Nel's New Day

May 7, 2016

Help Moms on Mother’s Day

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. On this one day a year, mothers are given corsages, given breakfast in bed, and taken out to dinner and then ignored on the other 364 days.  If you really care about mothers, here are some ways to help them:

Access to quality, affordable childcare: From 2000 to 2012, child care costs for a typical middle class family grew by 30 percent, and child care costs more than media rent in all 50 states. In 31 states and DC, child care costs more than college. The High Quality Child Care Tax Credit would help low-income and middle class families afford quality child care.

Equal pay for equal work: Mothers are the primary, sole, or co-breadwinners in nearly two-thirds of families but earn less than men. Latinas and black women suffer the sharpest pay disparities. Congressional conservatives continue to fight action to uncover discriminatory pay practices, create greater pay transparency, and ensure that the law works fairly for everyone. Tell them to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Paid sick days: Almost 40 million U.S. employees, or about 40 percent of the nation’s private-sector workforce, lack access to paid sick days. Low-income workers, the ones least likely to have paid sick days, suffer the greatest when forced to take unpaid time off to recover from an illness or care for a sick family member.

Paid family leave: Almost all U.S. workers are forced to choose between staying on the job or dealing with serious personal or family illness. This nation is the only developed country that doesn’t guarantee workers any paid time off, and only 12 percent of private sector workers have access to paid family leave through their employers.

Women’s access to affordable health care and contraception: About 61 percent of abortions are obtained by women who are already mothers, frequently because of the constantly worsening economy in the United States. Many other women have little access to any quality health care, largely because Republican states have refused to accept government funding for Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Texas’ banning all except nine women’s clinics for its 5,400,000+ women of reproductive age, more restrictive measures limiting reproductive care for more millions of women will be passed through the U.S. Comprehensive health care must include supports to help women plan when to start, and grow, their families.

Helping mothers—and that means helping all women—would greatly improve the economy.

On another note, don’t give guns to moms on Mother’s Day. Some men think that giving the women in their lives firearms will make them safer, but many of those misguided men then use the same guns to shoot and kill women in their lives. More than 1,600 women were killed by men in 2013, most of them by guns. The vast majority–94 percent–of female murder victims are killed by someone they knew and with a handgun. The laxer the gun laws in a state, the higher the rate of women shot and killed by men. http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/10/22/south-carolina-gun-rights-domestic-violence.html    In South Carolina, ranked as the deadliest in the U.S. for women killed (mostly with guns) by men, state lawmaker and victim advocate Gilda Cobb-Hunter has found it easier to get court-ordered protections for family pets than to take guns away from domestic abusers. Keep mothers alive by legislating strict laws against domestic abusers owning guns.

Protect small children from killing themselves, siblings, or adults—including their mothers—with guns. Toddlers shot at least 23 people in the United States during the first four months of 2016 by toddlers. There may be more, but conservatives have blocked the government from making an accurate count of deaths by firearms—probably lawmakers don’t want to know the exact number. That number is up over 25 percent from last year’s “head count” of toddler-caused gun shootings during the same time period last year. In 18 cases, children accidentally shot themselves, and half of them died. Four of these deaths were within one week.

Map-of-Toddler-Shootings

The map above shows the states where these deaths have occurred. More shootings by toddlers have happened in Georgia since 2015 than the other states with Texas and Missouri tying for second place. Florida and Michigan are fourth. Population doesn’t appear to be a factor because California and New York, the second and third highest population states in the country, had three shootings between them. Illinois hasn’t seen one since 2015. A comment on the Washington Post article about toddler shooting: it’s only 23 kids.

cell phone gunThe number of shootings by toddlers may grow in the future because gun makers are making deadly weapons look like innocent toys. Gun manufacturers are designing brightly-colored guns, Glock pistols, that look like the Nintendo Zapper used to blast virtual ducks and targets. Beyond that is the new gun that looks like a cellphone—same size and shape. This one is a .380 derringer that holds two bullets.

The NRA insists that its Eddie Eagle program, educating children about guns, makes children so safe that the nation doesn’t need gun safety laws to protect children. Other parents are so satisfied with their parenting skills that their children would never be unsafe around firearms. The Charlotte (NC) Fox46 tested these theories by leaving unsupervised children ages 6-8 alone in a playroom with toys, games, and a realistic-looking BB gun. Before Mecklenburg County Sheriff Irwin Carmichael left the room he said, “So if you find a gun do you touch it? No. No, what should you do? Tell and adult…go tell an adult.”

