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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

www.NationalView.org's Note From a Madman

August 4, 2008


The Party of Diminished Responsibility Says:

A familiar but successful Republican tactic is now being pursued by the Party of Diminished Responsibility today. They are making their attempt at lowering the expectations to keep lower and other working class voters away from the polls this November.

In a recent joint poll by the Washington Post, the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University, low-wage workers weren't only asked who they supported in this upcoming election, but were also asked if they were pessimistic about the election.

I can hear the mouthpieces of the GOP now:

"Stay home. It doesn't make a difference who wins or loses anyway."

All one has to do is look back to the 2000 election and the successful effort taken by the GOP and its supporters to see that they'll do anything to keep the vote tally low come this November. You all might remember the road-blocks setup in the poorer, mostly African-American communities of the Sunshine State; or you might recall the felon list which contained so many similar names to people who had the right to vote and didn't; or you might recollect the letters telling some voters that election day was on Wednesday for them instead of Tuesday.

We've seen those same tactics in the 2004 election as well. Ohio's former Secretary of State, J. Kenneth Blackwell, made up eleventh-hour rules as to who may vote and who may no vote in an attempt at keeping some away from the polls and vote for John Kerry. Blackwell, himself African-American, made his most bold moves to keep other African-Americans away from the voting booths. They paid him back in Ohio's 2006 Gubernatorial contest which saw him defeated soundly by former Rep. Ted Strickland nearly two-to-one (60.4 to 38.6 percent).

We all know the effort that the Democrats have been making to Get Out the Vote these past few elections. It's true that those who have a tendency to "have better things to do" on election day tend to be more Democratic in orientation than Republican. So there isn't much surprise in seeing that the GOP want to make those less fortunate than they stay home come this election day.

After all, the lower the turnout the better for them, right?

Instead of GOTV (Get Out the Vote) the GOP can use a KITV (Keep In the Vote) campaign.

Or maybe I shouldn't give them any ideas.

Certainly organizations such as The Washington Post and Harvard University could come up with a question or two as to what makes the polled want to vote or that would make them optimistic instead of pessimistic. Certainly that would be newsworthy.

Or maybe it wouldn't be?

Senator Obama will have to do what he did in the primary season against front-runner Hillary Clinton, and he will have to do it as the GOP state otherwise: He will have to give those who should vote a reason to vote. Not only will his message of Hope have to be loud, it will have to be convincing and will have to be heard over the bored ho-hums of the agents of the Republican Party.

-Noah Greenberg


The recent economic downturn has hit the majority of Americans hard. Steadily rising gas and food prices, the exorbitant cost of health care, record job losses, housing foreclosures–all of it has combined to make most Americans poorer.

The recession has hit women disproportionately hard, however, because women make far less than men for equal work, and a recent Senate report on this disparity has led to efforts at balancing the economic books for women.

Last week Sen. Hillary Clinton (NY-D) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) introduced a major bill in the Congress–the Paycheck Fairness Act (PFA)–to help counterbalance the rising costs of being a working woman in America.

In 1963, President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law. That law was supposed to eradicate the gender gap in wages in the U.S., making it illegal for employers to pay women less than men for the same work.

When Kennedy signed his bill into law, women made 59 cents for every dollar men made. Yet times have not changed much in 45 years. Overall, women now make 77 cents for every dollar men make. But unmarried women–the majority of the female work force–make only 56 cents for every dollar made by married men, the majority of the male work force.

The disparities are proportionally even greater when other factors are considered. Women now represent almost half the heads of household in the U.S. compared to 12 percent in 1963. Just over 80 percent of all single heads of household are women. Which means that women are raising children alone with less money than their male counterparts.

According to a press release from Hillary Clinton, the wage gap is even wider among women of color. African-American women earn 72 cents on the dollar while Latinas earn just 59 cents. While the pay gap has remained virtually unchanged since 2001, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research says the wage gap costs working women's families about $4,000 each per year. Studies show women are eight times less likely to negotiate their starting salaries than men, costing them hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of their lifetime.

No one can dispute that there has been a consistent shift in the wage gap in the past 45 years. Women have broken through many glass ceilings, but that paradigmatic societal shift in the workplace has not been met with commensurate pay raises.

In addition to the stasis in pay equity, women are also more likely to be fired or laid off in poor economic times. In the last year alone the rate of unemployment has increased exponentially nationwide, but the gender disparity is evident: a 20 percent rise for women compared to a 17 percent rise for men.

Last year, a series of studies showed that women are forced to work longer than men, particularly if they are unmarried or widowed. The majority of men retire between 66 and 70, but the majority of women work into well their 70s–of necessity, not choice–and it is now estimated that a full half of all women currently over 50 will never be able to retire.

One reason for this is pay inequities: women move into the age range where saving for retirement becomes more pressing–45 to 64–their wages generally decrease from the 77 cents on the dollar men make to only 71 cents.

Women have also been struck by economic unfairness during the subprime mortgage crisis. Women are once again disproportionately represented, with 30 percent more of the extortionist subprime loans than men. What’s more, women have better overall credit than men and yet find it far more difficult to obtain mortgages than men or couples. In addition, housing foreclosures have affected women twice as often as men in the past two years.

