Nel's New Day

September 27, 2012

Bad News for Romney

Things are not going well for Mitt Romney these days when even a Fox poll puts him below Barack Obama. Today’s news will create even more problems for Romney. He’s spent months talking about how many jobs the president have lost since he came into office. Today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said that it had probably under counted the number of jobs created during the year following April 2012 by 20 percent. This means that the economy added 386,000 jobs during that time that were not counted in addition to the 1.94 million jobs that were created during that same time.

Even counting the early 2009 job losses left over from George W. Bush, the total shows that President Obama managed positive jobs creation during his first terms. It also means that more jobs were created during the president’s first term than in George W. Bush’s first term, and Bush didn’t suffer from a severe recession. When the equation factors in the fact that President Obama lost the same number of public sector jobs that Bush added, the end result is far better private sector job gain under the current president than the previous one. Bush ended both his first and second terms in the hole in terms of private sector job creation.

It’s not the first bad day that Romney has had lately. A week ago, his own party caused him problems, including his VP pick:

In an interview with a Nevada news show, Paul Ryan said, “[Romney] was obviously inarticulate in making this point.” Oops!

GOP New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez rejected Romney’s comments about ignoring the 47 percent of people who are poor when she said, “We have a lot of people that are at the poverty level in New Mexico, but they count just as much as anybody else. I think, certainly the fact that New Mexico provides that safety net is a good thing.”

Conservative Wall Street Journal Peggy Noonan called for an intervention, explaining: “This is not how big leaders talk, it’s how shallow campaign operatives talk: They slice and dice the electorate like that, they see everything as determined by this interest or that. You know what Romney sounded like? Like a kid new to politics who thinks he got the inside lowdown on how it works from some operative. But those old operatives, they never know how it works.”

GOP Candidate Linda McMahon wrote on her Facebook page, “I disagree with Governor Romney’s insinuation that 47% of Americans believe they are victims who must depend on the government for their care. I know that the vast majority of those who rely on government are not in that situation because they want to be.”

Ann Romney is still defending her man. On an interview with a Fox affiliate, she said, “[As a woman], I want to know what motivates the person that I would be voting for, and I would say what motivates Mitt is that he cares. This is a guy that obviously doesn’t need to do this for a job.”

Mark Meadows, Republican candidate for a North Carolina House seat, is an example of candidates separating themselves from the GOP presidential candidate. “It might come as a surprise, but Mitt Romney didn’t call me before he made those comments and ask for my advice. I’m concerned about all 750,000 people.”

According to NBC, voters are more optimistic about the economy: “forty-two percent of voters also believe the economy will improve in the next 12 months, which is a 6-point jump from August, and a 15-point rise from July.”

On The David Letterman Show, President Obama said, “My expectation is that if you’re president, you’ve got to work for everyone, not just some.”

In another piece of good news, Florida has finally found a case for voter fraud—from a company that the Republican National Committee hired. Nathan Sproul, head of Strategic Allied Consulting, has a history of suppressing Democratic voter turnout by throwing away registration forms. He was caught this time when one of his employees dropped off fraudulent registration forms, some of them for people who have died. After Republicans accused ACORN of fraudulent registration, they are hiring a company that engages in this fraudulent behavior. The RNC has paid Sproul and his company $2.9 million; Strategic Allied Consulting has hired 4,000 to 5,000 people, with 2,000 of them in Florida.

More people may be able to vote in Wisconsin than the Republicans want. The state Supreme Court has struck down the attorney general’s request to take up two voter ID cases that found the requirement unconstitutional. J.B. Van Hollen had hoped to have the voter suppression law re-instated by the November elections, but that now appears to be out of the question.

U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled against six lobbyists who sued over the Obama Administration’s new rules on corporate lobbyists on advisory committees that prevent registered lobbyists from serving on industry trade advisory committees which advise the Commerce Department or U.S. Trade Representative. The purpose of the rules is to reduce corporate or foreign influence over commerce and trade decisions, an issue which has become rampant over the past few decades as our manufacturing and trade strength has eroded.

It all gives me hope.

September 10, 2012

Congress Returns–Briefly

The conventions are history, and Congress returns from its five-week vacation to go back into session today, at least for a few days. With almost 500 federal lawmakers up for re-election in 56 days, they’ll be gone in October to campaign, but they may disappear for part of September too.

Well-known for their procrastination and lack of commitment, Republicans need to get cracking on their six-month stopgap spending bill to keep the government functioning. House plans are to start today with a vote by Thursday. They can waste more time by discussing this again in another six months.