Some of the seven parents were positive that their children would leave the gun alone; others said that they’d never talked to the children about gun safety. Within 60 seconds, a toddler discovered the gun, and a few minutes later half the children were firing the gun at each other. The video of this experiment is available here.

For mothers on Mother’s Day, follow strict rules about gun safety. One of the mothers was shot by a gun that her boyfriend left under a seat in the car. Make sure the car is gun-free before driving a child in it. Another mother was shot last year when her toddler got a gun out of a purse while they were shopping. (Unless you think that 23 shootings by toddlers in four months isn’t important.)

Brennan WeikelIn mid-April, Brennan Weikel’s stepfather took him out in the middle of the night for a hog-hunting trip just five days after the 17-year-old had finished his school gun safety course giving him the legal right to hunt. Weikel won’t be fulfilling his dream of playing football in college after accidentally shooting himself in the head with his rifle. The killing will be classified as “accidental,” but one Texas mother (below) won’t be celebrating Mother’s Day with her high school son.

Brennan Weikel's mother

Near this killing, other mothers no longer have their sons because of the fatal shootings of a nine-year-old by his grandfather last year and the shooting of a teenager by his best friend in 2013 who received five years probation after pleading guilty to criminally negligent homicide.

Sometimes parents shoot their toddlers. A two-year-old is lucky to be alive after he “startled” his mother in St. Louis. In Philadelphia, a four-year-old girl isn’t as fortunate, after her father was playing with his gun and “accidentally” shot the girl in the head. She died at their home. The father later confessed after first hitting another of his children, a five-year-old, in the face with his closed fist and wiped blood onto her shirt to make it appear that she had killed her sister.

Many state laws allow guns in bars, airports, daycare centers, churches, classrooms—everywhere except where the legislators are making these laws. One group opposing the laxity of gun ownership is law enforcement. Local police are objecting to these measures in over a dozen states where they had previously not complained. Their position is that the new laws put officers in greater danger and keep them from effective doing their jobs.

A big problem is that in some states, including West Virginia and Idaho, people can carry concealed handguns without permits or training—or even a background check. Texans can open carry handguns, and Oklahoma is considering the same permission. Police departments are now asking for people with violent histories be blocked from buying guns because they are more likely to have problems with the police. Law enforcement also says that new exceptions to gun regulations impede investigations by taking away the option of probable cause to conduct searches after the discovery of an unpermitted firearm.

Georgia’s Gov. Nathan Deal may have started to recognize the problem of unfettered gun carrying: he vetoed legislation that would have allowed college students to carry concealed guns onto campuses because it won’t “increase safety of students on college campuses,” according to Deal. The law would have permitted loaded guns anywhere on college campuses—fraternities, dormitories, etc. http://www.vox.com/2016/4/29/11530874/georgia-campus-carry-guns   Texas does have this law despite evidence that the law puts people at harm. More mothers without that corsage in the future.

September 7, 2015

Good News, Bad News from Labor Day, 2015

Republicans love to blame the Democrats for destroying the coal industry, but conservatives are the people who decimated the economy in the South through their eradication of the unions. For a century, union organizers were shot, beaten, and stabbed in their fight to get reasonable pay and safe conditions underground, but now the last union mine in Kentucky has been closed. Younger workers took their wages for granted, and now not one working miner belongs to a union, the only protection that mine workers have had.

Conservatives curse the unions but fail to realize that they are responsible for the rise of the middle class.

union_density_middleclass 2

union_density_inequality 1

High income inequality has correlated with low union membership for over 100 years in the U.S. As union membership shrinks, money and power shift upwards. Data from 2010 show that all workers make more money in a pro-union state.

workers do better

Today is Labor Day, established as a federal holiday 121 years ago to celebrate labor. Oregon declared it a holiday 17 years earlier. If you have today off, thank unions. If you are working today, thank unions for other benefits such as shorter work weeks, weekends off, expanded health care through employer-provided health insurance, and the end of child labor except within religious groups. Unions also brought paid vacation, breaks, sick leave, Social Security, overtime pay, worker’s compensation, and more. If you don’t have these benefits, thank the Republicans.

In some states, union attacks brought “right-to-work” laws, which block collective bargaining for higher wages, better benefits, and protections. The “freedom” created by these laws gives corporations and the wealthy the “right-to-underpay” and “right-to-cheat” employees. In Wisconsin, the latest state to adopt this law, “right-to-work” will cause workers and families to annually lose between $3.89 billion and $4.82 billion. Workers in “right-to-work” states make $1,560 less per year than in states without the law. Women in union jobs earn $212 per week—30.9 percent—more than women in non-union jobs. The gender wage gap is also smaller for women in unions, 88.7 cents for every dollar a man makes compared to 78 cents for all workers. Men in union jobs make $173 more per week than non-union workers.

