Republicans profess an unmatched love of country, but what they have is an unmatched disdain for the people who inhabit it.
There’s a line from the 1995 movie “The American President” starring Michael Douglas and Annette Bening that just keeps ringing in my head. I’ve used the line in past posts, and I’m sure I’ll use it again (and again, and again, and again) because it’s so incredibly and pointedly accurate. Even more so today.
A little refresher course: “The American President” is about a widower, Andrew Shepherd (Michael Douglas), who in the wake of his wife’s death from cancer manages to get himself elected President of the United States. He falls in love with a lobbyist, Sydney Ellen Wade (Annette Bening), and they begin dating. During the course of their relationship, they are subjected to countless vicious, heinous attacks on their character by Republicans for having the audacity of being two single, consenting adults who find that they have much in common and enjoy each other’s company immensely.
The line in question comes from the scene where the happy couple is enjoying a quiet, private weekend “alone” at Camp David (the President is, after all, never really alone). Responding to a particularly heinous charge hurled by Republican Senator and erstwhile presidential candidate Bob Rumson (Richard Dreyfuss), Wade asks her boyfriend, “How do you have patience for people who claim they love America but clearly can’t stand Americans?”
Back in 1995, in the aftermath of the Newt Gingrich led revolution and the Republican takeover of Congress (original version), Republicans found new ways to mask their disdain for the American people in a cloak of patriotism. But while they claim a superior and unwavering love of their country (while accusing Democrats of being anti-American, or communists, or of having an absolute hatred of America, or the latest attack where former New Hampshire governor John Sununu laments that he wishes Barack Obama would “learn to be an American”), it is becoming more and more clear that what Republicans are doing is projecting their own growing hatred of this country onto Democrats.
Well, okay, maybe that’s not entirely accurate. Republicans do love America. They love the property they own. They love the money they can make. They love the power they can accumulate. They love the rules they can flaunt. What they so clearly hate, as Bening’s character said so succinctly, are Americans. As in the American people.
Think about it in terms of the policies they support. Prime example: Health care. The Affordable Care Act that was recently upheld by the Supreme Court provides for a dramatic expansion of Medicaid that will expand coverage to millions of Americans who earn up to 133% of the poverty level. Until the health law kicks in, Medicaid is only available to the extremely poor with families or the disabled. Now it will be available to anyone who otherwise would have no access to basic health care. The kicker? The federal government will pay for 100% of said expansion for the first four years, tapering down to 90% of all costs by 2020.
This won’t cost states any more than they’re already spending on Medicaid programs, and will open up access to health care to millions who need it but can’t afford it on their own. Not so fast, say Republicans. By imposing strict rules that opens the program up to more people you’re infringing on states’ rights, they say. Several states headed by Republican governors have already declared that they will outright refuse to accept any expansion of Medicaid at all. If people can’t afford health care, that’s their problem. Florida’s Rick Scott, South Carolina’s Nikki Haley, Louisiana’s Bobby Jindahl, Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, Kansas’ Sam Brownback, and Iowa’s Tom Branstad have all vowed to reject the program. Texas and Rick Perry have vowed to reject the Affordable Care Act altogether.
When challenged by Fox News’ Chris Wallace (I know, right? A Fox News anchor challenging a Republican politician?!?!) on what Republicans would do to provide coverage to the 30 million who would finally get health insurance under “Obamacare,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell replied “That’s not the issue.” The truth is they have no plan, and no intention of coming up with a plan. People are uninsured and without access to health care unless it’s via the emergency room at taxpayer’s expense, and that’s just peachy with Republicans. In fact, the only proposal offered by Republicans to counter the Affordable Care Act would have extended coverage to a mere 3 million people. That was the best they could do, and they didn’t care.
The truth is that they have no desire to reform a broken system that denies health care to those with preexisting conditions, institutes lifetime caps on how much health care any one individual can receive, and won’t allow young adults who are just starting out on their own to remain on their parents’ insurance until the age of 26. They don’t like the provision that says that insurance companies must dedicate a minimum of 85% of premiums collected to actual health care expenditures. They don’t want to prevent insurance companies from culling their rolls of less healthy patients just to increase profits. If it’s not excessively profitable for insurance companies, Republicans are against it.
They’ve even suggested that an individual without health insurance who is otherwise healthy but gets into an accident or suddenly becomes catastrophically ill should be left to die without the life saving care he needs. “Let him die,” Republicans shrug.
And then there’s Medicare, the wildly popular (especially with seniors) and successful government program that provides health care to those 65 and older, most of whom would otherwise be entirely without it. Republicans excoriate the ACA for cutting $500 billion over 10 years in waste and fraud out of Medicare, insisting that the ACA is making cuts to Medicare benefits, which is entirely false. Meanwhile, the only “serious” proposal offered by Republicans is the Paul Ryan budget that turns Medicare into a voucher system, placing actual limits on the care seniors can receive. A $6,000 per year allowance to purchase health insurance on their own is not going to get our seniors very far. Ryan’s budget would significantly increase the burden on seniors, including benefit cuts, particularly to low income and disabled seniors.
Republicans have been itching to get rid of Medicare for decades, and the Ryan budget that has been passed not once but twice in the Republican controlled House of Representatives would essentially accomplish just that. Medicare as we know it today would cease to exist. And yet the hypocrisy is absolutely staggering when Republicans accuse Democrats of making cuts to Medicare via the ACA.
Bob Greenstein of the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities wrote of the Ryan budget:
The new Ryan budget is a remarkable document — one that, for most of the past half-century, would have been outside the bounds of mainstream discussion due to its extreme nature. In essence, this budget is Robin Hood in reverse — on steroids. It would likely produce the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history and likely increase poverty and inequality more than any other budget in recent times (and possibly in the nation’s history). It also would stand a core principle of the Bowles-Simpson fiscal commission’s report on its head — that policymakers should reduce the deficit in a way that does not increase poverty or widen inequality….
Specifically, the Ryan budget would impose extraordinary cuts to programs that serve as a lifeline for our nation’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens, and over time would cause tens of millions of Americans to lose their health insurance or become underinsured.
The Paul Ryan budget that is so fervently supported by Republicans across the board—including presidential nominee Mitt Romney–and includes the dismantling of Medicare and Medicaid programs, is a clear demonstration of the utter and complete disdain Republicans have for actual American people.
The list goes on and on and on with immigration, abortion rights (Republicans are incredibly concerned about the fetus, but once the baby is born, they could not possibly care less), pollution and the environment, voter ID laws designed to prevent certain groups that are more likely to vote Democratic from voting…..
Republicans have no solutions to any problems, but they sure like telling us about what they don’t like. And what they don’t like are the people (non ultra-rich, of course) that government is supposed to serve. And so the question is “How do the American people have such patience for a political party that claims to love America but so clearly can’t stand Americans?” If anyone can possibly figure this out, please share. I’m dying to know.
Talk radio has become big business in the last decade and a half, particularly conservative talk radio, which has seen an explosion in popularity and influence. Progressive talk radio? Not so much.
San Diegans have become accustomed to the conservative stylings of locally owned 760 KFMB and the not so locally owned KOGO 600. When you’re looking for news in this city, there are no other choices. You’re stuck with the nonsensical, anti-government, sensationalist, and sometimes maniacal ramblings of Rush Limbaugh and Roger Hedgecock. But that wasn’t always the case. For a brief while, San Diego did have a progressive talk radio station to call its own: 1360 KLSD (for “Liberal San Diego,” as we are informed by radio and television news personality Bree Walker).
