April 24, 2014

Fox News’ demented poster boy: Why angry rancher Cliven Bundy is no patriot

THURSDAY, APR 17, 2014 03:44 PM CDT


The right’s new fixation: An angry old white man who thinks freedom means not having to follow the law



Fox News' demented poster boy: Why angry rancher Cliven Bundy is no patriotCliven Bundy (Credit: Reuters/Jim Urquhart)

The latest right-wing media poster-victim, Cliven Bundy, is just the latest in a long line of desert dwellers who thinks he or she should not have to follow the law and has a god-given right to unlimited use of public resources, in this case, rangeland.  I know the mentality well, because I grew up in rural Nevada and clung desperately to such beliefs until only a few years ago.

Bundy has not paid grazing fees in close to 20 years, while the federal government has, with painful, stupid moves, tried to somehow deal with him. Bundy also faced restrictions because he continued to graze cattle on a slice of public land reserved for the endangered desert tortoise.  He was invited to talk to Sean Hannity (of course) about the “standoff.”

“We want freedom,” Bundy said. I don’t know what freedom Bundy’s talking about. He does not own the land nor does he even pay the modest fees required to use it. Thousands of ranchers across the West pay fees for their businesses, but Bundy thinks he should get to use public resources to make a personal profit.  Cliven Bundy, far from being a patriot, is also clearly a straight-up communist.

Bundy is using the language of freedom, patriotism and outright paranoia to further his business interests. He succeeded wildly in drawing other “patriots” to his slice of contested desert. I don’t know these exact people, but the words and phrases they used were the nursery rhymes of my childhood. I’ve been listening to ignorant people bitch about the federal “gub’met,” since I could crawl, and I’m weary of it. I can’t bear to hear poor people rally to the defense of moneyed interests like mining and ranching, like well-trained, bleating sheep. As tired and silly as I find his language, clearly it worked. He so inflamed the lunatic militia movement, that many rallied to him, often from out of state, with guns and naked threats. They created a real possibility that someone might get killed, so the feds backed down.


It is asinine in our age that an armed group of idiots can thwart reasonable government action. Bundy is not a hero, a victim or innocent in any way. Just think of real injustice of America, like people spending life in jail for marijuana charges. It’s hard to imagine the “militia,” a mostly fat, white and ignorant group, showing up to defend a kid in the inner city who was arrested for no reason. Also think what would happen to you, if you opted not to register your car for 20 years. Bundy exploits the most sickening version of white privilege to justify what amounts to theft.

The basic facts of this story obfuscate the decades of history, animosity and lies between the federal government and the so-called Sagebrush Rebellion that started in the late ’70s. The movement is centered in Elko, Nev., a town next door to Battle Mountain, the much smaller town where I grew up. If you’ve not spent time in the rural desert, you’ll have a hard time understanding the vast spaces in play. Lander County, where Battle Mountain is located, is the geographic size of Vermont but has no more than 5,000 people.

I grew up on 40 acres of brown sagebrush. Particularly when I was a child, cattle roamed carelessly across our property.  They even had right of way on my father’s land unless he fenced the entire lot with four-strands of barbed wire, an expensive and ugly option. This is the freedom for which patriots are fighting: for cows to trump personal property rights.

In some ways, Nevada has a legitimate beef with the federal government that owns 87 percent of all of Nevada’s land. That’s land that can’t be developed or sold, which cuts into Nevada’s tax base. However, that land is far from empty. People ride horses and recreational vehicles on it.  They hunt it and file mining claims, and, yes, when appropriate a vast amount of it is open to grazing. Without “public” land, there would be no ranching of the kind that allows Mr. Bundy to make a living. There would be less “wide open” for which the West is famous.

We could argue about whether the land should belong to the federal government, but what is not in dispute is that Bundy has no ownership of it.  He won’t even pay fees to use it.  In short, he refuses to pay rent, like thousands of other ranchers do dutifully every year.  Again, I’d like to observe if Bundy is not a communist, he’s at least an aggressive socialist.

Bundy’s foundational argument is that he “has been using the land for generations.” He claims to have “ancestors” who worked the land since the late 1800s. If Bundy wants to make this argument, he’ll need to chat to a Native American or two from one of the many different tribes in Nevada who were here far before Bundy’s ancestors. Also, I thought America was about building wealth through capitalism, rather than depending on your daddy to pass on his membership into the landed aristocracy. Bundy seems to think himself a member of the neo-nobility.

What is missed in this nonsense is that the land should not be managed based on feelings or business needs or family connections. In my Nevada experience, history and family too often trump concerns about what’s best for society and the public good. From where I sit, attitudes are changing for the better.

Bundy, like the sagebrush rebels who came before, has co-opted the language of the oppressed, wrapped in neo-Confederate sensibilities. The crazies have been loosed for good or ill, waving yellow flags and screaming the word “patriot,” none of which has anything to do with subsidizing one man’s business. Even some of my close friends and family are outraged over this latest assault on “freedom.”  I’m not far enough removed from this opinion to forget how it feels. You feel powerless and angry. I can hear my former inner voice: We live out here, not them. We should get to decide how to use the desert. It is as understandable as it is ill-informed and misguided.