President Obama celebrated this year’s Labor Day by mandating all 300,000 government contractor employees be granted seven paid sick days per year starting in 2017. That leaves another 44 million workers without paid sick leave because the United States is the only developed nation without a paid sick leave policy. The president’s executive order adds to other orders that move toward higher minimum wage and equal pay for men and women.

Other good news comes from the job market. Republicans swore to bring jobs back when they were elected in masses, but they’ve done nothing to help workers. GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney said he would reduce the unemployment rate to 6 percent by 2016 if he were elected in 2012. Right now, it’s 5.1 percent after 66 consecutive months of private sector job growth—13 million jobs—during President Obama’s six and a half years in office. Many of these jobs came from the health care job growth after Republicans called the ACA the “job killing health care law.”

The bad news comes from the loss of wages for everyone except the top echelon. Oregon is an example of this: in the past 35 years, the bottom income bracket has lost 30 percent of income in the state while the top 1 percent gained 88 percent of the income. Republicans refuse to increase the federal minimum wage, one-third lower when adjusted for inflation than in the 1960s. They also consider the Keystone Pipeline bill a “jobs bill” although it employs only 4,200 people for one year while wiping out other permanent jobs by taking over and destroying land. The GOP’s “Hire More Heroes Act” to employ veterans doesn’t count veterans as employees so that companies with more than 50 employees can avoid the ACA mandate to provide health care. Up to one million workers would lose health insurance with the redefinition of “full-time employment” as 40 hours a week in the GOP’s “Save American Workers Act.”

Another piece of bad news is the growing divergence between salary and productivity. During the 25 years prior to 1973, wages and productivity grew together, but between 1973 and 2014, hourly wages went up 8.7, adjusted for inflation, and productivity increased by 72.2 percent. The change is a major reason for the rapidly growing income inequality during the past 40 years as payment for employees went to owners of capital. Workers generate the income but don’t get an increase in hourly pay. The last four years has been worse as worker productivity increased by 21 percent while wages rose only 2 percent.

wages by bracket

Republicans claim to support a “trickle-down” economy but instead push an economy that is “gush-up.” Unregulated free-market capitalism is a “winner-take-all” wealth over the common good, and billionaires buy politicians and design education and health systems to control the bottom 99 percent of people in the United States. The average CEO earns 204 times what average workers earn, and two-thirds of the poor in the United States—68 percent—have jobs.

Hedge fund billionaires are not required to pay their fair share of taxes receive awards yet are praised. For example, John Paulson, noted for “Outstanding Contributions to Society,” got $3.7 billion by conspiring with Goldman Sachs to create risky subprime mortgages. He used other people’s money to bet against his sure-to-fail financial instruments. As U.S. wealth grew from $52 trillion to over $83 trillion between 2007 and 2014, six million more children were forced onto food stamps. Forty percent of households are food-insecure while 40 percent of the food in the United States is wasted.

Despite the decreasing unemployment rate, taxpayers fund the movement of many jobs overseas while technology eliminates others. Kodak once employed 145,000 people to do the same photo processing that Instagram does with 15 workers. Three-fourths of faculty at colleges and universities are now “adjunct” instructors, paid a pittance for part-time work. One-fourth of these teachers, almost 20 percent of college and university faculty, are forced into food stamp or other public assistance programs to survive.

Republicans claim that they want to return to the 1950s, and economically this would benefit almost everyone. In 1956, the GOP platform supported an increase in the minimum wage, an expansion of Social security, adequate coverage for the unemployed, better housing, and health care for all. “Government must have a heart as well as a head” and “America does not prosper unless all Americans prosper” were included in the GOP belief system. According to the GOP platform, “President Eisenhower’s administration brought the highest employment, highest wages, and the highest standard of living ever experience in any country.”

Today’s GOP portrays people on unemployment as leeches, but the GOP of 1956 called for “providing assistance to improve the economic conditions of areas faced with persistent and substantial unemployment.” Republicans in the 1950s also wanted to strengthen “the rights of labor unions” and protect “the right of workers to organize into unions and to bargain collectively.”

In 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower looked forward to today’s GOP when he wrote:

“Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are…a few…Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”

He may have been right.

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