Tag Archive | Congress

War on Women, or political viewpoints, or whatever is convenient to garner the vote…

Focus on the GOP's War on Women- jobs & the economy can waitI am an American woman, and there is a war being waged against me, at least according to many liberals, feminists, and democrats. According to them I should be outraged that the GOP, and any republican or conservative for that matter, is trying to revoke my rights. So I am left wondering whether or not I should be worried. I mean, after all, are we talking about women in America being subjected to many of the horrors of women in the Middle East such as Sharia Law? Are we in danger of becoming indentured servants to our fathers and husbands, being required to have four male witnesses for rape, or being stoned to death? Now that would be a true war on women, one that I would fight wholeheartedly.

As usual, I have sought to find a more clear and accurate definition that goes beyond the slogan. According to Karen Teegarden women should, “Watch TV news coverage. Read news stories in your morning paper. The War on Women is a war on reproductive rights. The evidence is clear” (1).  Dave Helfert defines it as, “… what Democrats call an onslaught of legislation in state capitals across the country and in Congress aimed at limiting women’s health and family planning services, curtailing women’s access to contraceptives and legal abortions, even restricting women’s ability to fight employment discrimination” (2). After reading these articles as well as many others, the main conclusion that I can draw is that the “War on Women” is supposedly a war being waged by republicans in controlling women through legislation- the majority of which focuses on contraception and abortion. There are also allegations that republicans are trying to dismantle equal pay laws and stand in the way of violence against women legislation. All of these anti-women measures are surely an attempt to strip American women of their rights and freedoms- rights to access birth control, receive equal pay, and escape from domestic violence.

Wait a minute….can they do that? Is this really what is happening?  

No.

You see, part of the problem in our society, and part of the reason that these types of attacks are so successful, is that many people cannot or do not read between the lines. They hear something and latch on rather than understanding the details and issues. Nothing is ever black and white, but many like to present it as such.

More appropriate would be a title such as the War on Abortionbut you will never hear that because it changes the gameNot all women support all types of abortion.  We are not talking about going back to an age where it is illegal to use birth control or an attack on women’s health services. Is it a stripping away of women’s access to health services if republicans argue that Planned Parenthood, who does provide abortion, should not receive taxpayer dollars to fund those services? It is a grey area. One side argues that the majority of Planned Parenthood’s services are for non-abortion things such as well-woman exams and counseling, and PP does not use federal funds for abortions. The other side argues that cutting off funding from America’s largest abortion provider would stop its ability to perform abortions. In my opinion, if Planned Parenthood is such a huge advocate for women’s health services, then it could easily find a way to separate tax-payer funded services from abortion- even breaking into two different groups. Maybe they could call it Planned Parenthood and Prevented Parenthood. That would quickly resolve the issue.

ImageAnd what about contraception? I mean, it is clear that republicans and conservatives want American women to be pregnant and barefoot in the kitchen, right? After all, if there is not mandated contraceptive coverage- free contraception that is– then women will not be able to avoid getting pregnant. According to Sandra Fluke, “…[women] have suffered financially and emotionally and medically because of this lack of coverage…contraception can cost a woman over $3,000…Women like her have no choice but to go without contraception….” (3). She said all of this and more in her testimony before Congress. Granted, she was specifically talking about women attending law school at Georgetown University. Yet, she never mentions the availability of free or low-cost options such as Planned Parenthood clinics and Walmart, who offers birth control prescriptions for as low as $9 per month. Maybe those options aren’t good enough for the Georgetown crowd or maybe they just don’t have access to Walmart. Even so, in the early 90’s when I was working for around $5.00 an hour as a fast food manager at McDonalds, I could afford my monthly prescriptions of birth control pills without insurance coverage or government intervention. The argument continues that it is not just about birth control but also about women who need the pills to help with medical problems such as PCOS and endometriosis. However, if you read the PPACA closely, free contraceptive coverage includes ALL US FDA approved methods and sterilization procedures: Male Condom, Female condom, Diaphragm with Spermicide, Sponge with Spermicide, Cervical Cap with Spermicide, Spermicide Alone, Oral Contraceptives (progestin-only) “The Minipill”, Combined Oral Contraceptives (Extended/Continuous Use)(estrogen and progestin) “The Pill”, Patch (estrogen and progestin), Vaginal Contraceptive Ring (estrogen and progestin), DMPA Shot/Injection (progestin), Emergency Contraceptives “The Morning After Pill”, Copper IUD, IUD with Progestin, Implantable Rod (progestin). The majority of these methods have nothing to do with medical necessity, and some are much more expensive than others. But anyone who pays taxes and insurance premiums will be footing the bill for women to have access to contraception because $9 per month is just too much of a burden to bear to avoid becoming pregnant. It is obvious that republicans, conservatives, and religious organizations are determined to strip all women of control over their reproductive rights by not supporting this legislation- isn’t it?

