Incline Left!

Just another WordPress.com site

Contraceptives And Religious Freedom

English: Picture Of Ortho Tri-Cyclen oral cont...

Image via Wikipedia

I have weighed in a few times on Facebook regarding the suddenly controversial contraceptive mandate and wasn’t going to go into it here.

After all, it’s the same old story of politicians on the right scrambling for a wedge issue to bash Obama with.

However, having read the magnificent piece by elder-statesman of the press Bill Moyers on Salon.com, I have to say —

Exactly:

Freedom of religion is freedom from religion

As Moyers details, Obama has responded brilliantly to the feigned outrage of the right by being — well — reasonable.

Now, Obama says insurance companies (not employers) will provide this coverage to those who want it for free. No employer will have sully their “conscience” by offering contraceptives to women in their health care plans.

This, of course, hasn’t satisfied the Catholic bishops, but the Republicans are mistaken if they think they have found in them a steadfast ally or a way to bring Catholic voters into their fold en mass:

But here’s what Republicans don’t get, or won’t tell you. And what Obama manifestly does get. First, the war’s already lost: 98 percent of Catholic women of child-bearing age have used contraceptives. Second, on many major issues, the bishops are on Obama’s side — not least on extending unemployment benefits, which they call “a moral obligation.” Truth to tell, on economic issues, the bishops are often to the left of some leading Democrats, even if both sides are loathe to admit it. Furthermore — and shhh, don’t repeat this, even if the president already has — the Catholic Church funded Obama’s first community organizing, back in Chicago.

Just to point out how deeply felt this principle of contraceptives and religious freedom is to the earnest members of the GOP, they recently held a press conference — with humorous results.

From Talking Points Memo:

GOPers Only Enraged By Birth Control Rule When Obama’s Pushing It

The lawmakers called a press conference rolling out the “Respect for Rights of Conscience Act,” sponsored by Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), a House version of the Roy Blunt bill. It’s aimed at making sure no objecting employer has to cover contraception in their health care plan (although it goes beyond that and lets them omit other services too).

Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL), a GOP leadership member, warned that the mandate will “reach in and manipulate the conscience of Americans.” He accused the President of “trampling precious First Amendment rights.”

After about 10 of them took turns issuing similar missives against the mandate, while dismissing Obama’s religious accommodation as a gimmick, I put the question to them: Would any of you refuse to support a presidential candidate who enacted a similar mandate?

You see, when GOP front-runner (who oddly keeps trailing at the ballot box) Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts he instituted RomneyCare, which mandates that ALL employers provide contraceptives as part of their employee plans.

If you couldn’t guess, none of these principled defenders of religious freedoms wanted to take a stand against Mitt, whose plan (following Obama’s recent modification) is now “worse” than the administration’s contraception provisions.

After pointing out that Republicans have already really lost this battle, and in a larger sense, the culture wars, Moyers brings it home:

So here we are once again, arguing over how to honor religious liberty without it becoming the liberty to impose on others moral beliefs they don’t share. Our practical solution is the one Barack Obama embraced the other day: protect freedom of religion — and freedom from religion. Can’t get more American than that.

Exactly.

-Chris

February 17, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Lies About Jobs

map for us unemployment numbers

Image via Wikipedia

I am not the biggest fan of Barack Obama.

My leanings are more progressive, and his seem to be deeply rooted in the corporate boardroom.

That said, you have to give the man his due when it comes to the stimulus and job creation.

I am convinced by arguments by Paul Krugman and other Keynesians that the stimulus was much too small to have optimal effect, but the small package Obama was able to push through did create jobs.

This is, of course, the reality being mocked by the current meme being rolled out by the pack of jackals running for the presidential nomination on the Republican side.

Both Mitt Romney and Gingrich have calculated the number of jobs lost in the American economy from the date of President Obama’s inauguration and repeating that Obama’s policies have resulted in 1.9  million lost jobs.

In GOP-land, this proves that the stimulus was a complete failure.