KLSD at one point was the home of San Diego personalities like Stacy Taylor and Jon Elliott. It was also San Diego’s home to Air America Radio, the national syndication outfit that brought voices such as Ed Schultz, Rachel Maddow, Randi Rhodes, and Al Franken, now a United States Senator from Minnesota, to the airwaves.
And the station, despite some limitations, and despite being hampered by a weak signal that didn’t reach the entirety of San Diego County, was doing quite well and continued to grow. “I beat Hannity” in San Diego, said Ed Schultz, now a host on MSNBC in addition to his daily radio show.
According to Cliff Albert, the KLSD program manager in 2007, KLSD ranked number one in San Diego in time spent listening—the average amount of time a listener would actually tune in to the station without changing the dial.
“There are two things that make up ratings. How long do they listen to you, and number of people,” said Randi Rhodes, the nationally syndicated progressive host. “The time spent listening, I was number one in San Diego. Advertisers look at time spent listening—TSL it’s called—because they want to see if I can hold the audience through the commercial so that their commercial gets heard by my audience.”
“The other part of ratings,” she continued, “is the number of people. If you can put together 100,000 people, which is what we had, and combine it with four or five hours a week of listening, that is the ballgame.”
Despite its apparent success and continued growth, in August 2007 rumors began to surface that San Diego’s only progressive talk radio station was going to be taken off the air. KLSD was about to go through a format change and become another all-sports talk radio station.
“Save KLSD,” a documentary five years in the making by former TV news producer and marketing executive Jennifer Douglas and Jon Monday, the current vice president of the Fallbrook Democratic Club, uses the demise of progressive talk radio in San Diego as a launching point for discussion of a much larger problem. It uses the death of KLSD to make a broader point about the results of corporate media consolidation nationwide.
The documentary begins with a Benjamin Franklin quote: “Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freedom of speech.” It is the contention of the movie’s producers that corporate media consolidation is, in fact, having that very effect that Benjamin Franklin warned about.
According to the documentary, in 1983 there were more than 50 corporations who were major players in the American media landscape. FCC rules prevented companies from owning more than four radio stations in any given market and more than 40 stations nationwide. Those rules have been obliterated.
Today there are five major corporations controlling our airwaves, the largest of which is Clear Channel Communications, Inc. Today, FCC rules allow for a single company to own eight stations in any given market, with no limitations on nationwide ownership. As of the year 2000, Clear Channel owned nearly 1,200 stations nationally. That figure has shrunk to 850 different radio stations, including seven here in San Diego, including XTRA Sports 1360 (KLSD’s current all sports format).
Clear Channel is also the owner of KOGO, the ultra conservative San Diego talk radio station, the local home of Rush Limbaugh, and until recently the home of the disgraced ex-mayor of San Diego, Roger Hedgecock. It was Clear Channel that made the decision in 2007 to make the format change at KLSD from progressive talk to all sports talk, despite the growth, success, and popularity of the station.
“The story is not that (KLSD) failed,” said Randi Rhodes. “The story is that we succeeded against all odds on low power signals, which is all we had access to.”
KLSD, though, is typical of what has happened in dozens of other markets across America. Ninety-one percent of all of the news talk radio stations in the country are conservative, with only nine percent progressive. And in San Diego, KLSD was competing directly with the more established Clear Channel property, KOGO. KLSD, the documentary asserts, was cutting into the profit margin of Clear Channel’s local conservative darling, and they just couldn’t allow that to happen.
Based in Texas, Clear Channel was founded by Lowry Mays, a hardcore Republican supporter and a major backer of George W. Bush. The company was taken private in 2008 by Bain Capital, whose founder and former CEO is none other than current Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
“We’re not in the business of providing news and information,” Mays told CNNMoney Magazine. “We’re not in the business of providing well researched music. We’re simply in the business of selling our customers products.” According to “Save KLSD,” It was this mentality that was used to justify the format change, as it was the contention of the KLSD sales staff that they just couldn’t sell enough advertising to keep the station afloat. It was the clear implication that progressives don’t buy products and services, but conservatives do.
“Save KLSD” is a fascinating and important look at the changes in the national media landscape that has resulted in the massive misinformation campaigns conducted by conservative media and made possible only by the corporate consolidation of our media nationwide. Using KLSD as the example, the documentary examines the larger issue of what our media outlets have become because of corporate consolidation, and perhaps more importantly the resulting demise of local news and information.
“Save KLSD” is well worth seeing. The next screening is scheduled for this Thursday, July 5th, at 7pm at the Fallbrook Democratic Club at 990 E. Mission Rd. in Fallbrook. The next San Diego screening will be Tuesday August 14th at 6pm at 98 Bottles in Downtown San Diego. The full length DVD can also be purchased for $25 at SaveKLSD.com. See this link for complete screening schedules and information.
The Supreme Court today upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, the signature legislative accomplishment of the Obama Administration in a 5-4 decision, a majority that included conservative Chief Justice John Roberts. This is a big day for the Obama Administration, and for Democrats nationwide. This was the day that the Affordable Care Act—an imperfect law with definite shortcomings, but a good start toward healthcare reform nonetheless—was ratified as the law of the land once and for all.
Since day one Republicans have assaulted the Act as unconstitutional on several grounds, spreading lies and misinformation about the Act in a propaganda campaign to ensure public opinion is squarely against it. Lies such as calling it a “government takeover of healthcare,” or excoriating the “death panels” that the law supposedly contained, or that those who already had insurance through their employer were going to lose it, or railing about the trillions of dollars it will add to the budget deficit.
None of those things are even remotely true. In fact, they’re all demonstrably false, but that hasn’t stopped the right wing from passing it all off as gospel.
In the 2010 midterm election, Republicans swept into power largely on the strength of their propaganda campaign against “Obamacare,” a sweeping piece of reform legislation modeled directly after the healthcare system in Massachusetts. That system, which included the controversial “individual mandate,” was taken directly from the hard right wing Heritage Foundation, who first published the concept in 1993 in response to the Clinton Administration’s attempt at a massive overhaul of the nation’s healthcare system (which, of course, failed).
The individual mandate is the proviso that everyone who didn’t already have health insurance through their employer and can afford to purchase healthcare must do so. Those who cannot afford to purchase insurance would receive government subsidies based on their level of need in order to help them do so. Those who still could not or refused to buy insurance would be levied a fine in the form of a tax to be collected by the IRS (with incredibly weak enforcement provisions, I might add).
Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee (unofficial) and former Governor of Massachusetts, implemented this very system as governor. In 2009 Romney went on “Meet the Press” and specifically endorsed the idea of an individual mandate on a national basis. In 2007, Romney praised the Massachusetts law as “a model for the nation.” In fact, since they helped write the Massachusetts law, former Romney staffers were brought in to consult on the Affordable Care Act.
Upon the ACA’s passage in 2010, it didn’t take long for Republican state Attorneys General—26 of them, to be exact—to file a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law on two primary fronts: That the individual mandate itself is unconstitutional, as is the requirement to expand Medicaid programs or face the loss of federal funding.
Today, albeit by a narrow decision and one that would normally be the subject of much consternation and bring more charges of extreme partisanship upon the Supreme Court, the Republicans were nearly completely rebuffed in their assertions.
With the ruling in 2000’s Bush v. Gore that effectively handed the presidency to George W. Bush, and the highly polarizing Citizens United ruling that opened the floodgates for unlimited corporate cash to be spent wantonly and directly on political campaigns, and with a recent study that found the Court ruled in the Chamber of Commerce’s favor in 68% of the cases where it had an interest in the outcome, Justices are becoming viewed more and more as political actors.