During the debate over the PFA last week, one Congressman, Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), explained not just how bad the situation was for women workers, but how unchanging. Dingell told the House, “Between 1963 and now, the wage gap has narrowed by less than half a cent a year. At this rate, it would take another 50 years before men and women reach parity in pay in this country.”

That means that nearly a full century after Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law it would finally become a reality. Ninety-fives years too late for the women who needed it most.

Some states, like Pennsylvania, New Jersey and California have higher minimum wage rates than the federal average, but in no state do women have pay equity with men. According to a report by the Institute of Women’s Policy Research, what this means is that in her lifetime, every working woman will lose between $400,000 to $2 million in wages she should have been paid.

So much for the Equal Pay Act.

Hence the Paycheck Fairness Act now being proffered by Clinton and DeLauro, which made it out of committee last week and is scheduled for a floor vote this week. In agitating for the PFA, DeLauro asserted, “ The marketplace alone with not correct this injustice–that is why we need a legislative solution.”

What the PFA would do, according to the bill itself, is “close loopholes that have allowed employers to avoid responsibility for discriminatory pay.”

The Clinton-Delauro legislation would increase the penalties for gender discrimination in wages and would make gender biases in pay equity comparable to those already in place for race, disability and age.

This means women would be able to file lawsuits–or class action suits–for compensatory and punitive damages as well as back wages if they can prove they are being discriminated against in wages based on their gender.

The PFA would also keep employers from retaliatory firings or other sanctions against whistle-blowing employees who share their salary information with female employees. Plus, the PFA would require the Department of Labor to “improve outreach and training efforts to work with employers in order to eliminate pay disparities” and “creates a new grant program to help strengthen the negotiation skills of girls and women.”

Not surprisingly, men on both sides of the aisle have objected to the proposed legislation from Clinton and DeLauro.

On the floor of the House, the objection raised what that the bill was “redundant” because the Equal Pay Act already requires pay equity.

But pay equity is not being enforced through the 1963 act. The complaint among House conservatives was voiced as “another unnecessary bill that will result in increased litigation costs.”

Nevermind that it would also result in *deserved* equal pay for women. All the Paycheck Fairness Act would demand is that employers follow the law by closing any and all loopholes that have allowed employers to cheat women of their rightful wages for the past 45 years.

This is not, of course, a new argument, because the Paycheck Fairness Act, regrettably, is not a new idea. It was first proposed in 1998, but has been rejected repeatedly while still in Committee by the Republican-controlled Congress until it was reintroduced by Clinton and DeLauro last year, after the 2006 elections shifted the majority to the Democrats. The reintroduction now comes as a result of further studies on the status of women in the workplace–and how dismal that status is in the new recession.

The Clinton-Delauro bill has large support in the House–230 representatives have signed on as co-sponsors–but has only 22 member of the Senate behind it, despite urgent lobbying by Clinton.

Congress has already blocked introduction of another fair pay resolution, the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which was submitted to committee in April. That act would have sought a legislative remedy to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear which made it more difficult for women to pursue litigation related to pay equity. While arguing for the PFA, Clinton said, “It is high time we insisted that women receive equal pay for equal work in this country. We have dispelled any notion that women aren't up to the task, yet millions of capable women are still being underpaid solely because of their gender, and it's time to put a stop to it.”

Clinton said that her purpose in introducing the Paycheck Fairness Act was to close the gaps that punished women solely for their gender.

What will happen with the PFA this week or next is unclear, but in a cruel irony, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao has already recommend to President Bush that he veto the bill that would finally help women enter the 21st century pay scale instead of remaining stalled at 1963 wages.


-Victoria Brownworth

In response to, "There are those of us on the Left side of the aisle who think that Senator Obama is moving a little too far to the center for their liking," Victoria Brownworth writes:

Center? I would find the center acceptable. It's that Obama is moving further to the right than McCain on so many issues that is so terrible. I had a difficult time with the fact that the nominee was not the person who won the popular vote--that's something Republicans do, not Democrats. But to then change position on almost every substantive issue once he was the nominee--from FISA to choice to off-shore drilling to the war?

I do wish that the so-called Left could acknowledge that this is a problem for us. We can chant McSame and McBush all we want and ignore that McCain was John Kerry's first choice for VP in 2004. I'm not suggesting we embrace Mc Cain. But the utter lack of critique of Obama is unacceptable. If we don't critique him now, what can we expect after he's president?

And in response to, "In fairness to then-Senatorial candidate Barack Obama, he did, repeatedly, state his opposition to the Iraq war while running for his seat," Victoria Brownworth writes:

Obama was NOT running for the Senate when the war vote was cast at all. Not even close. Even a quick check of Wikipdia would have told you that.

The war vote was cast in 2002. Obama began running for Senate in 2004. That's a two year difference no matter how it is counted. In addition to which, there is videotape of Obama on Meet the Press in July 2004 saying that his view on the war in Iraq pretty much reflected that of George Bush.

Support a candidate all you want. Just don't invent facts to make your case.

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-Noah Greenberg