I have to concede that certain employees of the federal government can be stupid and ham-handed dealing with people like Bundy. In this case, the feds probably should have removed Bundy’s cattle when he stopped paying grazing fees. The agencies involved also fumbled some parts of the latest tactic, playing into fears of government overreach with “Free Speech Zones” for protesters. So often the feds seem to botch the details, but one must give them credit for backing down in the end. No one, perhaps other than the raging right, wanted actual shooting. Perhaps now, quietly, the federal government can work with Bundy to get him to either pay his grazing fees or remove his cattle without creating a spectacle.

Bundy has no right to public land. The federal government and other land managers can and should consider the interests of ranchers, just as they should consider mining, recreation and the needs of wildlife, but Bundy is not the only person who has lived in the desert. His should not be even close to the final vote. He can whittle, spit and reminisce, while the rest of us build a modern, cooperative state worth living in.

You can follow Edwin Lyngar on twitter @Edwin_Lyngar

Why the GOP is wrong about the pay gap


Tom Williams/Getty

Why the GOP is wrong about the pay gap

04/07/14 09:16 PM—UPDATED 04/08/14 08:28 AM


By Irin Carmon

As President Barack Obama issues two executive actions intended to bolster pay equity for women, while encouraging the Senate to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, you’re likely to hear the following defenses from Republicans: The pay gap is a myth, largely determined by women’s choices, paying women less for the same job is already illegal, and these laws will only encourage frivolous lawsuits. Just ask Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who recently called the focus on equal pay “nonsense,” or Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who called it “bogus.” Or Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, who said, after every single Senate Republican opposed the Paycheck Fairness Act in 2012, “We don’t think America has any problems related to too little litigation.”

Here’s why they’re wrong.

Not all of the pay gap can be explained by women’s choices, and many of those choices are made under discriminatory constraints. Conservatives often attack the “77 cents on the dollar figure” because it doesn’t account for the fact that women are concentrated in lower-paying jobs or may work fewer hours. But as White House economic adviser Betsey Stevenson recently explained in an interview with msnbc, “Some of women’s choices come because they experience sexism. Some of women’s choices come because they are disproportionately balancing the needs of work and family. Which of these choices should we consider legitimate choices, and which of them should we consider things that we have a societal obligation to try to mitigate?” She added, “Much of what we need to do to close that gap is to change the constraints that women face. And there are things we haven’t tried.”

When all other factors are identical, the gap shrinks but does not disappear. A study by the American Association of University Women found that among recent college graduates with matching credentials, a quarter of the pay gap, or 5%, remained. Ten years later, it grew to 12%. Meanwhile, pay gaps widen in situations where there is overall income inequality – including in this country, where women make up nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers and are underrepresented in the highest-paying fields, such as technology and finance.

Plenty of women don’t even know they’re being discriminated against. Obama’s executive actions address what economists suspect is partly driving the pay gap: lack of good information about how much everyone is making. Lilly Ledbetter, the Goodyear Tire worker whose loss at the Supreme Court helped famously change the law to extend the time window for suing over wage discrimination, was prohibited from discussing wages with her co-workers. She only learned she was being paid less than her male counterparts when one of them left her an anonymous note.


Why is the pay gap for women so consistent?

Secrecy around pay tends to benefit the already privileged, in particular white men, who may feel confident asking for more, may be implicitly valued more by management, or may have an inside track on the information. African-American women make 62 cents, and Latina women only 54 cents, for every dollar earned by a white man. “Very few people have enough information to know that they’re making less, much less bring a pay discrimination charge,” says Fatima Goss Graves of the National Women’s Law Center.

As such, Obama’s executive order prohibits federal contractors from retaliating against workers who share pay information. The president is also instructing the Department of Labor to start collecting aggregate data from the same contractors on how much they pay their employees by sex and race. Together, those contractors employ nearly a quarter of the workforce.

The hope is that employers will realize they may be exercising unconscious bias – or even if it is conscious bias, that the public data will shame them into doing better. “Both of these policies are letting the market do better on its own before it needs to get to the point of costly litigation,” Stevenson said on a call with reporters Monday.

Even if women do know they’re being discriminated against, it’s never been harder to sue. “Most women do not want to sue their employers,” Deborah Thompson Eisenberg, a law professor at the University of Maryland, testified before the Senate last week. “They want the law to express a stronger commitment to equal pay for equal work so employers will have an incentive to pay them fairly without the need for litigation.” After all, suing can be tantamount to “career suicide” – and it carries a lot of stress and risk.

“I often say to my clients, if you thought you were in a hostile workplace when you showed up at your job, when you look at the data you’ll see it’s an even more hostile environment in court,” said Cyrus Mehri, founding partner at Mehri & Skalet, which has litigated many employment discrimination cases. “There’s no question that there’s under-enforcement, not over-enforcement, of the law. Plaintiff’s lawyers turn down many, many cases that have merit, because they have to be so strong that they can withstand all the hurdles along the way.”

Even if a lawyer does take on an employee’s case on contingency, employers begin at a huge advantage: They have all the information, and many more resources. In an Equal Pay Act claim, or a sex discrimination claim brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the employee has to find a “comparator,” another employee – say, a man – at the same company, whose job is the same and who has similar qualifications, but who is getting paid more. But proving that they are equivalent can be an uphill battle. “Some courts have interpreted ‘substantially equal work’ so narrowly that it’s really difficult to make a claim,” said Eisenberg. The Paycheck Fairness Act would broaden the pool a little.

The burden then shifts to the employer to show there’s a legitimate reason for paying the two people differently. But in many cases, employers have been able to vaguely blame “the market” or argue that because the woman was poorly paid in her previous job, it isn’t discrimination. The Paycheck Fairness Act would raise the standard for those justifications to make sure they actually had to do with the job being done.

Even if women do sue, it’s never been harder to win. The idea that women are cashing in on phony pay discrimination claims couldn’t be further from reality. In fact, the cases that are brought are tough to win, and getting tougher. According to Eisenberg’s research, from 1990 to 1999, employees won a little more than half of all equal pay claims. But from 2000 to 2009, that dropped to about a third. And in that same decade, courts granted summary judgment – i.e. a ruling without a trial – to employers in such cases 72% of the time. That matches the grim overall picture for any kind of employee civil rights claim, according to an empirical study in the Harvard Law and Policy Review. It found that compared to other plaintiffs, the odds were stacked against employees making discrimination claims at every stage of litigation. (The win rates were slightly better when a jury was making the call.)

And the numbers became a self-fulfilling prophecy: Lawyers are ever more reluctant to take a case they’re likely to lose. Since 1999, the authors found a “startling drop” in the number of such cases filed in federal court. That’s not because discrimination has disappeared: The number of pay discrimination claims brought to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has barely budged in the same time frame. And that’s just the women who knew they were being discriminated against.

Why are the courts so hostile? It may be because their criteria are poorly matched to the realities of the modern workforce. Former federal judge and Harvard law professor Nancy Gertner has writtenthat “just as the social-psychological literature is exploding with studies about implicit race and gender bias – in organizational settings, in apparently neutral evaluative processes, and among decision-makers of different races and genders – federal discrimination law lurches in the opposite direction, often ignoring or trivializing evidence of explicit bias.”

The data also shows how much conservative, Chamber of Commerce types have triumped over the judiciary. That’s partly, but not wholly, because the Bush administration did such a good job of appointing such judges. Obama’s judicial picks, few of whom have experience in such civil rights claims, aren’t encouraging to advocates who specialize in these cases. “Packing the court with corporate lawyers does little to protect Title VII or employees’ access to the courthouse door,” wroteCyrus Mehri and Ellen Eardley in an issue brief for the American Constitution Society.

The bottom line is clear: Existing laws are a weak tool to fight actual pay discrimination, either as a deterrent or in court. Or as Eisenberg puts it, “I can tell you from my practice experience that the Equal Pay Act is kind of considered a dead letter.”

Conservatives to women: Lean back


(Jacquelyn Martin/AP) – Women cheer as former Massachusetts Gov. and 2012 Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney finishes his speech at the 40th annual Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md., Friday, March 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

By Dana Milbank, Published: March 31

The conservative minds of the Heritage Foundation have found a way for Republicans to shrink the gender gap: They need to persuade more women to get their MRS degrees.

The advocacy group held a gathering of women of the right Monday afternoon to mark the final day of Women’s History Month — and the consensus was that women ought to go back in history. If Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg’s mantra is “lean in,” these women were proposing that women lean back: get married, take care of kids and let men earn the wages.

Dana Milbank

Dana Milbank writes a regular column on politics.

“We’re gathered to celebrate Women’s History Month, but I don’t celebrate Women’s History Month,” announced writer Mona Charen, one of the panelists. “It doesn’t interest me whether a person who happens to share my chromosomes sits in the Oval Office. It doesn’t interest me how many women members of the Senate there are.”

What interests Charen and the other women on the stage is their belief, as Charen put it, that “feminism has done so much damage to happiness.” And the solution to this damage, it turns out, is matrimony — the same thing that will solve problems such as income inequality and the Republican Party’s standing among women.

“We should show concern for everybody by extending the marriage franchise to everybody,” panelist Mollie Hemingway proposed. “Everybody go out, right now, go get married if you’re not married,” she said to laughter, “and we should be able to solve all these problems.”

“If we truly want women to thrive,” Charen concurred, “we have to revive the marriage norm.”

This, they argued, also would have the felicitous effect of making women more Republican. Charen argued that “it is the decline of marriage that is the lodestar for why people’s voting behavior is what it is,” and Hemingway asserted that “we do not have a sex gap here in voting. We have a marriage gap.”

As a matter of statistics, this is true: President Obama’s 11-point win among women in 2012 came entirely from his 36-point advantage among unmarried women. But Republicans will be waiting a long time if they think they can improve their fortunes by persuading more women to get hitched. Essentially, they’re saying that Republicans aren’t the ones who need to change — women are.

There’s a running debate on the trade-offs of feminism, but this sort of traditional assault on the movement is unlikely to boost the GOP’s standing among women. If Republicans want to appeal to more unmarried women, they might reconsider the no-exception opposition to abortion and, increasingly, birth control that dominates the party. Otherwise, a throwback strategy of convincing unmarried women that they have been misled by feminism is tantamount to convincing Hispanics that they have been led astray by immigration advocates or telling young voters that they have been deceived by the gay rights movement.

“A lot of times you hear ‘feminism’ and you think, ‘Conservatives, feminism — isn’t that an oxymoron?’ ” Heritage’s Angelise Schrader, the panel’s moderator, said at the start. Her fellow panelists confirmed that this is indeed an oxymoron.

Charen went on at length about feminism’s “disdain for family life” and its “bogus and much-debunked statistics,” including the claim that women earn 77 percent of what men do for the same work. Indeed, she said, “it’s men and boys who are falling behind,” with male wages and workforce participation declining “alarmingly.”

Inverting Gloria Steinem, she argued that “women need feminism like a fish needs a bicycle.” Said Charen: “Women know that because of the nature of their bodies, because they carry and bear children and nurse and nurture children, that they need protection and support. . . . Feminism disdains this natural urge.” Feminism also, Charen said, creates college campuses “where hooking up is considered normal and date rape is difficult to prevent.”

Karin Agness, founder of the conservative Network of Enlightened Women, took issue with Sandberg’s “Lean In” and “Ban Bossy” efforts, which encourage women and girls to be assertive. “Rather than try to ban words like ‘bossy,’ let’s try to promote real leadership skills, like developing a thick skin,” she said.

The reality, the panelists at Heritage said, is that women are less happy than they were before the feminist movement, that women enjoy domestic work, and that most moms would prefer not to work full time, if at all.

Maybe so. But it will take some convincing. The audience for these pronouncements Monday was small and mostly male, many of them apparently Heritage interns.

“Wow,” said John Hilboldt, Heritage’s lectures director, as he opened the session. “Where are all the ladies?”

It’s a question Republicans may be asking for a long time.

Democratic Support Among Young People Reaches a Record High


By: Jason Easleymore from Jason Easley

Sunday, March, 30th, 2014, 4:51 pm


As more senior citizens are becoming Republicans, Gallup found that younger voters are supporting Democrats in record numbers.

Here are a few of the choice findings from Gallup:

From 1993 to 2003, 47% of 18- to 29-year-olds, on average, identified as Democrats or said they were independents but leaned to the Democratic Party, while 42% were Republicans or Republican leaners. That time span included two years in which young adults tilted Republican, 1994 and 1995, when Republicans won control of Congress. Since 2006, the average gap in favor of the Democratic Party among young adults has been 18 percentage points, 54% to 36%.

This Democratic movement among the young has come at a time when senior citizens have become more Republican

Recent decades have brought significant shifts in Americans’ political allegiances, in the short term and the long term. While young adults have generally been more likely to align themselves with the Democratic Party than the Republican Party, they are now much more solidly Democratic than prior generations of young adults.

Gallup suggests that the hardening support for Democrats among young people is at least partially based on the fact that the country is more racially and ethnically diverse. Democrats have embraced the changing face of the country, while Republicans have become even whiter.

It has long been believed that, as people age, they get more conservative, but over the past 20 years, young people have been aging and staying with the Democratic Party. This shift helps explain how Democrats have won the popular vote in five of the past six presidential elections.

Young people turn out in higher numbers in presidential years. This a problem that Democrats are working day and night to solve before the 2014 election. The key to sustained success for Democrats is activating a portion of these young supporters. If younger voters get into the habit of voting in midterm elections, the Republican Party will be in huge trouble.

As grandma goes tea partying, the country’s future is supporting Democrats more than ever. This is why if Republicans can’t rock the vote, they are going to do all that they can to suppress it.

Democratic Support Among Young People Reaches a Record High was written by Jason Easley for PoliticusUSA.

© PoliticusUSA, Sun, Mar 30th, 2014 — All Rights Reserved

Obama administration will allow more time to enroll in health care on federal marketplace



By Amy Goldstein, Tuesday, March 25, 7:41 PM E-mail the writers

The Obama administration has decided to give extra time to Americans who say that they are unable to enroll in health plans through the federal insurance marketplace by the March 31 deadline.

Federal officials confirmed Tuesday evening that all consumers who have begun to apply for coverage on HealthCare.gov, but who do not finish by Monday, will have until about mid-April to ask for an extension.




<caption> ACA enrollment numbers, state-by-state. </caption>

Click Here to View Full Graphic Story

ACA enrollment numbers, state-by-state.

Under the new rules, people will be able to qualify for an extension by checking a blue box on HealthCare.gov to indicate that they tried to enroll before the deadline. This method will rely on an honor system; the government will not try to determine whether the person is telling the truth.

The rules, which will apply to the federal exchanges operating in three dozen states, will essentially create a large loophole even as White House officials have repeatedly said that the March 31 deadline was firm. The extra time will not technically alter the deadline but will create a broad new category of people eligible for what’s known as a special enrollment period.

The change, which the administration is scheduled to announce Wednesday, is supported by consumer advocates who want as many people as possible to gain insurance under the 2010 Affordable Care Act. But it’s likely to be criticized by Republicans who oppose the law and have denounced the way the administration is implementing it.

Administration officials said the accommodation is an attempt to prepare for a possible surge of people trying to sign up in the final days before the deadline. Such a flood could leave some people unable to get through the system.

“We are . . . making sure that we will be ready to help consumers who may be in line by the deadline to complete enrollment — either online or over the phone,” said Julie Bataille, director of the office of communications for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency overseeing the federal health-care exchange.

The extra time will not be restricted, though, to people who wait until the last minute to try to sign up. Although no one will be asked why they need an extension, the idea is to help people whose applications have been held up because of the Web site’s technical problems, or who haven’t been able to get the system to calculate subsidies to help them pay for coverage.

According to a Health and Human Services official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity about decisions that have not been made public, an exact time frame for this extension has not been set, and it will depend in part on how many people request it. Nor have officials decided precisely how long people will have to select a health plan after they get the extra time.

Starting in about mid-April, people will no longer be able to get extensions through HealthCare.gov. After that, consumers will be able to request one through one of the federally sponsored call centers nationwide. At that point, the grounds for an extension will become narrower, matching rules for special enrollment periods that have existed for the past few months. Those include people who have a new baby, are getting a divorce, lose a job with health insurance or had a technical problem signing up for coverage through HealthCare.gov.

Once the narrower rules take effect, people will still be trusted to tell the truth about why they need more time — a method known as “self-attestation.”

The new rules are similar to steps being taken — or contemplated — by some of the 14 states that are running their own health-insurance exchanges.

Last week, the governing board of Maryland’s exchange, which has been hampered by serious computer problems, decided to let residents complete their enrollments after the March 31 deadline, as long as they had started the process beforehand. Minnesota officials announced this week that they would do the same thing. Oregon’s governor plans to announce a similar plan this week, according to his spokeswoman, and the board of Nevada’s exchange is considering several alternatives, including a special enrollment period.

The impact of such leeway, coming in the final days of a sign-up period that began in October, remains unclear. This year’s enrollment period is the first opportunity for Americans who are unable to get affordable insurance through a job to choose whether to enroll in one of the plans offered under the 2010 law.

In recent weeks, the White House and its allies have been mounting an intense public relations campaign to motivate people to sign up. Amid signs of increasing interest, federal health officials have privately worried whether HealthCare.gov could withstand an expected last-minute enrollment surge this weekend.

Administration officials have adopted an enrollment target of 6 million Americans, forecast this winter by congressional budget analysts. The analysts had lowered their previous prediction of 7 million after problems with HealthCare.gov thwarted many people who attempted to enroll during the fall.

Until now, the March 31 deadline has been the date by which most Americans must choose a plan — or risk a government fine in the form of a tax penalty when they file their 2014 taxes next year. The fine will not apply to people who get an extension under the new rules and enroll in plans within the allotted time.

The constituency that has been most wary of extra sign-up time has been the insurance industry. Insurance firms selling plans in the new marketplace want to minimize the possibility that people might wait to get coverage until they become sick — a practice that would undermine the central idea of keeping costs in check by balancing people who are expensive to insure with those who are healthy and require little medical treatment.

On the other hand, consumer advocates say it is important to give as many people as possible a chance to obtain insurance.

“The whole point of the thing is to get people covered,” said Jon Kingsdale, a health-care consultant and former director of Massachusetts’s insurance exchange, which was the first in the country, opening several years before the federal law set up a similar national marketplace. “In the first year, there has been so much confusion, I think it’s only natural there will be people who just don’t feel as if they fully understood what the law was and what they were supposed to do and that the opportunity would close.”

Jenna Johnson contributed to this report.

Greg Abbott Pays Men Assistant Attorney Generals More Than Women


Political involvement should be a requirement for citizenship

Greg Abbott Pays Men Assistant Attorney Generals More Than Women

March 19, 2014 by ewillies

Gregg Abbott Attorney General pay equity Women

This week Greg Abbott said that he opposes the Texas Lilly Ledbetter bill. The Texas Lilly Ledbetter bill would change the statute of limitations in cases so allegations of pay discrimination could be brought 180 days after the last alleged discriminatory paycheck was received. Previous to that, the clock beganafter the first paycheck when the grievance began.

With the release of the pay scales at the Attorney General’s office it is not hard to see why. Would his office be in compliance with the law?

The San Antonio Express News reports the following.

Equal pay for women is in the spotlight of the Texas governor’s race, and figures from Attorney General Greg Abbott’s state agency show most female assistant attorneys general make less on average than do men in the same job classification.

Abbott’s office said the difference is explained by the amount of time that the men have been licensed as lawyers and have served at the agency.

But drilling down into different classifications of assistant attorney general, the figures provided by Abbott’s office show there isn’t always a direct correlation between such experience and pay.

And of the top 20 highest-paid employees at the agency, just three are women, February salary figures provided to the San Antonio Express-News show. Of the 100 top positions, 37 are held by women.

Greg Abbott continues the trend of lower wages for women.

It turns out that the average salary paid to men is $60,200. The Average salary paid to women is $44,708. In other words, women in Greg Abbott’s Attorney General offices make 74.2 cents on the dollar. Of course in the eyes of the GOP the cause may be that women are too busy to care about wages. Or just maybe women are poor negotiators. That is what two of Greg Abbott’s surrogates had to say when discussing pay equity and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act recently.

Study: Refusal to expand Medicaid is costing Texas billions



December 04, 2013 10:18 PM CST December 04, 2013 11:16 PM CST Study: Refusal to expand Medicaid is costing Texas billions

Study: Refusal to expand Medicaid is costing Texas billions



ROBERT T. GARRETT The Dallas Morning News

Austin Bureau


Published: 04 December 2013 10:18 PM

Updated: 04 December 2013 11:16 PM

AUSTIN — If Texas keeps refusing to enlarge Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, the state will pass up a heap of money, a new study has found.

In 2022, the state would pass up federal money for Medicaid expansion equal to more than twice its haul that year in federal highway aid, according to researchers Sherry Glied and Stephanie Ma of New York University.

Texas would forfeit $9.6 billion of federal Medicaid matching funds in 2022. That’s one-fourth of what the federal government expects to spend on defense contracts in the state that year, the study said.

“No state that declines to expand the program is going to be fiscally better off because of it,” said Glied, a former Obama administration health planning official who is dean of NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.

Texas Republican leaders have resisted Medicaid expansion, saying federal rules are too rigid and state costs in future years would soar. GOP leaders predict that federal budget cuts and the Affordable Care Act’s rollout problems will force a rollback of the generous pledge of federal funding.

Last year, Texas took $17 billion in federal money for its $28 billion Medicaid program. It currently covers 3.6 million children, pregnant women, seniors and disabled Texans.

More than 1 million poor adults of working age would be added to the program by 2016 if Texas changed course and embraced expansion, according to the state Health and Human Services Commission.

The study was sponsored by the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit group that argues for improvements in health care accessibility and affordability. It said Texas in 2022 would have to pick up 10 percent of the Medicaid expansion tab. The state cost would be $1.2 billion.

If state leaders persist in rejecting expansion, Texans still would pay for other states to cover low-income adults through their income, corporate and estate taxes paid to the federal government, Glied and Ma wrote.

“Their tax dollars will be used to support a program from which nobody in their state will benefit,” Glied said in a written statement.

Health policy analyst John Davidson said state leaders are right to rebuff the federal money.

“Until Medicaid is fundamentally reformed, it’s reckless to expand it,” said Davidson, of the free market-oriented Texas Public Policy Foundation.

Anne Dunkelberg, associate director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities, which advocates for low-income Texans, said the study highlights how Medicaid already is “a major job generator” in the state.

“It’s just hard to imagine that Texas would even consider giving up a quarter of our defense contracts,” she said. “We would consider it calamitous, yet in the current [political] climate, that’s the kind of decision that’s being promoted.”

Death in Texas: The effect of Abortion Laws

March 9, 2014 · CodyPogue

Death in Texas: The effect of Abortion Laws

The Effects of Texas Abortion Restrictions

Two Texas abortion providers reported this week that they will soon close their doors as a result of new abortion restrictions Planned Parenthoodpassed by the Texas Legislature. According to a March 6 Texas Tribune article, this makes 20 Texas abortion clinics that have closed their doors since last summer. The article notes that this will lead to a situation where the demand for abortions in Texas will quickly be much higher than the supply of abortion providers. In other words, next year, there will be approximately 25,000 women who will desire to get an abortion, but wont be able to because of the closure of these clinics. This lack of supply will be concentrated in the valley region, where for women in McAllen, the closest abortion clinic will be 235 miles away in San Antonio. This is a tragedy for a region where, according to the same article, 12% of women who eventually got an abortion attempted to give themselves an abortion before seeking professional assistance.

Texas is making a big mistake and, if we do not change course on this issue, the consequences will be catastrophic. These laws will not greatly reduce the number of abortions, they will increase the number of deaths, and they could increase the number of abortions.

These laws will not work

According to a 2009 study in Obstetrics and Gynecology, the parts of Europe where abortion is the least restricted (Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands) have less than 10 abortions a year for every 1,000 women of gestational age. In contrast, countries where abortion is illegal have from the mid 20s up to 39 abortions for every 1,000 women of gestational age, depending on the country in question.

In other words, there is no evidence to indicate that the number of abortions decrease due to more restrictive abortion laws. If more restrictive abortion laws do not decrease the number of abortions, why would we pass them?

These laws will increase the number of deaths

For the most part, legal abortion is a safe procedure for the mother. According to a CDC study, in 2008, only 12 women died from abortion related complications in the United States. That number remains pretty consistent in years past with 6 women in 2007, and 7 women in each year from 2004 to 2006. This gives abortion a .64% mortality rate from 2004-2008.

Compare these numbers with the mortality rate due to abortions in countries where abortion is a crime. According to a 2009 article in Obstetrics and Gynecology, countries with the most restrictive abortion laws see 34 abortion related deaths for every 1,000 childbirths, compared with less than 1 abortion related death for every 1,000 childbirths in countries without restrictive abortion laws. In other words, around 68,000 women die from unsafe abortions each year in countries where abortion is illegal or greatly restricted. This means a woman dies every 8 minutes from a failed illegal abortion, somewhere in the world. Furthermore, of the women who attempt to give themselves illegal abortions and survive, 5 million suffer long term complications each year.

If Texas puts great restrictions on abortion in the state, our abortion mortality rate will begin looking more like that of these other countries and less like that of the rest of the United States. The current Texas restrictions will lead to a Texas where young girls will google how to give themselves abortions, attempt abortions on themselves, and the results will be horrendous. We cannot allow that to occur.

Restrictive Laws Will Increase the Number of Abortions

The number of abortions occurring in America has decreased significantly in recent years. Most social scientists believe this is due to increased access to contraception and better sexual education. According to the Texas Tribune article cited above, 45% of Texas women who got abortions reported that they had stopped taking birth control in the months before their pregnancy “because it was too expensive.”

Luckily, Texas abortion providers also double as family planning clinics who teach sexual education and provide free or reduced price contraception to low income individuals who could not afford it otherwise. As these clinics are shut down, those services disapear in the areas that need it the most. When the nearest sexual health clinic is 235 miles away from women in McAllen, where will they go for birth control they can afford? There will be no alternative and the unplanned pregnancy rate in Texas will increase. As this occurs, the abortion rate will increase as well, and, with restricted access to legal and safe abortions, these abortions will be illegal and will lead to an increase in the abortion related mortality rate.


In conclusion, Texas is making a big mistake. Restrictive abortion laws do nothing to decrease the number of abortions, they increase the number of maternal deaths, and they might even increase the number of abortions.

When we talk about abortion, we are often talking about tough decisions made by young girls who are not old enough to really understand the consequences of their actions. A CDC study showed that, when girls under 15 years of age get pregnant, over 30% of them get an abortion. When girls from ages 15 to 24 get pregnant, around 13% get an abortion. When women from ages 25 to 39 get pregnant, less than 10% of them get an abortion.

Seeing as how it is young girls, especially those under the age of 15, who are most likely to get an abortion if they are pregnant, do we really want to allow them to undergo harsh deaths at the hands of themselves, their boyfriends, their parents, or someone else who attempts to give them an illegal abortion?

The statistics show that there is no such thing as “pro life”. The two choices are safe and legal abortion or unsafe and illegal abortion. If we are serious about reducing the number of abortions, we should follow the evidence and increase access to contraception and sexual education because those are the only tools that are proven to work. Restricting access to abortion will only create an even bigger catastrophe without removing the problem we were trying to solve in the first place.

Why Republicans Should Be Worried That Planned Parenthood Is Jumping Into This Year’s Elections


By Aviva Shen on February 27, 2014 at 12:41 pm



Planned Parenthood, used to playing the villain in many conservative candidates’ campaigns, is launching its largest campaign offensive ever, according to Politico, with a plan to spend more than $18 million in at least 14 states where reproductive rights are vulnerable. The organization will follow its playbook from last year’s successful Virginia gubernatorial campaign, combining ads focused on women’s health overall with on-the-ground voter outreach.

Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the political arm of the women’s health provider, is specifically targeting Senate and gubernatorial races in states like North Carolina, which passed some of the most radical abortion restrictions in the country last year, and Texas, where gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis (D) famously filibustered a law that has shuttered most of the state’s abortion clinics. Getting more pro-choice governors and state legislators into office could prove especially crucial to counteract the unprecedented onslaught of state-level bills restricting abortion and contraception access.

In response to these anti-choice efforts, pro-choice candidates and lawmakers are starting to embrace a “war on women” message — with encouraging results. Capitalizing on massive protests against abortion restriction bills, outspoken pro-choice voices like Davis have ascended to the national stage, while hard-line anti-choice candidates like Ken Cuccinelli and Todd Akin have seen their hopes dashed.

Planned Parenthood has been instrumental in toppling these radical candidates. After the 2012 election, in which Planned Parenthood spent $15 million, research showed that Republicans’ support of restrictive laws on abortion and birth control likely cost them the presidential election. Down the ticket, data from the Sunlight Foundation showed that Planned Parenthood was the most successful lobbying group in the 2012 election, having spent 98 percent of their campaign money on winning candidates.

Republicans, meanwhile, were left trying to quiet certain voices in the party in an attempt to change their anti-woman image.

The midterm campaign season is already brimming with offensive comments on rape legitimacy, libidos, and marital rape, giving Democrats ample ammunition.

Rather than simply react to Republican fumbles as they happen, Planned Parenthood’s involvement in this campaign cycle could change the conversation entirely. Planned Parenthood Action Fund head Cecile Richards told Politico they plan to prove candidates don’t need to campaign defensively on reproductive rights, but should proactively pitch women’s health care as part of the broader economic issue of women’s and family’s rights.

Want to Talk Deficits? Bush’s Iraq and Afghanistan Will Cost ‘$4-6 Trillion’


February 17, 2014 1:29 am by: Salvatore Aversa


A report released in late 2013 by Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government has shed light on just how much the Iraq and Afghanistan war has cost the country, both financially and through human lives.

When President Bush and his Administration were contemplating the war, we were fed lies about the cost of the war.  The Administration convinced the public, as well as Congress, that the wars would finance themselves through Iraqi oil.

President Bush’s National Economic Council Director, Lawrence Lindsey, was not convinced that such a claim could be true.  On September 15, 2002, Mr. Lindsey did an interview with the Wall Street Journal in which he claimed the actual cost of the Iraq War could cost as much as 1-2% of the GDP, or approximately $100-200 billion.

While we now know that number was not even come close to the actual mammoth cost, which is still accruing over 10 years later, his comments infuriated those inside the Administration.  His comments eventually cost him his job inside the White House.

Back in 2002, the White House was quick to distance itself from Lindsey’s view. Mitch Daniels, director of the White House budget office, quickly called the estimate “very, very high.” Lindsey himself was dismissed in a shake-up of the White House economic team later that year, and in January 2003, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the budget office had come up with “a number that’s something under $50 billion.” He and other officials expressed optimism that Iraq itself would help shoulder the cost once the world market was reopened to its rich supply of oil.

To date, the Iraq and Afghanistan war have cost over $2 trillion, and will end up costing 4-6 trillion due to medical care and disability compensation for service members, veterans and families, military replenishment and social and economic costs.  The 2 trillion is expected to skyrocket in coming years, as interest continues to mount.  According to the report, the United States has only paid $260 billion in interest on the war debt.  The total interest cost is expected to reach into the trillions.

This has left many programs in the United States in peril.  Since President Bush and his Administration had no means to pay for the war, and cut taxes during the same period of time, the United States has a mounting budget deficit that cannot be resolved by simply cutting programs.

The United States has an obligation to keep, not only to the citizens, but also to the military.  This commitment will require an expansion of the tax-base, not a reduction.  The cost of the war is not simply the cost of the bombs dropped or bullets shot.  It is not simply the cost of the vehicles or the pay for the troops.  The true cost of war extends much further than that.  In fact, it may be several decades before the true cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are found.

From GlobalResearch.ca:

The report states: “The Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, taken together, will be the most expensive wars in US history—totaling somewhere between $4 trillion and $6 trillion. This includes long-term medical care and disability compensation for service members, veterans and families, military replenishment and social and economic costs. The largest portion of that bill is yet to be paid.”

“Another major share of the long-term costs of the wars comes from paying off trillions of dollars in debt incurred as the US government failed to include their cost in annual budgets and simultaneously implemented sweeping tax cuts for the rich. In addition, huge expenditures are being made to replace military equipment used in the two wars. The report also cites improvements in military pay and benefits made in 2004 to counter declining recruitment rates as casualties rose in the Iraq war.”

The authors of this report have warned that the legacy of decisions taken during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars would dominate future federal budgets for decades to come.

According to the Harvard University report, some 1.56 million US troops—56 per cent of all Afghanistan and Iraq veterans—were receiving medical treatment at Veterans Administration facilities and would be granted benefits for the rest of their lives.

“One out of every two veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan has already applied for permanent disability benefits. The official figure of 50,000 American troops “wounded in action” vastly underestimates the real human costs of the two US wars. One-third of returning veterans are being diagnosed with mental health issues—suffering from anxiety, depression, and/or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).”

The report notes that in addition, over a quarter of a million troops have suffered traumatic brain injuries (TBI), which, in many cases, were combined with PTSD, posing greater problems in treatment and recovery.

“Constituting a particularly grim facet of this mental health crisis is the doubling of the suicide rate for US Army personnel, with many who attempted suicide suffering serious injuries,” opine the report authors.

“Overall, the Veterans Administration’s budget has more than doubled over the past decade, from $61.4 billion in 2001 to $140.3 billion in 2013. As a share of the total US budget it has grown from 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent over the same period. Soaring medical costs for veterans is attributable to several factors. Among them is that, thanks to advancements in medical technology and rapid treatment, soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan have survived wounds that would have cost their lives in earlier conflicts.”

“While the US government has already spent $134 billion on medical care and disability benefits for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, this figure will climb by an additional $836 billion over the coming decades.”

It notes that the largest expenditures on health care for World War II veterans took place in the 1980s, roughly four decades after the war, and that spending on medical care and disability payments for Vietnam War veterans was still on the rise.

Here follows the description:

“The most common medical problems suffered by troops returning from the two wars include: diseases of the musculoskeletal system (principally joint and back disorders); mental health disorders; central nervous system and endocrine system disorders; as well as respiratory, digestive, skin and hearing disorders. Overall, some 29 per cent of these troops have been diagnosed with PTSD.”

“Among the most severely wounded are 6,476 soldiers and Marines who have suffered “severe penetrating brain injury,” and another 1,715 who have had one or more limbs amputated. Over 30,000 veterans are listed as suffering 100 percent service-related disabilities, while another 145,000 are listed as 70 to 90 percent disabled.”

“The worst of these casualties have taken place under the Obama administration as a result of the so-called surge that the Democratic president ordered in Afghanistan.”

It mentions that the Walter Reed Medical Centre, US Army’s flagship hospital at Washington DC, was treating hundreds of recent amputees and severe casualties, adding that this facility had received 100 amputees for treatment during 2010; 170 amputees in 2011; and 107 amputees in 2012.

“Massive direct spending on the two imperialist interventions continues. With over 60,000 US troops remain in Afghanistan, it is estimated that the cost of deploying one American soldier for one year in this war amounts to $1 million. These troops continue suffering casualties—including in so-called “green on blue” attacks by Afghan security forces on their ostensible allies. As they are brought home, they will further drive up the costs of medical care and disability compensation. The US is maintaining a vast diplomatic presence in Iraq, including at least 10,000 private contractors providing support in security, IT, logistics, engineering and other occupations; as well as logistics support and payments for leased facilities in Kuwait.”

The Republicans lied their way into the Iraq and Afghanistan wars with no exit plan and no way to pay for it, and are now trying to paint the picture that it was the Democrats who destroyed the economy.

They are now trying to convince the public that the only answer is cutting programs like SNAP, Medicare and Social Security.  While the message may resonate with some Republicans, a majority of Americans cannot be fooled so easily in the short amount of time that has passed.  It is time for Republicans to start presenting real solutions to fix the mess they created, rather than distracting the public from their shameful failures.