So the war on women’s health care access is really a war about the funding of Planned Parenthood and abortion. The war on reproductive rights is really a war on mandated coverage, or free, birth control.

What about equal pay for women?  The White House and democrats tout statistics that state women earn 77 cents for every dollar that a man earns.  However, many of the articles I have read point out that these numbers are not necessarily accurate as they are based on a broad range of data. There are indications that there is still a gap in pay, but it may not be as large as some purport. Personally, I have never encountered discriminatory pay. I admit that I often feel like I am living on a different planet because my experiences must not be typical considering the issues at hand. Nonetheless, when I was a public high school teacher, my salary was set by the county and published for all to see. My salary was based on my level of education and years of experience. It was the same for my male counterparts, and the only way we received a pay increase was through step (year of teaching), cost of living, or contract negotiation with the union. I find this ironic as some of the articles I read claimed that female teachers earned less than their male counterparts, which leads me to believe that some of the data is definitely misleading or faulty. Or maybe they were just referencing teachers in private institutions. Even though The Equal Pay Act, which clearly prohibits pay discrimination, was enacted in 1963, many claim that it is not enough to fight wage disparity between men and women. A new law has been proposed, the Paycheck Fairness Act, that will supposedly give the original act more strength. The law has not passed the Senate because of those nasty, women-hating republicans. Unfortunately, there are many hidden facets in the PFA that make it excessive and burdensome to business. For example, The EPA already prohibits discrimination, but there are some elements that could be used as loopholes in lawsuits. Supposedly, the PFA remedies this. However, it also would make it extremely difficult for businesses and HR departments to use their professional judgments to make salary offers and pay decisions. It also would make it easier for lawsuits (including class action) against employers with no limit on punitive damages (except for the federal government) and would require businesses to disclose detailed salary information to the government. As with anything, there are obvious pros and cons to the act. Nevertheless, I do not believe that it is a war on women because some republicans and conservatives do not support it. Rather than trying to find a compromise and rewrite the act so that it truly helps women and businesses, it has become a rallying cry for democrats and liberals.

So the war on women’s equality in pay is really a war about playing politics for women’s votes.

What about the Violence Against Women Act? Are republicans holding it hostage as another attack on women? The act originated in 1994 and provides assistance to victims of domestic violence. It has been renewed twice before and is up for renewal again. This should be a no-brainer, right? So why is that republicans are holding out? It is not as simple as republicans refusing to support the law. In reality, the original law has had strong support from both sides of the aisle. The real debate involves two different versions, a republican bill that the house passed and an expanded version passed by the senate. The battle is not over the basics in the original law but rather the expanded provisions in the senate version. The new items in the senate version are as follows: “One would subject non-Indian suspects of domestic violence to prosecution before tribal courts for crimes allegedly committed on reservations. Another would expand the number of temporary visas for illegal immigrant victims of domestic violence [from 10,000 to 15,000]. The last would expand Violence Against Women Act protections to gay, bisexual or transgender victims of domestic abuse” (4). There are plenty of arguments for and against the new additions, which I would expect on any piece of legislation. The problem here is not that those nasty, evil, women-hating republicans want to eliminate assistance for victims of domestic violence. It is that they do not all agree with the new provisions that democrats are pushing. So, once again, instead of Congress working together to find compromises in a bill that all can agree upon, they are turning it into a bitter debate. To make matters worse, democrats are using it as another example of the republican war on women.