Federal farm programs are also due to expire on September 30, 2012, unless Congress does something about renewing them. The spending bill could include this extension, but food stamps are part of farm bill which might cause another stalemate. The Senate passed a five-year agriculture program last June, but as usual the House Republicans are dragging their collective feet especially with the disagreement about how much to cut from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Republicans may also let the farm bill expire so that they can blame the Democrats—as they do for everything—hoping to get more votes from farm states like Iowa.

Everyone might be better off if Congress does nothing about the farm bill. With no formal extension, food stamp and other nutrition programs continue, and most farmers will not be affected because the current farm bill covers 2012 crops no matter when they are harvested.

At the end of the week, the House Republicans will waste more time with a promised vote on the “No More Solyndras Act” bill which eliminates loan guarantees for solar and wind energy companies. The Senate probably won’t vote on it, but the House Republicans can look as if they’re doing something.

Meanwhile, the Senate may vote tomorrow about whether to debate a bill from Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) to get jobs for veterans. It includes a veterans jobs corps to employ veterans as firefighters and police officers and in fields of conservation, recreation, and resource management projects on public lands. Republicans will push for an open amendment process for this bill to add everything including tax cuts. If they don’t get to do this, they may sulk and filibuster.

Some economists have warned of a recession without any Congressional action on a combination of the expiration of all Bush tax cuts and the impending across-the-board spending cuts. Again the two parties have opposing views. Republicans say they want everyone to have tax cuts, and Democrats want to renew them only for households netting less than $250,000 a year.

Another potential amendment could be replacing automatic defense spending cuts, known as sequestration, set to begin in 2013. Both parties agreed to these cuts last summer during the debacle of the debt ceiling crisis if a committee could not come to agreement regarding how to fix the deficit. Mitt Romney said yesterday that the Republicans were wrong to vote for this and blamed it all on the president. Romney’s VP pick, Paul Ryan, was one of those “wrong” voters although he’s tried to lie his way out of the situation. In an interview, Ryan said that he voted for the bill that did the cutting, but he did not vote for the cuts.

While disturbed about the defense cuts, military leaders, unlike Republicans, understand that the budget needs revenues as well as cuts. “I hope we can find a way to address the sequestration threat of Jan. 1,” Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said in Charlotte, N.C., where Democrats held their convention last week.  “It has to be done on a bipartisan basis … [and] it has to include revenues as well as spending cuts.”

Other pressing business for the lame-duck session include averting a 30-percent cut in physicians’ Medicare fees, passing the annual Pentagon policy bill, improving cyber security for the nation’s critical infrastructure, a Russia free-trade bill, and legislation to reform the Postal Service which may have to default on a $5.5 billion payment into its pension fund to cover people retiring 75 years from now.

Congress this year has managed to pass just 61 bills, the fewest number in more than 60 years. Last year, they passed 90 bills, down from 258 during the previous year. The average worker in the country has a median household income of about $50,000 compared to lawmakers’ salaries of $174,000 or more. At the same time, the average worker has 13 days of paid vacation; lawmakers have more than four months of recesses this year.

I’m waiting for the next anti-women bill from the Republicans. They’ve tried one each week during the 112th Congress.

Asides: On Meet the Press yesterday, Ann Romney said, “Mitt and I do recognize that we have not had a financial struggle in our lives. But I want people to believe in their hearts that we know what it is like to struggle.” This is a very different struggle from her description of it just two weeks ago in her speech at the GOP convention.

According to a study by Harvard economics professor David Cutler, the increased costs for seniors in the changes of Medicare would move as much as $16 to $26 billion to profits for insurance companies. Romney tried to discredit the study by saying that Cutler was once an advisor for President Obama.

The Associated Press FactCheck failed when it evaluated Joe Biden’s statement that 4.5 private-sector jobs have been created during the past 29 months. They agreed that this information was true but gave it a half-true because it omitted the time before that and didn’t include the 500,000+ jobs lost in the public sector. If fact checkers can’t based their opinions on facts, they should quit. Also small-government advocates complaining about unemployment should realize that they are getting what they ask for. Smaller government means less employment; the loss of public sector jobs during the current president is equivalent to the jobs that George W. Bush added during his eight years.

Ideally voting should be based on information, which makes the level of ignorance throughout the country truly frightening. A prime example of this comes a question in a recent Ohio poll about whether Barack Obama or Mitt Romney deserves more credit for killing Osama bin Laden. (Some people may remember that Romney sneered at President Obama for his decision to find bin Laden, indicating that it was a waste of time.) Only 63 percent of possible voters gave the credit to the president; 6 percent thought Romney did it, and 31 percent didn’t know. The women were 2 percent more knowledgeable than men, and 86 percent of African-Americans knew it was the president compared to only 60 percent of Anglo-Americans. Only 38 percent of likely voters gave the president credit for killing Osama bin Laden, and the North Carolina percentage was lower at 29 percent. Frightening!

July 19, 2012

Romney’s Problems Grow

Mitt Romney’s campaign has two serious dilemmas: the call for his releasing tax returns and the outsourcing done by Bain Capital, Romney’s personal business. To solve the first one, he sent his wife, Ann, to convince the media that he is a truly good person. In an interview with Robin Roberts on ABC, Ms. Romney said:

“You know, you should really look at where Mitt has led his life, and where he’s been financially. He’s a very generous person. We give 10 percent of our income to our church every year. Do you think that is the kind of person that is trying to hide things, or do things? No. He is so good about it.”

When asked why they don’t release the tax forms if there is no problem with them, Ms. Romney continued:

“Because there are so many things that will be open again for more attack… and that’s really, that’s just the answer. And we’ve given all you people need to know and understand about our financial situation and about how we live our life. And so, the election, again, will not be decided on that. It will be decided on who is gonna turn the economy around and how are jobs gonna come back to America.”

My favorite phrase from her interview is “you people,” the term that smacks of an arrogance in the same way that Michelle Malkin’s comment on Fox and Friends Weekend did when she said,

“Romney types, of course, are the ones who sign the front of the paycheck, and the Obama types are the one who have spent their entire lives signing the back of them.”

Lots of people are betting that Romney’s tax returns would show some shady deals. The first question is how he got between $21 million and $101 million in an IRA that can’t collect more than $30,000 a year. Another questionable activity comes from when he was chairman of Marriott’s audit committee. At that time, a Marriott tax shelter, known as “Son of BOSS,” involved creating paper losses to offset taxes on real income. The Internal Revenue Service challenged the shelter, and Marriott lost in court. Judges called the shelter “fictitious” and a “scheme,” and the company was forced to pay $29 million.

The Republicans who are telling Romney to release the tax returns have found a solution for his second problem, outsourcing. Jonah Goldberg summarized their position: “Outsourcing isn’t evil. Building businesses overseas doesn’t necessarily cost American a thing, and it often creates wealth and value both here and abroad.”

The 170 workers losing their jobs in Freeport (IL) because Bain owns their jobs disagree with Goldberg. In 2006 Bain bought Sensata Technologies, based in Attleboro (MA), and plans to move production to China during the month of this year’s election despite the fact that the business has never lost money. The city council has drafted a resolution that “calls on Mitt Romney to come to Freeport to meet the people directly affected by Bain Capital’s outsourcing and to step in and stop the outsourcing of these jobs from Freeport to China.” Although Romney does not operate Bain, he does have a controlling financial interest.

Robert Reich wrote that the biggest problem with corporations is that they have no concern for the people of the United States. He quoted an Apple executive who told the New York Times, “we don’t have an obligation to solve America’s problems. Our only obligation is making the best product possible.” Reich might have added “and showing profits big enough to continually increase our share price.” Apple’s employment of 43,000 people in the United States is dwarfed by their contracts with over 700,000 workers overseas. U.S. workers get six percent of what people pay for an iPhone.

The Republicans who would solve the problem of outsourcing by  lowering salaries in this country and perhaps getting rid of the minimum wage overlook the fact that Chinese workers live in company dormitories where they can be called up to work any time day and night. Apple assembles iPhones in China both because wages are low there and because Apple’s Chinese contractors can quickly mobilize workers from company dorms at almost any hour of the day or night.

Reich also cited another reason for outsourcing as this country not educating young people to do the necessary high tech jobs farmed out to Japan and Germany, in large part because the government does not pay for education. While this country forces young people to ratchet up high student loans, China invests in world-class universities and research centers.

The United States also has substandard transportation and communication systems compared to other countries. Outmoded ports, congested roads, and faulty bridges damage the opportunities for people to have jobs in this nation.

Without support from corporations, this situation will only exacerbate. Without government requiring corporate support, these companies will continue to outsource. All they want are lower taxes and fewer regulations. To get what they want, they buy elections.