Paul Krugman brings the inconvenient facts:

Start with the Obama record. It’s true that 1.9 million fewer Americans have jobs now than when Mr. Obama took office. But the president inherited an economy in free fall, and can’t be held responsible for job losses during his first few months, before any of his own policies had time to take effect. So how much of that Obama job loss took place in, say, the first half of 2009?

The answer is: more than all of it. The economy lost 3.1 million jobs between January 2009 and June 2009 and has since gained 1.2 million jobs. That’s not enough, but it’s nothing like Mr. Romney’s portrait of job destruction.

The Economist points out that even if you used the Romney-Gingrich metric, if the economy continues to grow at the current pace (and the jobs report was actually better than expected at the time of this response) the argument will be weak by the time election day rolls around:

A lot can happen over the next year, but for the moment the current recovery looks likely to continue. On Friday, the Bureau of Labour Statistics will report the latest employment data, for the month of December. The consensus forecast is for a gain of 170,000 private-sector jobs and a loss of 20,000 public-sector jobs, for a net gain of 150,000. (In the year to November, the economy added an average of 133,000 net jobs and 157,000 private-sector jobs per month, so this would represent a slight acceleration.) If we extrapolate those changes out through the election, then Mr Obama’s opponent will only be able to claim net job losses during the Obama presidency of just 55,000. What’s more, the net figure will entail government job losses of 833,000 combined with net private-sector job creation of 788,000. Given steady improvement in state and local finances, continued loss of 20,000 government jobs per month seems too high, so there is a decent chance that the Republican nominee will be unable to claim any net job loss during the Obama presidency at the time voters go to the polls.

This is what is on offer from the modern right-wing — solutions to problems that don’t exist and a willful ignorance of real problems and what can fix them.

Unfortunately, the person likely to receive the GOP nod is a serial liar who has spent a career destroying jobs for profit.

Krugman again:

The point is that Mr. Romney’s claims about being a job creator would be nonsense even if he were being honest about the numbers, which he isn’t.

At this point, some readers may ask whether it isn’t equally wrong to say that Mr. Romney destroyed jobs. Yes, it is. The real complaint about Mr. Romney and his colleagues isn’t that they destroyed jobs, but that they destroyed good jobs.

When the dust settled after the companies that Bain restructured were downsized — or, as happened all too often, went bankrupt — total U.S. employment was probably about the same as it would have been in any case. But the jobs that were lost paid more and had better benefits than the jobs that replaced them. Mr. Romney and those like him didn’t destroy jobs, but they did enrich themselves while helping to destroy the American middle class.

And that reality is, of course, what all the blather and misdirection about job-creating businessmen and job-destroying Democrats is meant to obscure.

We are living in scary times, where it is obvious that the real lessons of the utter and absolute failure of trickle-down economics that are plain to most literate people will never be recognized by a sizeable portion of the American populace.

So you get candidates like Romney, Paul, Gingrich, and Santorum who willfully lie and distort readily-available facts on a level and scale so blatant and egregious that it beggars the imagination.

And on the other side, we have Obama.

Sigh.

-Chris

January 9, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Workers and the economy

Oak Alley Plantation, LA

Image by faungg via Flickr

While the country faces a real crisis in terms of the debt and the budget deficit (slow progress is being made at the federal level in agreeing on $4 Trillion in spending cuts over 10-12 years), Republican state governors have declared war on unions and workers.

The war continues apace in Wisconsin, New Hampshire and Missouri, with measures to strip collective bargaining rights and stifle the formation of unions at the top of the GOP agenda.

Unfortunately, these measures do little to nothing to solve the economic problems of states and the federal government.

They make them problems worse.

Robert Reich posted a good analysis of what these type of measures mean for the economy on his blog Tuesday.

In looking back at what he calls “The Great Prosperity”, Reich outlines how unions were essential to creating the middle class and a stable economy. He goes further to look at a current example of how labor is buoying at least one European economy:

Germany is growing much faster than the United States. Its unemployment rate is now only 6.1 percent (we’re now at 9.1 percent).