So the war on stopping violence against women is really a war between political parties over the fine print.

I am deeply offended by the gross rhetoric being spewed forth. The War on Women is nothing more than political propaganda geared at gaining women’s support by using misleading phrases. Women such as Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Nancy Pelosi, Sandra Fluke, Andrea Mitchell, Rachel Maddow, and others in the group of liberal women and leftist media infuriate me. They believe they can speak for ALL women. They have no idea what I want or think. Me, the suburban mom who is literate, educated, professional, and American. I don’t give two flips about free birth control, funding for Planned Parenthood, more legislation to allow the government to regulate business and encourage litigation, or adding provisions to the VAWA. What I care about is the future of this country- economically. I care about my husband and I having jobs, paying the bills, my children’s futures. I care about being able to afford the gasoline that we need to get to our jobs and school while still keeping the lights on and buying groceries. I care about the housing market and how we are so upside down in our mortgage that there is no way we will be able to sell and move for years, even though the jobs we now have require longer commutes, and more gas.  I care about personal freedom being protected and personal responsibility being endorsed. Those are the issues that are important to me, and none of them exist in the supposed War on Women.

My extensive reading list…(yes, I read all of these) 

(1) The War on Women: Why We’re Fighting
(2) From the Frontlines of the War on Women
(3) Transcript of testimony by Sandra Fluke
(4) Senate Votes to Reauthorize Domestic Violence Act

Thou shalt release thy tax returns

Uncle Sam says pay up

I must admit that I am somewhat torn by the current debate over whether or not Mitt Romney should release more tax returns. I have listened to arguments on all sides, and I feel somewhat divided on the issue. The one conclusion that I have drawn, however, is that many of the politicians calling for the release of his tax returns are quite hypocritical.

The argument that the opposition is putting forth is that anyone who runs for the office of president should be transparent. In addition, they claim that it is tradition for presidential candidates to release many years. Many top Democratic officials have gone so far as to imply that Romney will not release his returns because he is hiding something nefarious. Some have not gone quite that far but are willing to speculate that there are years when Romney did not pay any taxes or that he is avoiding paying taxes by “hiding” his money in offshore accounts. It is all speculation of course, laced with the worst kinds of innuendo designed to discredit and paint the Republican candidate in a negative light.

One example of this practice is in a statement by Obama’s campaign manager, ” ‘The President and the Vice President released their tax returns today so that Americans can review their personal finances, understand how they earn their income and ensure there are no conflicts with the interests of the nation…But on the eve of April 17th, Governor Romney has yet to provide tax returns from the period in which he made hundreds of millions as a corporate buyout specialist, or as governor of Massachusetts, the experience he says qualifies him to be president’ “(3).  Senator Reid gave a speech to the Senate in which he asked, “ ‘We’d like to know what’s in those tax returns that he refuses to show to the American public. Did he pay any taxes?’ ” He has even gone so far as to suggest that “Romney’s refusal to release more than two years of tax returns would make him ineligible to serve even as dogcatcher” (9). Another example of the innuendo is when “Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee,…harangued Romney for refusing to release more tax returns, calling it a ‘penchant for secrecy‘ ” (9).

On the other hand, Romney supporters argue that this issue is just a way for Democrats to distract the voters from the real issues at hand such as the economy and President Obama’s poor record in office. According to John D. McKinnon, “Democrats see a way to deflect voter dissatisfaction over the weak economy and diminish the GOP’s advantage on tax issues by attacking what they describe as tax breaks that have unfairly benefited wealthy people and big corporations and drawn jobs and investment away from the U.S.” (5). Supporters also claim that even if Romney did release more returns, it would not be enough to silence the opposition, and the returns would become a tool that the Obama campaign would use to manipulate Romney’s image as a fat cat who only cares about the wealthy. The tax code is so complicated that even if the public did review Romney’s returns, it might not understand many items such as investment dividends, which would make it very easy for the opposition to distort.  ” ‘In the political environment that exists today, the opposition research of the Obama campaign is looking for anything they can use to distract from the failure of the president to reignite our economy,’ Romney told Costa. ‘And I’m simply not enthusiastic about giving them hundreds or thousands of more pages to pick through, distort and lie about’ ” (6). An article in The Washington Post states, “Florida GOP Chairman Lenny Curry said that by calling for the tax returns, Obama “wants people to be jealous of and resent wealth” and that the president “is without question wanting a street fight in this campaign.” (7)