Goldberg needs to know the following results of outsourcing:

U.S. multinationals cut their U.S. workforces by 2.9 million in the 2000s while increasing employment overseas by 2.4 million, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. The Bush tax cuts may have caused the 35 biggest U.S.-based companies to add jobs, but almost three-fourths of these jobs were offshore.

U.S. manufacturing has suffered the biggest blow from offshoring. Working America reported that manufacturing jobs dropped every month for 43 months—the longest stretch since the Great Depression—between August 2000 and February 2004. Between 1998 and 2008, the time that George W. Bush gave corporations big tax cuts to create jobs, the number of manufacturing plants shrank 12.5 percent. The country lost 51,000 plants during those ten years, plants that gave stable, middle-class jobs.

Revenue from the global electronics contract manufacturing industry reached $360 billion in 2011 and is expected to expand to $426 billion by 2015. These companies contract outside firms primarily in third-world countries. Other huge companies, Nike for example, subcontracts all its shoe production to foreign companies.

Private equity firms have upped the competition between corporations by creating the fear that if CEOs don’t run their businesses to maximize short-term profits and share prices that they will be taken over by a company like Bain Capital. Their answer is outsourcing. If they lose the company to a company like Bain, “the standard strategy has been to load up company executives with so much stock and stock options that they don’t hesitate to make difficult decisions such as shedding divisions, closing plants or outsourcing work overseas,” according to Steve Pearlstein, a professor of public and international affairs at George Mason University and a Pulitzer-prize winning columnist.

Three-fourths of the companies surveyed by Duke’s Fuqua School of Business gave labor costs as their reason to relocate offshore, but this is becoming a weaker excuse for taking jobs away from the United States.  The labor cost gap between the U.S. and China has shrunk by almost 50 percent within the last eight years; this gap is project to be just 16 percent by next year. Fuel prices are also rising, increasing the costs of transportation.

The same survey showed that “only 4 percent of large companies had future plans for relocating jobs back to the United States.” No reason was given, but Seth Hanlon thinks that their reluctance is the U.S. tax code that “rewards companies for making investments abroad—and leads to them shifting offices, factories, and jobs abroad even if similar investments in the United States would be more profitable absent tax considerations.”

Tax loopholes and porous rules allow multinational companies to avoid U.S. taxes by reporting much of their profits in tax havens such as Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. That may be why Romney is fond of these tax havens. Shifting profits into tax havens costs the U.S. Treasury tens of billions of dollars in revenue every year. While President Obama wants a law that benefits companies for keeping jobs in the United States, Romney wants to make U.S. corporations’ overseas profits exempt from U.S. taxes, understandable because this would financially benefit him.

Today, the Senate tried to vote on the Bring Jobs Home Act to end taxes that reward companies that ship jobs overseas and instead provide a tax cut for American businesses that move overseas jobs and business activity back to America. A filibuster killed the bill was killed with a 56-42 vote; it’s the standard Republican position that 60 out of 100 votes are required to pass any Senate bill. The three brave Republican senators voting against the filibuster were Susan Collins (ME), Olympia Snowe (ME), and Scott Brown (MA). Therefore the Senate Republican “majority” of 41 men and 3 women have determined that taxpayers must continue to pay for the offshoring of jobs.

According to The Hill, Republicans wouldn’t vote for a bill to bring jobs back to the United States because they wanted to include an amendment repealing the Affordable Care Act. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, (D-NV) said, “It’s no surprise Republicans are on the side of corporations making big bucks sending American jobs to China and India. After all, their presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, made a fortune outsourcing jobs, too.”

April 30, 2012

To Confused Conservatives: Why Women Aren’t Happy with You

What a view from conservatives regarding women’s rights! “Senate Democrats Plan another Trap for Mitt Romney with Female Voters,” reads the headline for Alexander Bolton’s “article” in the conservative publicationThe Hill.  What is the trap? Proposed legislation to more easily create equal pay for the genders. The Paycheck Fairness Act, blocked by Republicans two years ago, would prohibit employer discrimination in talking about other employers’ wages in both the same offices and other offices of the company. A woman could allege wage discrimination is she’s paid less than a man working for the same job for the same employer. That’s the “trap” causing Bolton to cry “foul”:  sending a bill up for a vote that mandates equal pay is trying to trap the poor Republicans.