Take Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent in the Arizona immigration case earlier in the week: Scalia took pen to paper to excoriate President Obama’s decision to allow some illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children to stay, despite the fact that the case before him had absolutely nothing to do with Obama’s executive order. In fact, the executive order was issued long after the case against Arizona’s SB 1070 was heard by the Court. Scalia’s dissent focused on matters not before the court, was entirely political, and completely unbefitting a Supreme Court Justice.
During his 2005 confirmation hearings, Chief Justice John Roberts told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he came “with no agenda,” and that he viewed his job as a Justice of the Supreme Court as that of an umpire, that it was his job “to call balls and strikes and not to pitch or bat.”
With the precedent set by Citizens United and the reaffirmation of it in ruling against Montana’s 1912 state law banning corporate contributions in political campaigns, that promise was highly in doubt. Until today.
In writing for the majority, Roberts said “Members of this court are invested with the authority to interpret the law; we possess neither the expertise nor the prerogative to make policy judgments. Those judgments are entrusted to our Nation’s elected leaders, who can be thrown out of office if the people disagree with them. It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.” As properly apolitical a statement as there ever was.
In his ruling on “Obamacare,” Roberts held true to his word, saying that it was the Court’s job to seek out a way to find the law constitutional.
This was a rather complex case, and it shows in the ruling of the Court. The Obama Administration argued that the individual mandate was constitutional under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. In effect, the government argued that when a person declines to purchase health insurance and gets sick, the costs of treating that person get passed on to everyone else in the form of increased healthcare costs, and thus affected interstate commerce, since everyone at one time or other will need health care. In this case, inactivity rather than activity was being legislated against. The Court held, though, that the ACA could not be held constitutional under the Commerce Clause.
“The individual mandate forces individuals into commerce precisely because they elected to refrain from commercial activity. Such a law cannot be sustained under a clause authorizing Congress to ‘regulate Commerce,’” Roberts wrote, deeming the law unconstitutional if judged strictly by the Commerce Clause.
However, under the government’s power to tax, “the Government asks us to read the mandate not as ordering individuals to buy insurance, but rather as imposing a tax on those refusing to buy that product.”
Under the mandate, if an individual does not maintain health insurance, the only consequence is that he must make an additional payment to the IRS when he pays his taxes. See §5000A(b). That, according to the Government,means the mandate can be regarded as establishing acondition—not owning health insurance—that triggers atax—the required payment to the IRS. Under that theory, the mandate is not a legal command to buy insurance.Rather, it makes going without insurance just another thing the Government taxes, like buying gasoline or earning income. And if the mandate is in effect just a tax hike on certain taxpayers who do not have health insurance, itmay be within Congress’s constitutional power to tax.
Because the ACA enforced the mandate through the IRS via a “shared responsibility payment” by taxpayers, the individual mandate was thus deemed proper and constitutional under Congress’ authority to levy taxes.
The ACA also required states to expand their Medicaid programs to provide basic coverage to all individuals under the age of 65 whose incomes fell below 133 percent of the federal poverty line. The federal government, in turn, would fund a minimum of 90 percent of the additional costs incurred by the states. Failure to comply with this requirement, according to the ACA, could result in a state losing all of its Medicaid funding.
The Court ruled that the federal government does not have the power to require states to “govern according to Congress’ instructions.” The Court was led to “scrutinize Spending Clause legislation to ensure that Congress is not using financial inducements to exert ‘a power akin to undue influence,’” Roberts wrote. “Congress may use its spending power to create incentives for states to act in accordance with federal policies. But when ‘pressure turns to compulsion,’ the legislation runs contrary to our system of federalism.”
The federal government can still offer funds to expand Medicaid programs, but it cannot threaten to withhold all federal Medicaid funding from states that refuse to accept the terms of expansion spelled out in the ACA, the ruling held. It is my guess that most states will, in fact, take the federal government up on its offer to fund at least 90 percent of the costs incurred by expansion.
The short of it is that this is a victory for health care reform in the United States. “Obamacare” is far from perfect, or even ideal. But it was deemed the best they could do under the circumstances, and is without a doubt a good start. The process of reform is far from over, and this is a necessary first step. And while a public option was not included in this iteration of healthcare reform, there is no reason to think that we might not eventually see one implemented several years down the road. The Affordable Care Act leaves room for that option.
The fact that it was John Roberts joining the liberal wing of the Court in affirming the legality of the ACA is a major blow to Republicans. Roberts is a stalwart conservative and normally reliably among the conservative cabal on the Court, after all, and Anthony Kennedy, who is normally the swing vote in 5-4 cases, voted in dissent. It was widely expected that the Court would either overturn the Affordable Care Act in a 5-4 decision, or affirm it in a 6-3 vote with Roberts and Kennedy both in the majority.
Ordinarily a 5-4 decision would be met with derision; the court would be ostracized for making a strictly political ruling. But with Roberts siding with the majority, that accusation falls flat, and lends the finding additional credibility.
The bottom line is that the affirmation of “Obamacare” means that 30 million people will have access to health care that otherwise would not. And it means that the United States is finally well on its way to completely reforming our healthcare system. The implementation of the Affordable Care Act is merely the beginning stages of that process.
In San Diego and elsewhere across the country, public employees are the bane of conservatives’ existence, including, as we found out, police and fire services.
City Beat’s Kelly Davis has a great story up about the Police Officer’s Association and their efforts at their own pension reform. The union, it turns out, came up with a pension plan that would have reduced the amount paid to their members out of their pension fund upon retirement, increased some officers’ take home pay, made the San Diego Police Department more competitive salary wise with departments across the state, and saved the City of San Diego $3 million over the next two years.
The plan was rejected almost entirely out of hand. Why? Purely due to politics. Mayor Jerry Sanders didn’t want to do any major contract negotiations, leaving that responsibility to whoever is elected as San Diego’s next mayor—either Carl DeMaio or Bob Filner.
The problem is, as Davis’ story points out, that the SDPD is hemorrhaging officers left and right, and is unable to replace them. Since 2008, 708 officers have left the SDPD for better paying jobs elsewhere, either with other police agencies or in the private sector. In the meantime, the department has only been able to replace 576 of them. San Diego is at the bottom of the pay scale among the major police departments in California. And each time the department has to train a new officer, it costs $100,000 in addition to the officer’s salary.
The SDPD is having a major retention problem. And when their own union tried to do something to alleviate the problem, they were rebuffed because it didn’t fit the political narrative of the day: That unions are bad; unions are always bad; unions are greedy and are only out for themselves and their members, never mind what’s good for the city at large. Unions make city services too expensive. The Carl DeMaio crowd’s rhetoric is that unions need to be decimated in order for the city to even be able to function.
Public employee unions are the villains in this narrative, no matter how much of their salaries they’ve given back in the recent past to cooperate with city officials to solve the great fiscal crisis San Diego is just climbing out of. It doesn’t matter how many benefits they’ve given up, or how valuable the services are that their members provide, and regardless of the logical, reasonable, workable proposals they come up with to solve current crises. Unions are the problem, and anything that goes against that message must be soundly rejected because the unions must not be allowed to look reasonable.
Look, I’m not a union guy. I’m supportive of the unions, but I’ll be the first to call them out when I think their behavior is detrimental to the public good and their members. (By the way, City Beat’s right when they say the teachers’ union has to relent, and it appears that they’re going to do just that.) But in just about every case over the last several years, that has been the complete opposite of the truth, and Carl DeMaio knows it. He just doesn’t want you to know it.