As always, I try not to be swayed by the media or political talking heads. I want to form my own opinions on issues, and part of that requires that I educate myself as much as I can. So, the first question I asked myself is what value there is in reviewing Romney’s tax returns. I wonder how many people would actually take the time to read through the tax returns themselves and how many would rely on political analysts and strategists to do it for them. There are two problems I see here. First of all, as I have already pointed out, tax returns can be very complicated and difficult to understand. Most people don’t even want to look at their own tax returns, and many who have itemized deductions and other complicated financial issues hire a professional to do the work. So would the average American glean much from Romney’s tax return? The second issue is that if voters rely on others to interpret the information for them, then it will likely be biased. It is easy to manipulate numbers, omit certain information, and misrepresent other information to support a point.

In order to see how I would interpret such information, I reviewed all of Obama’s returns and the two for Romney. To be honest, I did not have the patience of will to understand what was in half of them. The two things I did pay attention to were the adjusted gross income and gifts that each gave to charity. (I have listed both below.) I was not sure what it meant when I saw foreign income listed on Obama’s return, nor did I understand what the $24,000 gifts the Obama’s gave to their daughters was. Romney’s return has sections that went completely over my head.

The conclusions I drew are simple.

  1. I really have no idea exactly how they made their money. I do understand some of the employment, but once it goes into investments- capital gains and losses- etc, I am lost.
  2. I do not have the patience or will to determine what tax rate they paid.
  3. Seeing the returns has not influenced me in favor of one or the other one bit, although I must admit that I am somewhat impressed by how well Romney seems to have chosen his investments and done for himself.
  4. Both men are far richer than I have ever been and probably ever will be.  Neither can empathize with MY financial life or know what I truly need and want nor should he need to.
  5. I would expect any individual who runs for the office of president to have acquired some wealth. I would want that because if he (or she) has been successful in his (or her) financial life, then that individual should be able to transfer the knowledge and skills to handling the economy.
  6. Both men are far richer than I have ever been and probably ever will be.

Obama (1)

2000         AGI $240,505                Gift $2,350

2001         AGI $272,759                Gift $1,470

2002         AGI $259,394                Gift $1,050

2003         AGI $238,327                Gift $3,400

2004         AGI $207,647                Gift $2,500

2005         AGI $1,655,106             Gift $77,315

2006         AGI $983,826                 Gift $60,307

2007         AGI $4,139,965             Gift $240,370

2008         AGI $2,656,902            Gift $172,050

2009         AGI $5,505,409           Gift $329,100

2010         AGI $1,728,096   *822,322 foreign income      Gift $245,075       *$24,000 to daughters

2011        AGI $789,674        *269,710 foreign income       Gift $172,130        *24,000 to daughters          
             *2,768,000 treasury bills redeemed

Romney (2)

2010       AGI $21,646,507              Gift $2,984,974

2011       AGI $20,901, 075              Gift $4,020,572 
Personally, I find very little value in reading someone’s tax returns. It does not speak to me about the individual’s character or values. It does not show me his philosophical views or how well he will lead the country. It is just a matter of numbers on paper that mean nothing.

Another question I have to ask myself is if Romney is hiding something potentially damaging. I have a difficult time arguing against this because I have often felt that if someone refuses to share information, it is because it is something that is not in their best interest so to speak. Nevertheless, that is speculation of the worst kind and makes me no better than those who use this issue to debase an opponent without actual evidence. The logical side of me has to weigh other factors. First, Romney did give the 2008 McCain campaign 23 years of returns when he was considered as a running mate.(3) If the McCain campaign had found something, I am fairly certain it would have surfaced by now. In addition, if there were something illegal in those returns, the IRS should have caught it and acted. That’s what the IRS is for, right? And if government organizations are efficient and effective, then they should be able to follow through.