These are the same conservatives who probably consider the Violence against Women Act (VAWA) to be a “trap” because it tries to protect all women, not just specific classes. Thirty-one male senators voted against VAWA; several of the others voted for it only because they think that the House will remove some of those “special classes” of women from protection. Calling the existing VAWA “controversial,” the men of the House were very sure to have women—specifically Sen. Kay Hutchinson (R-TX) and Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL)—front and center to introduce the “uncontroversial” bill that eliminates certain classes of women. Or maybe they were just embarrassed to admit that some women deserve to be sexually assaulted.

After the House passed a bill taking Affordable Care Act funding to pay for keeping the federal student loan interest rate the same, Rep. John Boehner is trying to persuade anyone who will listen that this has nothing to do with women. The “slush fund,” as Boehner dismisses it, pays for hundreds of thousands of screenings for breast and cervical cancer. Mr. Boehner, those are women’s parts so the loss of funding hurts women.

In giving marching orders to House Republicans for the “reconciliation” of the budget, Reps. Boehner, Eric Cantor, and Jeb Hensarling sent a memo telling their colleagues to increase the defense budget while reducing food stamps. That’s another blow against women who are trying to find food for their children. The three House Republican leaders ignore the facts that the budget was settled last summer during the debt crisis and that they voted for this budget. Because Democratic senators arguing that the Budget Control Act counts as a budget with no need for an additional spending plan for 2013, the House Republicans are considering a seldom-used reconciliation process, hoping that Democrats won’t stick to last summer’s law and won’t have their own plan.

Republicans should use a mirror to see how offensive their behavior is. On a Meet the Press panel talking about the “war on women” yesterday, Republican strategist Alex Castellanos immediately interrupted Rachel Maddow when she said that women in this country make 77 cents for each dollar that men make and then continued to interrupt everything she said. She finally called him out on his “stylistic issue,” calling it “condescending,” after he said, ” I wish you are as right about what you’re saying as you are passionate about it. I really do.” The look on his face showed that he still didn’t get it. As Jason Easley wrote, “The goal was to put Rachel Maddow in her place, and to stop the ‘hysteria’ from the ‘girls’ who don’t understand that because men say so there is no war on women and pay gap.”

After Hilary Rosen mistakenly said that Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann, doesn’t work and then repeatedly apologized, saying that she meant Ann didn’t work outside the home, the Republicans thought they were home free. When Ann Romney went out on the campaign trail to make a speech, this is what she said: “I love the fact that there are women out there who don’t have a choice and they must go to work and they still have to raise the kids.” When she suggested that she understood poor families, she said that she and Mitt had to sell some of their stocks to get by in college. Her husband had already suggested that young people can start businesses the same way that he did, by borrowing $20,000 from his parents—back when $20,000 was equivalent to perhaps ten times what it is now.

Republicans around the country also ignore women’s needs. Florida Gov. Rick Scott is willing to drug-test welfare applicants before they can get any benefits although this costs the state. He also took $2 million from health care providers to give to the fake “crisis pregnancy centers” that keep women from having abortions no matter what their needs. His most recent attack on women is to veto $1.5 million for Florida’s rape crisis centers because he thinks it duplicates existing services. The majority of the existing services, however, are education and prevention; the $1.5 million would have gone to working with actual victims.

Ohio has a proposal to rearrange funding for women’s clinics, putting Planned Parenthood last. Local health departments get the top funding priority, followed by federally qualified community health centers, and then private care centers. The end result of the reprioritization leaves thousands of Ohio women with no birth control, cancer screenings, or STI testing and treatment. Although women could go to a private care center, not everyone who works at this private care center will provide birth control. “You would have to be an established patient, and it would depend on the doctor,” said the receptionist at Lower Lights Health Care center. Ohio plans to move funds meant to help cover contraception to groups that decide on a case by case basis whether or not they want to provide contraception.

Even candidates don’t take women seriously. Recently a woman asked State Attorney General Rob McKenna, Republican candidate for Washington governor, how he would vote on the Reproductive Parity Act, a bill that would expand insurance coverage for abortions in the state insurance plan as long as the plan covers maternity care as well. At first McKenna accused her of trying to “bushwhack” him by asking the question and asked her if she were being honest. When she tried to address the question, he snapped at her and said, “Why don’t you go get a job?” The woman runs “youth empowerment” programs at the YMCA.  Again a Republican man tried to shut up a woman by  being contemptuous to her.

In his speech at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, President Obama described the Republican position: “Jimmy [Kimmel] got his start years ago on ‘The Man Show.’ In Washington, that’s what we call a congressional hearing on contraception.” No war on women? Thing.progress has produced a video collage of comments during the past few months. For another piece of black humor, check out this video from the Funny or Die website as women counsel Rick Santorum for aborting his campaign.