What’s Germany’s secret? In sharp contrast to the decades of stagnant wages in America, real average hourly pay has risen almost 30 percent there since 1985. Germany has been investing substantially in education and infrastructure.

How did German workers do it? A big part of the story is German labor unions are still powerful enough to insist that German workers get their fair share of the economy’s gains.

That’s why pay at the top in Germany hasn’t risen any faster than pay in the middle. As David Leonhardt reported in the New York Times recently, the top 1 percent of German households earns about 11 percent of all income – a percent that hasn’t changed in four decades.

In the US, the top 1 percent take home over 20 percent of the nation’s income.

Unless we invest in infrastructure (broadband, smart electrical grid, roads, bridges, etc.) and education, we are really doing little more than bailing water out of the front of the boat into the back.

Coupled with the above, shrinking union representation in the workplace has seen wages that have been in stasis since the early 1980’s.

The wound of wage stagnation creates a cycle that keeps prosperity out of reach of most Americans. How is a worker supposed to purchase the products and services that fuel the economy if they aren’t paid a decent wage? An economy needs consumers. Where are they supposed to come from?

Either our goal as a nation is to raise all boats through good wages and a strong middle class, or it’s to purposely create wealth disparity favoring an increasingly tiny wealthy elite.

This system bears a strong resemblance to what southerners were defending in the Civil War — A plantation economy with the vast majority occupying the lowest rung (low paid workers and slaves) and the miniscule landed gentry reaping all the benefits.

In this type of economy, most of the rungs in the middle are empty or missing.

Such a system is in direct opposition to the generally shared conception of the American Dream — that perseverance and hard work leads to upwards mobility and prosperity.

This certainly is not my vision of America, and I don’t think it’s what a majority of Americans – blue or red – want for the nation.

I couldn’t put it better than Reich:

The current Republican assault on workers’ rights continues a thirty-year war on American workers’ wages. That long-term war has finally taken its toll on the American economy.

It’s time to fight back.

-Chris

June 15, 2011 Posted by | Economics, History, International, Politics, Republicans | , , , | Leave a comment

Deficit Reduction and Social Security

Seal of the United States Social Security Admi...

Image via Wikipedia

In reviewing the proposal by the president’s bipartisan deficit reduction committee, there is one portion that I cannot disagree with more.

To be sure, this is a serious proposal, with pain all around, but the delay in benefits for Social Security recipients until the age of 68 is wrong, wrong, wrong.

I have always been a huge advocate of the much-derided lock box for Social Security.  The current system is solvent until 2037, but will rack up huge losses going out to 75 years from now.

Treating Social Security as just another part of the overall budget is one of the accounting tricks that have gotten us into this mess to begin with.

This is the first year since the 1980s that the Social Security will start paying out more than it has taken in.

This is due to the large number of Americans expected to retire. The 75 year shortfall is calculated at $5.3 trillion. Insurmountable, right?

Wrong.

Senate report says tweaks can sustain Social Security

Social Security faces a $5.3 trillion shortfall over the next 75 years, but a new congressional report says the massive gap could be erased with only modest changes to payroll taxes and benefits.

There are a few options to fix Social Security:

1. Increase the age where retirees qualify (as proposed by the committee)
2. Curb cost of living adjustments
3. Raise payroll taxes on EVERYONE

Social Security isn’t an “entitlement”. Everyone pays into it. It is an insurance policy that provides a modest safety net for retirees.

I agree with this letter writer to the Baltimore Sun on this point:

Cutting Social Security benefits is as bad as raising taxes

Social Security is said to be an “entitlement,” but the difference between an “obligation” and an “entitlement” is just a matter of point of view. Those of us who have been paying into the Social Security system for years are entitled to our promised benefits. The U.S. government is obligated to keep its promises.

Social Security and it’s problems should be addressed separately from the concerns of the burgeoning Federal deficit.

For too long, legislators have counted on being able to dip into the Social Security revenues to work their accounting magic and prop up a wasteful budget.

It’s long past time to end that practice.

-Chris

November 11, 2010 Posted by | Debt, Deficit, Democrats, Economics, Republicans, Tax Debate | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment