Archive for February, 2012

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Where are the women?

The question, posed by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) to an all-male panel at Thursday’s House Oversight Committee hearing on a new birth control coverage requirement, has rapidly turned into a political rallying cry, sparking a viral online campaign and lighting a fire under Democratic campaigns.

It has also put a coda of sorts on a culture war argument that erupted several weeks ago. A debate that began with the straightforward constitutional question of what the government could instruct religious institutions to do with respect to health care coverage has become the most galvanizing political issue for Democrats since the president introduced his jobs act last fall.

A series of incendiary events has thrust the issue of contraception to the forefront of the national discussion in the past few weeks. There was an outcry after Obama introduced the rule, which requires most religiously affiliated employers to cover birth control for their employees. Soon after, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the nation’s largest breast cancer charity, cut off funds to Planned Parenthood, which provides affordable cancer screenings and contraception to millions of low-income women, because some of its locations also perform abortions. The ensuing controversy sparked a massive national discussion about the politicization of women’s health and coaxed GOP politicians, such as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, into taking sides.

Just as the Komen controversy died down, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) introduced an amendment that would have allowed insurers to opt out of covering any form of health care to which they morally objected. This, in itself, was low hanging fruit for the Democrats. But when House Republicans convened an all-male panel to discuss contraception, and when Foster Friess, a top financial backer of former Sen. Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign, said that pregnancies could be prevented by “gals” putting Bayer Asprin “between their knees,” campaign consultants had the type of political imagery that they could only dream of. For Democratic lawmakers, it couldn’t have come at a more opportune time, giving them the chance to launch a well-oiled, comprehensive effort to lock in women’s votes ahead of the 2012 elections.

EMILY’s List, a political action committee dedicated to electing Democratic women to Congress, has launched a multi-pronged effort to rally voters around the birth control issue. The group has sent out multiple fundraising emails and created a new television ad, which features Friess’ comment and the image from the all-male Congressional hearing, in order to emphasize the need for more progressive women in leadership roles. Although Jess McIntosh, communications director for EMILY’s List, did not reveal the amount of money the group has raised in the past two weeks, she said it’s clear that the latest drive for money and supporters has been a huge success.

“We added over 60,000 members in the last couple weeks,” McIntosh told The Huffington Post Friday. “We had over 30,000 petition signers just yesterday for a petition about the birth control mandate, which is unusual. We have raised more money for candidates at this point in the cycle than ever before, and we’ve definite seen an uptick in also how active these folks are.”

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who chairs the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, sent a fundraising email and petition drive out to DSCC supporters urging them to oppose both the Blunt amendment and the “aspirin agenda.” A petition about the “aspirin agenda” collected over 65,000 signatures in one day. A similar “Where are the women?” petition circulated by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has collected over 250,000 signatures since it went out late Thursday night.

State Democratic parties and individual campaigns have also been able to use the federal birth control controversy to drum up local support. The Virginia Democratic Party, for instance, claims to have raised an unusually high amount of money and saw a “spike in interaction” in the two days following Issa’s birth control hearing.

“People kind of came to life about this issue. Across the board, we have seen a considerable uptick in the financial response our people have had to what’s going on,” said Brian Coy, a spokesperson for the Virginia Democrats. “We’ve raised thousands of dollars over the last 48 hours over this, which is absolutely not normal, and we’ve seen a huge uptick in Facebook and Twitter activity.”

Maggie Hassan, a Democrat running for governor of New Hampshire, said her campaign has also seen a considerable increase in donations and support since birth control rose to the forefront of the national discussion.

“All the men talking about birth control really is, I think, generating this kind of disbelief, and it’s really firing people up,” she told HuffPost. “We’re beginning to see a lot of discussion about it on our Facebook pages, I get asked about it at house parties, and it’s definitely motivating people to give money. Most of us, certainly in my generation — we all thought this was settled.”

Republican campaigns have been much more reluctant to discuss their fundraising efforts or success around the birth control issue. The National Republican Senatorial Committee circulated only one petition about the birth control rule, but left the words “birth control,” “contraception,” and “women’s health” entirely out of it, focusing instead on the issue of religious freedom. The petition had only received 15,000 signatures by Monday afternoon — a fraction of the DCCC’s 250,000.

When asked about fundraising efforts, a staffer at the NRSC said only that it’s hard to see how the DSCC’s “gender war spin” can be taken seriously when two female GOP Senate candidates, Sarah Steelman in Missouri and Heather Wilson in New Mexico, oppose Obama’s birth control rule.

Susan B. Anthony List, the anti-abortion alternative to EMILY’s List, said it has been too busy educating people about the contraception mandate to fundraise around it. “We have not fundraised off of it yet, but we do plan to use it in races where we think it will make a difference,” said SBA List president Marjorie Dannenfelser. “I think it will work in our direction. It is an underestimation of women that they are going see this issue as being about creating barriers to contraception and abortifacients — that’s not what this is. It’s about something so much more fundamental: the right of conscience and religious liberty for all people, including women.”

The Republican National Committee did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this article.