In my story Wednesday I took a look at fire fighter salaries in San Diego. You’d be surprised at just how easy it was to find. A comment by the OB Rag’s Jack Hamlin inspired me to look into the salaries that SDPD officers earn. Because if you listen to the right wing rhetoric, all city employees are dramatically overpaid, including police officers. So according to the FY-2011 budget, the latest available, under the category “Personnel Expenses,” here is a sampling of what officers in the San Diego Police Department earn (the number in parentheses indicates the number of individuals performing those jobs):
- Police Officer 1 (125): $49,254 to 59,467
- Police Officer 2 (1,149.25): $62,837 to $75,941
- Police Officer 3 (7): $65,998 to $79,747
- Police Sergeant (292, down from 312): $76,274 to $92,206
- Police Lieutenant (50.25): $97,594 to $116,813
- Police Captain (14): $117,645 to $140,899
- Police Detective (343.5): $65,998 to $79,747
Chief Bill Landsdowne apparently currently earns a salary of $172,928, and of course there’s only one of him.
(Side note: I wasted a bunch of time, thinking I could do a comparison on my own of the salaries offered by some of the major PD’s in California, but apparently the SDPD is the only department that puts their annual budget online, separate from the rest of the city operations. So kudos to them for the transparency.)
Just for giggles, here’s a look at some of the salaries civilian employees of the SDPD make:
- Clerical Assistant 2 (9.75) $29,971 to $36,067
- Dispatcher 2 (72 of them; we lost 7): $37,440 to $45,178
- Police Records Data Specialist (8, two fewer than a year ago): $32,074 to $38,834
- Public Information Clerk (1): $31,491
- Information Systems Analyst 2 (9): $54,059 to $65,333
Nobody is getting rich working for the San Diego Police Department. Some of the higher ups are paid fairly well, but with higher responsibility comes higher pay.
San Diego, with a population of 1.3 million people, is the 8th largest city in the country. Between all of the sworn officers and civilian personnel, the SDPD employs 2,538 of those people, unless I’m misinterpreting the numbers they provide in their budget.
Bottom line: We’ve got a faction of political leaders in this city that are telling us, in effect, that all government spending is bad. Unless it’s spent on the military, of course. They would have everyone believe that anyone working in the public sector is a leech getting fat and doing nothing of value on the public’s dime. In the ideal world of people like Carl DeMaio and Lorie Zapf, there would be no public sector, as every public service would be contracted out to the lowest bidder.
The thing is, we tend to get what we pay for. And personally speaking, having strong, competent, well run and adequately funded police and fire departments are incredibly important for a city as big as San Diego—we may like to pretend we’re a small town, but we’re anything but. And when you consider that San Diego lifeguards, who stand watch over one of our most valuable economic engines—the beaches–their role takes on even more significance.
San Diegans typically demand a high level of service from those who get paid out of the taxpayers’ coffers. But they also don’t like the idea of having to pay for those services, and that applies to all public services and not just the police and fire departments. We must hold our workers and public officials accountable for the jobs they do, but what we have to decide on is what we value more: A high quality work product, or paying as little as absolutely possible for the services we benefit from. And if paying as little as possible is the most important factor, then maybe we should contract everything out to the lowest bidder (which would include current city departments).
Just don’t be surprised if the work product turns out to be somewhat less than our normally high standards. And don’t complain when the police don’t respond to your 911 call
Romney said of Obama, “he wants another stimulus, he wants to hire more government workers. He says we need more fireman, more policeman, more teachers. Did he not get the message of Wisconsin? The American people did. It’s time for us to cut back on government and help the American people.”
(emphasis added by Sargent, quoted from CNN)
Sargent also points out the Republican message that public sector employees “are parasites who are destroying the economic condition of ordinary Americans.”
Mitt Romney, the de-facto leader of the Republican Party, says that not only do we not need more police and firefighters, but we don’t need any more teachers. We have no use for ‘em. They’re part of the public sector problem, and we can easily do away with them. This fits in line with Romney’s way of thinking that class sizes are not significant factors in a students’ ability to perform in the classroom.
Other than to highlight that saying students learn better with larger class sizes is patently ridiculous on its face, and that every credible stuy done on the matter has determined that it’s patently false, we’ll leave Romney’s stance on education alone for now.
President Obama met with the press today and said that the private sector is doing quite well. He’s right. WaPo’s Ezra Klein lays out that case quite nicely here. But what isn’t doing fine, Obama said, and the reason our economy is still lagging, is because the public sector is still in serious trouble. Since Obama took office, the public sector has lost 600,000 jobs. That includes police, fire fighters, teachers…
The private sector, on the other hand, has added a net 780,000 jobs since February 2009. The private sector is humming along, but the economy is lagging because the public sector is in trouble. Obama wants to help state, county, and municipal governments to restore some of those 600,000 jobs that have been lost. Mitt Romney wants to see those people remain unemployed. Or he wants to see all of those services privatized. It’s hard to tell which, since Romney won’t actually tell us where he stands on anything, and anytime he does hint at it, he flip flops on it by the next day.
But it’s a philosophical divide; one with the Mitt Romneys and Carl DeMaios of the world saying “eradicate the public sector,” and the Barack Obamas, Nancy Pelosis, and Bob Filners of the world saying that the public sector plays an important role in our overall economic health. There’s plenty of evidence out there (presented here in this update, even) to tell us who’s right and who’s wrong.
Debate at Joyce Beers Community Center in Hillcrest between Todd Gloria and Lani Lutar sharpens the contrast between Prop B pension reform proponents and opponents, the real motivations behind the June, 2012 ballot initiative, and the real costs to the city if it passes.
Last week the OB Rag sat down with Congressman and San Diego mayoral candidate Bob Filner, where he discussed in detail his version of a plan to fix the city’s pension system. During the interview he laid out the framework for what he says would be an effective and—most importantly–legal way to save the city money and bring down the debt problem generated from the underfunding of city worker pensions by former mayors Susan Golding and Dick Murphy.
Filner’s plan entails capping pensions at just under $100,000, renegotiating a labor contract with city workers for a period of five years with smaller salary increases than are called for in the current contracts, and by refinancing the city’s pension debt at a lower interest rate and for a 30 year term. According to Filner, combine all three steps and you get a savings roughly equivalent to the $963 million over 30 years that Prop B is estimated to save. Refinancing alone, Filner says, would save the city $550 million over the next 10 years.
Prop B, you might recall, is the “Comprehensive Pension Reform” initiative that converts all pensions for new city employees to a defined contribution 401(k) plan and imposes a salary freeze on city employee wages for the next five years.
I know………this is all terribly wonkish stuff. Bear with me…….
Last night, Democrats for Equality hosted a forum at the Joyce Beers Community Center in Hillcrest to talk specifically about Prop B. City Councilman Todd Gloria was there to debate Lani Lutar, the president of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association. I’ll let you guess which side of the argument each was on.
As noted, the talk centered around Prop B, which proponents say will save the city almost $1 billion over the next 30 years, while opponents say it will cost the city $54 million over the next five years. It all gets rather complicated, as this fact check analysis by the Voice of San Diego’s Liam Dillon shows.
Lutar says that Prop B must pass so that the city can not only shift from what is known as a defined benefit plan (pensions) to a defined contribution plan (401(k)), and so that the city can shift the risk from the city to city workers.
Lutar tried gamely to convince the audience that Prop B, whose biggest champion is mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio, was actually good for city workers, and that it created a certainty and stability in the pension system that would be good for the city. Except that it really puts an end to the pension system, and it leaves the futures of city workers subject to the stock market “like everyone else.”
Breaking it down to the basics: According to the City Auditor, Prop B will cost the city $13 million more over the next 30 years, and will result in an additional $54 million in costs for the city for fiscal years 2014-2016 due to a mandated acceleration in payments into the pension plans of older city workers.
Here’s where it gets really interesting and damaging to proponents of Prop B: According to Gloria, the City of San Diego currently has a budget surplus of $16 million. In fact, says Gloria, compared to Los Angeles and San Francisco, San Diego is in great shape financially.
In 2014, San Diego is currently projected to have a $2 million surplus. If Prop B is implemented in full force (no guarantee…..more in a minute) the fiscal impact on the city budget in 2014 will be a cost of $27 million, Gloria says. Combine that with the $5 million scheduled to be put into the system, and we have San Diego going from a $2 million surplus to a $20 million deficit.
“I just don’t understand why people are complaining when we save the city nearly $1 billion over 30 years. That’s money that goes back into the city’s coffers for road repairs and other city services,” said Lutar.
Perhaps it’s because that’s $54 million that can be put to work for San Diego in the near term without digging a massive hole in the budget.
Oh…….and there is no guarantee that Prop B will be implemented as intended. As Lutar herself admitted, the law will only allow the five year pay freeze to be the opening salvo in negotiations with the labor unions, and it can be overridden by a 2/3 vote of the City Council. So while DeMaio is “supporting certain candidates for the City Council” that will make sure the city doesn’t vote to override the pay freeze, it’s highly unlikely that after going without pay increases for the last five years that the unions will agree to an additional five years of no wage increases. That would be 10 years for city workers’ wages remaining stagnant.
Oh, yeah……..forgot to mention: City workers in 2009 already agreed to freeze their wages and give back certain pension and health benefits in order to help the city get its financial house in order. And it worked. The city currently has an A+ credit rating from Standard & Poor’s after having its credit suspended back in 2004.
But, Lutar says, under Prop B city employees are still eligible for annual pay bonuses. The city can still reward workers bonuses in lieu of pay raises should it see fit to do so during the pay freeze.
Prop B “is nothing but an effort to attack city workers and make their lives absolutely miserable,” Gloria said. “Carl DeMaio will not give city workers bonuses. What he wants is to make their lives so miserable that they eventually leave, and when enough of them leave, he can go and contract those services out to private corporations.” It’s all a part of DeMaio’s push to make San Diego the “Wisconsin of the West,” he said.
San Diego, Gloria says, has a pension debt problem and not a budget problem.
Which is where Bob Filner and his plan comes in. None of the talk on the night dealt with how to effectively deal with that pension debt that was incurred by the city councils led by Mayors Golding and Murphy. Filner has a very reasonable idea for how to do it: Refinance $1 billion of it for a 30 year period. I’m no expert, but it sounds like it could work. Lower interest rate combined with a longer term spells significantly lower payments than the city is putting in now.
Filner shared with us the outlines of his pension proposal, but he hasn’t submitted it to be combed over by the numbers crunchers to see just exactly what it would do and how much it could save. There are no official numbers.
So when I asked Todd Gloria why they didn’t discuss the refinancing aspect, he said that until there was a real nitty gritty analysis to look at they can’t present it as a legitimate alternative.
As it stands, San Diego voters aren’t really being offered a choice. City officials have done a lot of work to correct some of what was broken, but more needs to be done to reduce the escalating payments into the pension system over the next decade.
Bob Filner has what appears to be a truly viable alternative to Prop B, which is simply bad plan for San Diego and San Diego city workers. But by his campaign not getting off its duff and presenting some actual numbers they are doing this city a real disservice. By not presenting and articulating a real alternative to Prop B that voters can parse through themselves, voters are going to feel compelled to vote in favor of a bad deal that’s designed to make civil service so unpalatable that the Carl DeMaio’s of San Diego will once and for all be able to fulfill their dreams of privatizing the entire city.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, then you’ve probably heard that the Supreme Court’s hearing on the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare” as Republicans so love to derisively call it, has begun in earnest over the last two days. At issue is the matter of whether or not the individual mandate—the requirement that everyone who can afford to purchase some form of health insurance does so or face a penalty—is constitutional under the Commerce Clause. Republicans, despite their zeal for the idea not too long ago, and despite the fact that Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney pioneered a nearly identical plan as governor of Massachusetts, are vehemently opposed to the federal government “taking away our freedom” by forcing its citizens to buy a health insurance plan that they will with near absolute certainty need to use at some point in their lives.
Let’s set aside for a moment that the individual mandate was originally a Republican idea that was passionately advocated by Republicans just a short time ago. Set aside the fact that ever since President Obama adopted the mechanism and incorporated it into his historic healthcare reform initiative Republicans have suddenly done a complete 180 and decided that it’s the absolute worst idea since banking regulation and in no way constitutional. ‘Cause, you know, there’s some sort of not-so-secret pact amongst Republicans to oppose absolutely everything that Obama says he’s in favor of. I mean, if Obama said that he liked puppies, Republicans would suddenly embark on a crusade to rid the nation of those vile, nasty, anti-American puppies.
So let’s set aside the fact that the entire plan from top to bottom has Republican fingerprints all over it. The question before the Supreme Court is whether, under the Commerce Clause, the government can mandate the purchase of health insurance. The argument goes that since health insurance is something that absolutely everyone is going to need at some point in their lives, those that don’t have it and subsequently find themselves in need of medical care but cannot afford to pay for it themselves affect the cost of health care for absolutely everybody else. Current estimates say that the uninsured add an extra $1,000 to everyone else’s healthcare costs. And by mandating that everyone have some form of health coverage, it increases the risk pool which brings down the cost for everyone since there will inherently be more healthy people in the market and far fewer without coverage and unable to pay for medical care when they need it……and they will need it.
That’s the basic argument on the part of the government: That because the cost of healthcare affects absolutely everyone at some point or other, then Congress has the authority to regulate it. Besides, everyone pays into Social Security and Medicare, and those are deemed perfectly constitutional.
The opposition—the 26 states that are suing to overturn the law—asserts that “Obamacare” is a bridge too far. If the government can force its citizens to buy health coverage, then what’s to stop them from mandating a gym membership? What’s to stop the government from forcing people to buy broccoli, as Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick put it in an appearance on “The Rachel Maddow Show,” “because, after all, broccoli is even more highly correlated to good health outcomes than health insurance.” The opposition, she says, is giving us the old slippery slope argument that first health insurance, then broccoli, then all of a sudden the government will mandate that everyone buy a GM car in order to boost the economy.
The opposition decries the fact that, for the first time, instead of the government regulating activity, now the government is seeking to regulate inactivity (i.e. the desire to not purchase health insurance).
Ok, so the argument is that the government should not be allowed to mandate the purchase of insurance because, you know, “freedom” and “liberty” and all that good stuff. The government shouldn’t be allowed to mandate health insurance but it should be allowed to mandate medical procedures totally and completely unnecessary to abortion services (ultrasound laws).
But here’s another one that’s even more relevant to the current argument: The government is not allowed to mandate health insurance coverage, but they can mandate auto insurance? Every state with the exception of New Hampshire and Wisconsin require liability insurance in order to legally drive a car. Without proof of auto insurance, you cannot register your car, and if you cannot register your car, you cannot legally drive your car. And if you are pulled over and don’t have valid insurance or a valid registration, you are penalized in the form of a hefty fine and possibly the suspension of your driver’s license.