And these are just the most recent Republicans actions against women!

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!

March 8, 2012

International Women’s Day–We’re Still Losing

Today is International Women’s Day, a day not only to celebrate women’s accomplishments throughout history but also to look back to struggles and forward to what needs to be done to improve the lives and opportunities of women. During the 100+ years that countries have commemorated women on one day in early March and worked for our rights, we have come a long way in the United States— voting, owning property, controlling our bodies, etc. Yet domestic violence and rape are still rampant around the world, unmarried Saudi Arabia women are still subject to male guardianship, and female genital mutilation is still common. And in the United States we are losing our rights.

In 1945 the first international agreement to proclaim gender equality as a fundamental human right, the Charter of the United Nations, was signed in San Francisco.  Almost 70 years later, women still lack the same rights and opportunities as men. Many countries worked toward this equality after the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which promotes women’s rights as human rights, in 1979.  President Jimmy Carter signed CEDAW in 1980, but the United States Congress refuses to ratify this document that calls for inclusion and equality of women in “all spheres of life.” Thirty-two years after Carter signed CEDAW, the United States is one of seven countries that has not ratified the treaty; the other six countries are Iran, Somalia, Naurau, Palau, Sudan and Tonga.

A tipping point comes when small changes build up to critical mass until one more addition changes everything, reversing the direction. The conservatives have initiated so many state and federal laws that we may have reached critical mass—the tipping point when we start fighting back. Now Republicans, including women, are getting very concerned about losing the women’s vote for their party in the upcoming election. In defending the GOP’s fixation on birth control, Ann Romney, wife of a Republican presidential candidate, said, “Do you know what women care about? Women care about jobs.”

Instead of castigating the Democrats, she should turn back to her own party. Last year, state legislators introduced more than 1,100 reproductive health and rights-related provisions, up from 950 in 2010. Of these provisions, 135 were enacted in 36 states, an increase from 89 in 2010. Of the 135 provisions, 68%—92 in 24 states—-restrict access to abortion services; the 92 new abortion restrictions enacted in 2011 shattered the previous record of 34 adopted in 2005. In contrast, the majority of the jobs bills enacted in the Republican-controlled states had the effect of lowering salaries, usually for women.

Ann Romney is right that women care about jobs, but women also care about restrictions on their bodies and reproductive rights as shown by protests across the country. When Virginia decided to require transvaginal ultrasounds for all women before they could get abortions, the women silently stood outside the state capitol, even when the SWAT team came up to arrest them. Despite the state backing down, requiring only abdominal ultrasounds, women are still angry.

Across the country, women legislators in Republican-controlled states are protesting. They’re introducing bills stopping vasectomies (because these prevent children from being born) and requiring mental and medical screenings (such as rectal exam and cardiac stress tests) for men who want prescriptions for such drugs as Viagra that supposedly cure erectile dysfunction.

Another case in which Republicans vote against women is the Violence against Women Act. After VAWA expired last November, the Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee held up its reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, because not one of them would agree to vote the bill out of the committee. They supposedly objected to lesbians and undocumented immigrants who are victims of domestic abuse being covered under the bill. Ann Romney needs to know that women need safety as well as jobs.

Ann Romney has ignored the fact that Republicans have a history of voting against women and jobs. Every male senator voted against the Lily Ledbetter Act in 2009; it passed because three women Republican senators voted for the bill. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 stated that the 180-day statute of limitations for filing an equal-pay lawsuit regarding pay discrimination resets with each new discriminatory paycheck. Legislation was in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that the 180 days began with the first check a person received even if the person was not aware of any inequity for a long period of time.

The Republican senators have consistently blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act, which provides for equal pay for equal work, despite the House passing this act in 2009—before the conservatives took over.

Across the board, Republican-elected officials at all levels of government and their spokespeople and pundits on TV and radio continually display a lack of respect, civility, and in many cases outright hostility towards women. As long as they continue to do so, Republicans will have more and more trouble getting votes from women, a group that comprises more than half the voters in this country.

Conservatives have been increasingly discouraged about electing a Republican president because of the drawn-out primary. Now they believe this primary can hurt the chances for Republican representatives and senators. Conservatives should extend their worry to the conservatives’ consistently destructive behavior toward half the country’s population.

With their current policies of eliminating women’s rights and making decisions for women, the neo-cons may lose all the gains of the 2010 election. They won that election because they promised to improve the economy and get people jobs; all they have done since they were elected is to take rights away from women.

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