aka the most gender equality) tend to also rank the highest on the U.N.’s Human Development Index. Possibly conservativism and gender inequality is “bad for society.”

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus has tried to diffuse the Republican problem with women by pointing out that the war on women is as mythical as a war on caterpillars. As David Sarasohn pointed out today in his column in The Oregonian, “In most states, caterpillars don’t vote.” Women comprise over half the number of people in the United States, and they vote at a higher rate than men do.

While male Republicans claim there is no war on women, that it’s all about religious freedom, female Republicans know this is a war on women’s rights. If high-profile Republican women such as Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) are angry at their party for attacking women, it stands to reason that conservative women across the nation are also angry. President Obama said that women are not a special interest group. Women are half of the American population, and any party that attacks them risks political extinction.

April 8, 2012

Freedom from Religion on Easter

Since the Republican conservatives have taken over the word “Christian,” even accusing President Obama of not being the “right kind” of Christian, the word has become increasingly loaded. Today is Easter, one of the two days that many Christians show up in their place of worship. The question is how they define themselves.

I live in the area of the Northwest near the city made famous by Portlandia. There are many things to appreciate about my adopted state, but last week a sign on a Portland church added one reason. “God Prefers Kind Atheists over Hateful Christians” claims the sign outside the Rose City United Methodist Church affiliated with the Reconciling Ministries Network, dedicated to including people of all sexual identities.

Pastor Tom Tate reports that positive comments about the sign have outnumbered the negative ones about 30-40 to one in an amazing reaction from people across the country. Even Glenn Beck’s poll on his conservative website, The Blaze,  shows a positive attitude toward the message with more than 69 percent of the respondents agreeing with Tate’s statement compared to the 22 percent who disagree.

This response is encouraging when we consider how many people want to deny that the Constitution ensures separation of church of state. The most frightening of the populace are those who believe that the First Amendment states that the U.S. government cannot control religion but religion can control government. This belief has resulted in a growing loss of rights because elected officials follow the pieces of the Bible that appeal to them, and they have done this since the Puritans came to the country wanting the opportunity to practice their religion. The first thing they did upon arrival was to block anyone else’s beliefs.

A classic example of religious bigotry is when Roger Williams, a Puritan minister, was banned from the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1636. His greatest sin was the belief in separation of church and state, a sin so severe that he was forced to flee his home alone and on foot in the middle of a winter’s blizzard. After help from the Native Americans, Williams settled Providence (RI). Because the town’s compact said nothing about God, Massachusetts claimed jurisdiction over Rhode Island and seized the town of Warwick by force of arms after its soldiers marched through Providence.

In his negotiations with England to save Rhode Island, Williams pointed out the hypocrisy of the people in Massachusetts, that they had left England to escape having to conform and then fought to suppress anyone who disagreed. According to Williams, mixing church and state corrupts the church, that when one mixes religion and politics, one gets politics. After years of negotiation, the English Parliament granted Williams a charter to Rhode Island that authorized a democracy, a civil government unhampered by religion.

After the Revolutionary War, our country continued its religious bigotry. Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon faith, was killed by a mob who considered him to be the devil. People in many parts of the country today still think of the Mormon Church as a cult. New York Gov. Even Rick Santorum insinuated that Mormonism was a cult in a 2007 speech.

Al Smith was accused of taking orders from the Pope instead of following his oath of office if he were elected to president in 1928 and lost in a landslide to Herbert Hoover.

Another Catholic, Rick Santorum, plays the evangelical card in pushing his religious beliefs whenever he speaks. Yet over one-third of evangelicals don’t know that he is Catholic. Even 42 percent of Catholics don’t know Santorum’s religion. Perhaps that’s why he keeps losing in the polls—plus only 10 percent of likely voters are evangelicals. They just make a lot more noise than the rest of us, trying to create a theocracy—a return to Puritan New England.

Despite the attempts to force religious belief on the people of the United States, the number of non-religious people has doubled during the past quarter century while the people with a strong belief in religion has dropped by 25 percent. In her surveys of young adults, Monica R. Miller, a post-graduate fellow at Lewis & Clark, has found a pushback against traditional language. “’Religion’ is bound by institutional context. For youth, religion is only done in institutions of faith, and for them, that’s a problem.”

The young people may be on the right track. Atheists have lower divorce rates than those who claim a religion. The least religious countries (such as the Scandinavian countries) often have the lowest levels of crime and corruption, the best educational systems, the strongest economies, free healthcare for all, and other indicators of concern for the common good.

Today, on Easter, may we find a resurgence in the hope that people in this country will be freed of religious tyranny, the dogma that is creating laws across the country. And may the evangelicals do some research on how this country was founded, both freedom of and freedom from religion for all.

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