And don’t give me this “state’s rights” B.S. A mandate is a mandate. Why should the state be allowed to force me to buy something that I have never once used in all of the years that I have had a license to drive <*knocking firmly on wood here*>, but the federal government is not allowed to mandate health insurance coverage? And it is an Interstate Commerce issue, since an uninsured person could just as easily get sick or injured in Arizona as he or she could in their home state of, say, California (Arizona is one of the states suing to overturn the law, but oddly enough they, like 47 other states, mandate auto insurance). And if an uninsured person from California gets sick or injured in Arizona, then it’s the fine people of Arizona that are stuck footing the bill if he or she can’t pay.
If a system of health coverage works in Massachusetts—a system that was created by a Republican Governor that is now running for President of the United States but now opposes his own health care plan—why should that plan not work on a national level? And why should we listen to that guy who created that very system tell us now why it’s such a craptastic idea for the country when just three years ago he was telling anyone who would listen what a brilliant idea it was for the country because it was working so well in Massachusetts?
If the healthcare mandate is unconstitutional on a national level, then it should be deemed unconstitutional on the state level. And if it’s unconstitutional on the state level, so is the requirement to purchase car insurance.
If the healthcare law is overturned, I for one will look forward to the ensuing repeal of all auto insurance mandates. ‘Cause, you know, the guvmint shouldn’t be allowed to force me to buy something I don’t want, no matter how much my actions affect those around me.
In ProFootballTalk.com’s Mike Florio’s opinion, the pro days are a waste of time. Which just shows how very little he knows about what the NFL scouts actually do.
ProFootballTalk.com’s Mike Florio ranted today about what a “sham” the NFL pro day workouts that take place on college campuses all across the country in front of NFL scouts and coaches are. He claims “they’re all for show,” and that they’re pretty meaningless. (See the video at the end of this post)
Spoken like a guy who has never attended a pro day as an NFL scout, and who clearly doesn’t understand what the scouts are looking for. I don’t know how many pro day workouts Mike Florio has attended, but I have attended many. And I can tell you that they’re a pretty valuable tool in many cases. Not always, but more often than not.
Florio essentially tries to make the case that because a pro day workout is not going to change the draft status of Stanford QB Andrew Luck or Baylor QB Robert Griffin III that they should scrap the pro days altogether. “Scouts attend the pro days because they have to,” he says. He’s missing the point entirely.
First of all, Florio is mostly right when it comes to guys like Luck and Griffin. In fact the guys who are considered surefire top 10 picks almost never work out at all for the scouts, especially the top quarterbacks (and quarterbacks rarely run the 40 at all). There really isn’t much for them to gain from it. And he’s also right that a poor workout isn’t going to damage a guy like Luck’s draft status. But the workouts aren’t about guys like Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. They’re an evaluational tool, a piece to the puzzle.
Because “they’re scripted,” Florio claims that the workouts tell us nothing, that in comparison to seeing a player in a game situation it’s meaningless. Except that by the time we get to the pro day, the scouts have already seen the guy on film in a game situation. What scouts are looking for are things that you really can’t see sometimes on film.
The timing and testing at a pro day helps scouts define a player’s quickness, change of direction ability, and explosiveness. The 40 yard dash, the shuttle, the three cone, and the broad and vertical jumps help quantify that. It gives the scouts a little perspective. Seeing a player up close and personal provides an extra insight on how he moves, and helps to define his athletic ability better.
The workouts often help scouts differentiate between players in the draft. Maybe it gives one player from one school a slight edge over another player from another school in the eyes of the scout when it comes time to choose who to draft. And not all draft eligible players get invited to the combine. The pro day workout allows scouts to take a second look at a guy they may not have regarded very highly in the fall.
Pro days often tell scouts things about a player that they couldn’t see on film. For example: In 2002, Fresno St. middle linebacker Sammy Williams was a guy who just plain looked awkward on film. He was tall and lanky. He could run a little in a straight line, but he really struggled in pass coverage and couldn’t backpedal worth a damn or turn and run out of it. His change of direction in space was awful. After watching three or four games on him it was really pretty easy to write him off as a non-prospect……until we saw him at his pro day workout.
He measured in at 6’4 ½, 250 lbs. Watching him go through drills, it was obvious that there was some explosiveness there that you really couldn’t see him use all that well on film. It was then that it dawned on me that he might just have been playing out of position, and that he might fit very nicely at defensive end instead of as a linebacker (or maybe an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme). He certainly wasn’t an inside linebacker. So at the end of the workout I asked him if he had ever played with his hand down (football parlance for playing on the line of scrimmage). He said “no.” So I put him through some defensive line drills just to see what he might look like. Based on that exercise and based on my report, on the draft board we moved him from a linebacker position to defensive end, and from a player that we had little to no interest in to a “priority free agent,” meaning that had he slipped all the way through the draft, he was one of our top targets in the rookie free agent pool.
The Oakland Raiders ended up drafting Williams in the 3rd round of the 2003 draft, as a defensive end. They way overdrafted him, but it was that workout that opened their eyes to him.
In 2005, USC QB Matt Cassel was a complete unknown. He had only taken a handful of snaps in garbage time through his four year career with the Trojans. He was third string the year Carson Palmer won the Heisman Trophy at USC, and he was second string the next year when Matt Leinart won the Heisman Trophy. At one point he had contemplated quitting football altogether in favor of pitching for the USC baseball team. The scouts had no idea who he was until that pro day workout. But there he was at the end of the workout throwing passes to various receivers and tight ends. He had an excellent setup, solid footwork, a blistering delivery, and very nice accuracy. Scouts that were walking off the field preparing to leave suddenly stopped in their tracks to watch. More and more scouts started crowding around the USC coaches to find out who the hell this kid was, what’s his story, and do you have any game film on him?
Because of that workout, Matt Cassel was drafted in the 7th round by the New England Patriots. In the 2008 season opener, Tom Brady was hurt and lost for the season, and Matt Cassel given the reins. Cassel is now the starting QB for the Kansas City Chiefs. Without that pro day workout, Matt Cassel’s football career was over.
It’s a common misconception that NFL scouts evaluate based on pro day or combine workouts; that 40 times or other workout numbers make or break a player’s draft status. That’s not true. The workouts are an evaluational tool. The workouts are a piece to the puzzle that taken by themselves mean very little. But when put together with the reports from film study during the fall visit they help put the picture of who and what a player is into much sharper focus. They also give the scouts a chance to interact a little with the players, to see what kind of personality they have, and how they interact with others.
There is absolutely no substitute for film study. None whatsoever. Anyone who tells you otherwise either doesn’t know any better or is really bad at their job as a scout. But the pro days are certainly not a “sham,” as Mike Florio contends. They’re an important part of the evaluation process that helps scouts sort through the 1,500 or so draft eligible players every year. Mike Florio the pundit may only be interested in the top picks of the draft, but the job of an NFL scout is to prepare for all seven rounds of the draft and free agency. The pro days help to do that.
Limiting the availability of contraception to women or the denial of civil rights to gays and lesbians on the basis of religious objections is itself a denial of religious freedom. How Conservatives misunderstand the concept of religious liberty.