Whether the Democrats can hold onto their momentum after the uproar over birth control dies down remains to be seen, but it’s clear that they see their stance on the issue as crucial for rallying women voters in 2012. Obama relied on the women’s vote to win the presidency in 2008, winning ten million more votes from women than men. The unexpected controversy around an issue as fundamental to women’s health as birth control is making it easy for Democratic campaigns to fire up those same voters once again.

“The fortunate or unfortunate thing about this attack on women’s health is that you don’t really need strategies to incense people,” said Coy. “The task is just to make sure people know that it’s happening.”

None of this would have been possible, it seems, had the birth control debate expanded beyond its original focus. At first, it was confined to a very limited question: could the federal government compel religious institutions to include contraception coverage in the health care plans they offered employees?

But questions of religious liberties were soon overshadowed by gender politics on the Hill. First, Blunt (R-Mo.) introduced an amendment to the surface transportation bill that would completely roll back the president’s birth control coverage rule and remove all of the non-discrimination protections from the Affordable Care Act. It was done under the auspices of decreasing regulations and boosting the free market. But many said that because the measure would essentially allow any employer or insurer to refuse to cover contraception, maternity care, or any other health care service by claiming a moral objection to it, it carried with it a true threat to women’s health care.

Friess’ comments later that week caused further problems. Hammering the problematic imagery home even further, Bishop William Lori, the first witness on the House Oversight Committee’s all-male panel on religious liberty, spent a full ten minutes comparing birth control to a ham sandwich. “The government recognized that it is absurd for someone to come into a kosher deli and demand a ham sandwich,” Lori said of Obama’s revised birth control rule, “that it is downright surreal to apply this coercive power when the customer can get the same sandwich cheaply, or even free, just a few doors down.”

Women’s groups say they are not going to let that kind of rhetoric slide.

“It’s a shame and it’s appalling and it makes everybody really mad, but it’s lucky we have a place to put all that energy,” said McIntosh. “We have the luxury of saying, ‘Yes, this is terrible, but look at all these great alternatives.’ The women in office are on the front lines in this fight. Women like [Sen.] Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and [Sen.] Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) are standing up to the right, and everybody wants to send them more reinforcements.”

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By ALEXANDER BURNS and MAGGIE HABERMAN | 2/18/12 7:21 AM EST

Democrats have an unexpected new foil in their effort to label the GOP as hostile to women: Rick Santorum.

After hammering away for a year at the message that Republicans are indifferent to women’s health and economic well-being, President Barack Obama’s party has been handed a nearly perfect political punching bag in the former Pennsylvania senator, whose down-the-line cultural conservatism is a major selling point in the 2012 primaries.

Gender issues have taken center stage in recent days as Santorum has made incendiary comments suggesting women not be allowed to serve in combat roles in the military (he later said he was concerned men would want to protect them). Santorum has also stood by his opposition to contraception, reiterating his position that it shouldn’t be covered by the national health-care law because it is “inexpensive.” While the ex-senator doesn’t favor outlawing birth control, he is personally opposed to it.

In another major hit this week, Santorum’s most prominent financial backer, Wyoming financier Foster Friess, joked on television that back in the day, women — he called them “gals” — would practice contraception by holding aspirin “between their knees.”

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0212/73050.html#ixzz1mlgpy6Yq

 

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Democratic Sen. Patty Murray blasted the GOP Friday over Thursday’s House contraception hearing with an all-male panel, charging that Republicans have been “waging a war on women’s health” since they won the House majority in 2010.

In a floor speech, the Washington Democrat, who chairs the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, tied the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing to a series of other events, including Thursday’s remarks by a top donor to Rick Santorum who claimed that “gals” used to use aspirin for contraception.

For many women waking up to this news this morning, it may seem like there is a swift and sudden attack on women’s health care,” Murray said. “But … there is nothing new about the Republicans’ attacks on our family planning decisions.”

Murray’s speech — which was part of a series of floor speeches from other Democratic women, including Sens. Barbara Boxer of California, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire — confirmed that Democrats see political power in using the “attack on women’s health” line as an election-year theme.

Boxer said the photo of the all-male panel at yesterday’s hearing reminded her of an all-male Senate Judiciary Committee’s handling of sexual harassment allegations against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas in 1991. The backlash from this event is widely credited with helping to sweep several women into office in 1992, in what became known as “the Year of the Woman.”

Americans realized “there were only two women in the U.S. Senate [at the time], and it sent a shockwave through the entire country,” Boxer said. “We had the Year of the Woman, and we tripled the number of women in the Senate.”

Boxer said the photo of the all-male panel at yesterday’s hearing reminded her of an all-male Senate Judiciary Committee’s handling of sexual harassment allegations against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas in 1991. The backlash from this event is widely credited with helping to sweep several women into office in 1992, in what became known as “the Year of the Woman.”

Americans realized “there were only two women in the U.S. Senate [at the time], and it sent a shockwave through the entire country,” Boxer said. “We had the Year of the Woman, and we tripled the number of women in the Senate.”

Republicans insist that Democrats are overplaying their hand and that the Obama administration’s contraception rule — the subject of Thursday’s House hearing — is a religious freedom issue, not a women’s health issue.