So what about the idea of tradition? Should Romney release his returns because it is what presidential candidates have done in the past? The Tax History Project is a website that lists past presidents, recent candidates, and their tax returns. Upon review, I found that the number of returns varies from 1 to 13. Jimmy Carter and George Bush only released 3 years while Biden has released 13. In some cases, the candidate only released a partial return or summary data. So I guess there is no firm tradition.

Finally, I have to ask myself what kind of backlash Romney could face if he did release more returns (that being one of his campaign’s main arguments). I tried to research past campaigns to find out how big of an issue this has been before. One interesting thing I found was that “Republican candidate John McCain released two years of tax returns for the years of 2006 and 2007 in April 2008, less than a month after Mr. Obama. The Obama campaign was not satisfied because the candidate, who is one of the wealthiest members of Congress due to his wife’s income, did not release his wife’s tax returns” (10). This is an age-old argument that can be traced all the way back to 1980 when Reagan ran against Carter. It has been a relentless form of attack where either the candidate or his spouse faced enormous pressure. Sometimes some potentially embarrassing things were revealed. Ironically, these did not affect the election of the candidate to office. For example, “According to a separate Associated Press report, Reagan experienced “one of the most embarrassing incidents of his career” after his 1970 tax returns were released to the press. The reason? The millionaire former actor and governor, worth up to $4 million, paid no state taxes because of business losses and tax shelters” (10).

All of the research and reading I did lead me to another issue that I have not considered before. If the president should be transparent, shouldn’t all high-level politicians, including members of Congress who write and potentially benefit from the laws they pass?  This is where I see the hypocrisy seeping in on this issue. It seems that in Washington there is a double standard, especially when it comes to a critical election year. Some of the following quotes support this:

“Like Romney, many members of Congress are far wealthier than the average American. And like the president of the United States, those congressmen stand to benefit from the tax policies they shape. Currently, the law only requires members of Congress to report their wealth and liabilities in broad ranges. Asked why the rules should be different for members of Congress, she [Nancy Pelosi] said, ‘When I run for president of the United States, you can hold me to that standard’ ” (8).

“The widespread secrecy in one branch of the government suggests a self-imposed double standard. Yet while American politics has come to expect candidates for the presidency to release their tax returns, the president isn’t alone in having a say over the nation’s tax laws. Congress also stands to gain or lose by the very tax policies it enacts, and tax records – more than any broad financial disclosure rules now in place – offer the chance to see whether the leaders of the government stand to benefit from their own actions” (9).

“All three [Pelosi, Reid, and Wasserman Schultz] refused repeated requests from McClatchy to release their own returns, requests that started before the flap over Romney’s records” (9).

I do wish that Romney would release his tax returns. Mainly I wish this because I am tired of hearing about it and would like to get back to the real issues. The other side of me applauds Romney for not caving to the pressure and ridiculous innuendo the other side is throwing to the media. I am sure the returns will surface at some point, but I hope it is on Romney’s terms.

(1) President Obama and Vice President Biden: 12 Years of Tax Returns
(2) Tax history Project: Presidential Tax Returns
(3) Obama releases 2011 tax returns as campaign attacks Romney
(4) Obama, Like Buffett, Had Lower Tax Rate Than His Secretary
(5) Ann Romney: No More Tax Returns
(6) Romney: Releasing past tax returns would give Obama more to ‘distort and lie about’
(7) Romney, under pressure to release tax returns, turns fire on Obama
(8) Few in Congress have released tax returns, report shows
(9) Most members of Congress keep their tax returns secret
(10) Outrage over tax returns a replay of past campaigns
The 3 Reasons Why Romney Won’t Release Those Tax Returns
Why is Congress a millionaires club?
Republicans Step Up Calls for Romney to Release More Tax Returns
Romney’s Tax Returns Are Only the Beginning
Still more holes in Mitt Romney’s tax returns?
What’s Romney Hiding in His Tax Returns?
Why won’t Romney release more tax returns?
Gov. Romney: Just Release the Tax Returns

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