I was born a Jew. Which really doesn’t mean a whole heck of a lot since I’ve never been the religious type. Ever. Yeah, sure I was Bar Mitzvahed and did the whole Sunday school thing as a kid. But religion was never my thing. It just never appealed to me. My senior year in high school, as a member of my high school football team, I was furious with my parents for making me attend High Holiday services instead of going to school: The school was having a pep rally at lunch for our football game that night, and some of my teammates were going to perform a skit dressed as cheerleaders (imagine a 250lb Korean offensive linemen in a cheerleader skirt!). And I had to miss it. Even worse, I had to miss the game which we won in dramatic fashion on a last second Hail Mary touchdown pass, the most exciting game and finish of my entire, brief football career, which I had to read about in the newspaper the next morning.
Religion has simply never been an important or valued part of my life. It just never struck a chord with me. To me Judaism is much more of a culture than it is a religion; a culture with which I have only a loose relationship. Since I graduated from high school (which was a long time ago), you can probably count the number of times I’ve set foot in a synagogue on two hands. And that doesn’t include the several times I’ve peered into the largely symbolic synagogue in Old Town San Diego just out of curiosity—the notion of a synagogue in 19th century San Diego seems so odd for some reason.
This also means that I am not a Christian of any kind: Not a Catholic, Protestant, Methodist, Baptist………I am not “born again” and I never will be. I am also not a Muslim, and have no desire to convert to Islam. It is my personal view that religion tends to cause at least as many problems as it actually solves.
But I also recognize that organized religion plays a very prominent role in the lives of many, many people. For many, religion provides a sense of purpose, belonging, and for some it brings a sense of peace. There are those who have been rescued from the deepest depths of despair by a newfound or renewed faith in God. And I respect that. Good for them.
The problem I have—particularly in today’s political environment—is with the interpretation of the phrase “religious liberty” and the way it is used by Conservatives. Apparently Democrats and Republicans have very different interpretations of what “religious liberty” or “religious freedom” actually means.
When we look at what’s going on in relation to the Republican presidential primaries and debates and the policies they are pushing—especially in the case of Rick Santorum—they’re talking about imposing a set of values, of religious beliefs, and making those the basis for our government. When Rick Santorum criticizes the president for his “theology that’s not rooted in the bible” and for “trampling on religious liberties,” what he’s really talking about is the way he, Rick Santorum, views government; how government should work in his mind’s eye. And his view of government is one in which his particular set of religious values rule the day. He’s talking about governing not according to the rule of law, but according to the rule of the Christian Bible. And that goes against the very founding principles of this nation.
Take the ridiculous contraception kerfuffle. From the “liberal” side, it has absolutely nothing to do with “religious liberty” and everything to do with individual rights. Virtually all employer supplied insurance plans provide full contraception coverage. But allowing a company to pick and choose which services they do and do not want their employees to have access to amounts to discrimination. By default it gives the employer the power to make medical decisions for their employees on the basis of their own religious moral code, forcing their beliefs on others who may or may not accept that particular view. By denying contraception coverage, the employer is essentially injecting him or herself into the private lives of their employees. These decisions sometimes have real world consequences.
In the testimony delivered to House Democrats, Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke told lawmakers about her friend, a fellow Georgetown Law student, who suffered from ovarian cysts that could have been treated by the use of birth control pills. She was denied coverage for the pills due to the university’s affiliation with the Catholic Church, and doctors were eventually forced to remove one of her ovaries. And before you ask, yes she did pay for the prescription out of pocket for a while (which can cost up to $3,000 per year), but the cost became too prohibitive, so she stopped.
When Conservatives complain about the HHS rule requiring contraception coverage, what they’re really complaining about is that the ability to impose their religious morals and beliefs on others is being stripped away.
That same metric can be applied to any number of issues: Objections to gay marriage are almost exclusively made on religious grounds. Outrage over the prohibition of prayer in public schools because the outraged consider it an infringement on their religious freedom. (And by the way, kids can still pray in school should they so desire. It simply cannot be required or facilitated by the school’s teachers or administration in a manner that has the effect of forcing all kids to participate whether they choose to or not.) Criticisms over scientific principles taught in our schools, particularly evolution. Policy preferences that favor a certain view of what a family is—including ideologies regarding a woman’s role in the workplace or that shame single mothers for being, well, single. Attempts to make divorce more difficult to obtain. All are not-so-veiled overtures about which religious principles are acceptable and which are not.
It’s important that we all pay attention to what’s being said in the political sphere and the underlying intent. As David Corn pointed out:
If a politician views those who oppose his policies and ideas (say on birth control) as tools or partners of Satan (as opposed to simply being wrong), it could well affect how he responds to them and how he considers their argument. The president is supposedly the president of all Americans, even those who didn’t vote for him. But if the political opposition is part of (or moved by) a satanic force, then there’s not much point in granting it any respect—or seeking compromises. After all, all’s fair in spiritual warfare.
Freedom of religion is one of the very bedrock principles of the founding of our nation. Religious oppression was the very reason the Pilgrims fled England in the first place. The right of religious freedom of course means that all Americans have the right to their religious beliefs without interference or restriction (within reason; human sacrifice is generally frowned upon). Just as importantly, however, it also means the right to freedom from religion. The right to not accept any particular set of religious beliefs and live a secular life not based on religious guidance is just as inalienable as another’s right to be devoutly Catholic.
Enacting laws to prevent access to contraception or laws that make it okay for teachers and school administrators to lead prayers during class time is, therefore, a violation of religious freedom. Enacting laws that do nothing more than allow the availability of contraception, however, doesn’t mean that anyone has to take advantage of that availability. If contraception is against your religious principles, don’t use them. Just like if you have a moral objection to pornography; don’t watch it.
Denying gays and lesbians their civil rights because homosexuality is against someone’s religious beliefs is itself a denial of religious freedom. Meanwhile, making optional goods and services available is not a violation of anyone’s rights. Denying them on the grounds of religious beliefs is.
So thanks but no thanks Rick Santorum, Michele Bachman, Sarah Palin, Ron Paul, and Newt Gingrich. No thank you Franklin Graham. I don’t want your religion. I’m perfectly content without mine.
I must be having some sort of nightmare from which I can’t wake up. I could swear that this was the year 2012, but I must be mistaken. How else can you explain the current slate of Republican social policies that have become the topics du jour? Are Republicans really so dumb as to think that this war on contraception—birth control if you will—can possibly be a winning one for them? Have they gone completely batshit crazy as a political entity?
Having serious issues with abortion is one thing. Hey, I’m staunchly pro-choice—choice, not pro-abortion as anti-abortion activists prefer to label it. I believe that abortion is an option of absolute last resort. If you are absolutely against abortion, then don’t have one. No one is forcing you. But that doesn’t give you the right to force someone to carry to term an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy based on your own religious or moral beliefs. And forcing a woman to carry the child of a rapist or incestuous intercourse is just plain cruel.
If you want to discuss limitations on abortions, then let’s have at it. Even I can see the reasonableness of banning late term abortions except in extreme cases. But to deliberately attempt to intimidate a woman out of an abortion by law is simply stupefying. Take laws like the one in Texas that requires women to have a medically unnecessary ultrasound done at least 24 hours before the procedure is performed, or the proposed law in Virginia that has already passed the state legislature and has earned a thumbs up from Bob McDonnell, the state’s Republican Governor, that requires a trans-vaginal ultrasound that has been likened to state-sanctioned rape where the doctor is forced to shove an ultrasound probe up a woman’s vajayjay in order to get a good, up-close and personal look at the fetus. This cannot possibly be constitutional, yet Republicans across the country are repeatedly injecting government into women’s lives in the most personally violable way possible.