Murray pointed to other early legislative priorities of the new House majority, such as attempting to eliminate funding for family planning under Title X, to defund Planned Parenthood and to roll “back every single one of the gains we made for women in the health care reform bill.”

“We know that the onslaught from Republicans isn’t going to stop anytime soon,” she concluded. “But we also know that we have millions of women — some whose voices we hear, some whose we don’t — to continue to fight for.”

This article first appeared on POLITICO Pro at 11:25 a.m. on February 17, 2012.

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What does it mean to be poor?

If it means living at or below the poverty line, then 15 percent of Americans — some 46 million people — qualify. But if it means living with a decent income and hardly any savings — so that one piece of bad luck, one major financial blow, could land you in serious, lasting trouble — then it’s a much larger number. In fact, it’s almost half the country.

“The resources that people have — they are using up those resources,” said Jennifer Brooks, director of state and local policy at the Corporation for Enterprise Development, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group. “They’re living off their savings. They’re at the end of their rope.”

The group issued a report today examining so-called liquid asset poverty households — the people who aren’t living below the poverty line, but don’t have enough money saved to weather a significant emergency.

According to the report, 43 percent of households in America — some 127.5 million people — are liquid-asset poor. If one of these households experiences a sudden loss of income, caused, for example, by a layoff or a medical emergency, it will fall below the poverty line within three months. People in these households simply don’t have enough cash to make it for very long in a crisis.

The findings underscore the struggles of many Americans during what has often seemed like an economic recovery in name only. While the Great Recession officially ended more than two years ago, unemployment remains high and wages have barely budged for most workers. For more people, whether they draw a paycheck or not, a life free of deprivation and financial anxiety seems perpetually out of reach.

That’s not to say that everyone who is liquid-asset poor spends all their time fretting. On the contrary, because many have regular paychecks coming in, they may not grasp the precariousness of their situation.

“They don’t necessarily realize how close people can be to one interruption to income or one interruption to health benefits,” said David Rothstein, the project director for asset building at the non-profit Policy Matters Ohio. “They’re one paycheck away from being in debt.”

Rothstein, who also serves on a steering committee at the Corporation for Enterprise Development, told The Huffington Post that payday lenders — who loan money to desperate borrowers at high interest rates, drawing people into hard-to-escape cycles of debt — are “a huge problem” in Ohio, as in many other states. People often turn to payday lenders to cover one-time, unexpected expenses, but can end up in a long and costly relationship.

“People say things like, it’s just one mechanical problem with their car,” said Rothstein. Before they know it, he said, “every other week, they’re back at the payday lending shop.”

The Corporation for Enterprise Development findings echo other recent studies showing that many Americans are ill-prepared for financial emergencies. Analysts said the reasons include flat wages, the high cost of medical treatment and the nationwide drop in housing values leaving homeowners with less wealth than they believed they had.

Andrea Levere, the president of Corporation for Enterprise Development, told HuffPost that greater financial literacy might have helped prevent the current situation.

People can “graduate high school and not know how to write a check,” Levere said, adding that an increased emphasis on personal responsibility for budgeting and spending should be an important part of any step forward.

At the same time, Corporation for Enterprise Development officials were quick to argue that public policy needs to address the scope of the problem. Levere cited the example of asset limits in public benefit programs, which restrict services like food assistance and public health insurance to households with few or no assets — a policy that critics say denies help to many people in need.

“In some cases,” said Levere, “it means they can’t even own a car that is in good enough shape to get them to work.”

Brooks agreed. “A family that loses its job, that was maybe solidly middle class, in a state where they have restrictive asset tests, is going to have to liquidate all their assets, all their savings for the future” in order to qualify for benefits.

The report maintains that there are a number of measures that could alleviate liquid asset poverty, from strengthening consumer protections against payday lenders to making greater assistance available to first-time homebuyers. Levere said even minor policy adjustments could have “revolutionary implications.”

“There’s a lot of ways forward. It doesn’t mean it’s not tough,” Levere said. “I’m a great believer in one step at a time.”

From Huffington post

Who’s Telling The Truth?

Posted: February 14, 2012 in Talk about

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Trying to figure out which one of these plastic faces is telling the truth is like trying to discover the secrets of the universe. How can it be that three Americans living in the same country with the same culture and history can be so far apart in describing the exact same current events and issues so differently? I think I have an idea why. One or more of them are liars! Hows that for an explanation. Take any issue; say the recent contraception debate and marvel and the completely different views of the very same event. Talk about the theory of relativity! It is harder than ever to discover the actual truth on any matter. The issues of the day are far more complex that in past years. Nothing is black and white anymore. Everything is in shade of grey. How then can a voter and concerned citizen discern the truth? separate fact from fiction, reality from fantasy?

You can do as i do and bookmark all of the major news agencies and try to figure out the truth by reading between the lines of the various news sites. Or you can study like you are in graduate school each topic until you have a PHD in the subject; that is if you have the time and inclination. You can forget about the blogs. The are by-in-large, the biggest collection of crazies and cooks you’ll ever meet. this is not an easy task but I put it to you as a request for help. I have not found a solution but there are good folks out there who I am sure have found solutions. So lets find the formula for truth and share it with the masses!