But now the conversation has raced past abortion and into the abolition of birth control! Republicans have suddenly decided that contraception is a morally outrageous concept, and the government must now do something to prevent women of all walks of life from having access to it. The formerly benign issue of contraception has suddenly become a divisive and partisan issue! Who knew?
This didn’t just stem from the announcement last week mandating that all businesses that provide health insurance for their employees (except churches) include contraception in the plan, including birth control pills and other forms, at no cost to the insured.
Last November, Mississippi Republicans tried to pass a “personhood amendment” law that would have effectively outlawed all forms of contraception used by women (next thing you know they’ll be coming for the condoms, too). That law was rejected by 55% of the voters in one of the most staunchly conservative states in the Union. In Colorado, a similar measure failed miserably at the polls in 2008, losing by a 73/27 margin, and again in 2010 during the Republican wave by a 70/30 margin.
But even after being completely rejected by the electorate, and despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans support President Obama’s stance in this current birth control debate—even Catholics support the new HHS policy–Republicans have gone all-in against birth control itself. Rick Santorum thinks that birth control is “harmful to women.” Seriously! Mitt Romney blasted President Obama for the mandate, despite the fact that he included a nearly identical provision in his Massachusetts health care law. Newt Gingrich got into the act as well, calling the provision “an outrageous assault on religious liberty.” Rick Santorum Super-PAC sugar daddy Foster Friess told Andrea Mitchell that women should just use aspirin between their knees for contraception. You just can’t make this stuff up! And then there’s the New Hampshire Republican lawmaker that insisted that birth control pills cause prostate cancer. (Note to the biologically challenged: Women don’t have prostate glands!)
It’s just unfathomable that Republicans can possibly be this out of touch with reality; how they are stubbornly and eagerly trying to drag us all back to the 19th Century.
Republicans are trying to frame this debate as one about religious freedom. Because to Republicans, as Jon Stewart puts it, “we should all be free to live by Christian law.” (Also see this piece of brilliance in response to Sean Hannity’s little gathering of holy men.) And they’re right. This is about religion.
The entire concept of freedom of religion is being twisted and contorted by Republicans to mean that they have the right to impose their religious beliefs on the rest of society against their will. And they’re using the contraception debate to do it. They want a Christian society that is ruled by the Bible and Christian law (the very thing they ridicule about Islamic theocracies and the Koran), and by God they’re gonna have it no matter what the Constitution says. But they forget one small tidbit of information: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” While the concept of freedom of religion allows you your religious beliefs without any interference from the law, it also allows for the freedom from religion. Those who choose not to follow the precepts of any particular religion, or who choose not to place religion in a prominent role in their lives, are just as free to do so.
By making contraception available to those who want it does nothing to deny anyone their religious freedom. There is no rule or law that says that you have to utilize it if you don’t want to or if it defies your beliefs.
Really, though, this contraception nonsense is just the tip of the iceberg for Repubs. They’re on a crusade to restrict voting rights. They’re intent on killing workers’ rights. And they just hate schools and school teachers.
This is the 21st Century, but the Republicans keep partying like its 1799.
I guess the truth hurts, don’t it? I didn’t watch the entire Super Bowl on Sunday (I know, right? Me? Not watch the Super Bowl?). I got home just after halftime began and tuned out Madonna’s program. Turned the volume back up just in time to see what was probably the single best commercial bar none of the entire broadcast: Chrysler’s “It’s Halftime in America” commercial:
The ad was an obscenely dramatic and positive message instead of the doom and gloom that we hear from some politicians. When the economy went in to the dumper in 2008, arguably no city was hit harder than Detroit, home of the U.S. auto industry. Chrysler was on life support. GM was hemorrhaging cash so fast that a tourniquet couldn’t stop the bleeding. Auto workers were being laid off in waves, and there was little hope that their jobs would return. The entire auto industry in the United States—the country where the auto industry was born—was on the verge of going extinct. Without serious help both Chrysler and GM were in danger of closing their doors for good, and taking a solvent yet vulnerable Ford down with them.
When Barack Obama took office, he had a choice to make. Let the GM and Chrysler go bankrupt and likely cost the country over a million manufacturing jobs, or work out loans with the companies and come up with a restructuring plan that would turn the companies around for the long term. Ford got involved because, even though they were in decent (but not great) shape financially, they knew that if GM and Chrysler went down, the suppliers the three companies shared would go down with them, making it nearly impossible for Ford to continue to be competitive in the world auto market. They simply wouldn’t be able to get the parts that they needed to build their cars.
The loans were an incredibly unpopular idea. After the government had already bailed out the banksters, the country was not exactly in a mood to reward more incompetence in order to keep badly run companies afloat. Politicians from both parties—but mainly Republicans—had little taste to rush to the auto industry’s aid. Mitt Romney penned an op-ed in the NY Times to insist that we should “Let Detroit go Bankrupt.” Some in Obama’s own cabinet agreed. Over 60% of Americans were against the auto industry bailout.
Obama ignored the naysayers. Losing the auto industry in his estimation would be the death of American manufacturing. The industry was too important to let die. So he authorized the loans to both Chrysler and GM, and a line of credit for Ford should they need it (they ended up not needing it).
The ad itself highlights how Detroit was a city near death, but now it’s clearly on the verge of a comeback. Jobs are coming back, and the auto industry is beginning to thrive again. Three years after the loans were first issued Chrysler is as strong as they’ve been in decades and GM is once again the #1 auto maker in the world and turning a profit. The loans are well on their way to being paid back, GM is once again a publicly traded company, and the Treasury will make a profit on the loans.
The commercial wasn’t intended to be in any way political. The ad is by a car company reminding us of the hard times they’ve endured and of how far they’ve come. But it certainly did strike a political chord. And because of its message and the contrast with the platform of the Republican Party today—particularly the Republican candidates for President—it plays like a “Barack Obama for President” campaign ad. That just does not sit well with Republicans. It’s contains far too much truth for them to handle. They can’t sell their message with Clint Eastwood telling the single largest television audience in the history of the Super Bowl that, in effect, the policies of this administration are working. After all, sending a positive message about the economy and American spirit is completely contrary to the Republican narrative that the end is nigh unless we elect their kind. It was Chrysler’s intent to inspire the fighting spirit of Americans as a people; to remind us of what we are capable of when we all come together for a common cause and work in the spirit of community and for a common goal. But that hasn’t stopped Republicans from crying foul.
Karl Rove, the brains behind the Bush administration, is absolutely beside himself! He told Fox News that he was “offended” by Chrysler’s ad. Republicans everywhere are crying themselves silly that the ad is nothing more than a “rallying call” for the Obama administration. Why? Because the truth hurts, that’s why. Republicans need the economy to be flailing. They need the unemployment rate to rocket back up. They’re practically cheering for the economy to fail. They absolutely hate the fact that, despite their efforts to prevent it, the economy is actually getting better, albeit not quickly enough for most of our liking. And a message like the one Eastwood delivered just does not suit their needs at all. It hurts their campaign, and it damages their chances in November. The loans to the auto makers worked. And they just. Don’t. Like it. At. All.
For his part, Eastwood, the former mayor of Carmel, California, says that he and his Super Ad are not in any way affiliated with the Obama campaign or administration. Eastwood himself is a libertarian Republican and says he has no ties to any of the candidates. But, he says, “If Obama or any other politician wants to run with the spirit of that ad, go for it.”
But for Republicans, the truth sure does seem to hurt. And that’s just too bad.