Thursday Reads: War on Women, the Fiscal Cliff, and Austerity Arriving in the USAPosted: January 3, 2013 | |
Brrrrrrrrrr! All of a sudden winter has arrived! Can you believe it’s 4 degrees outside my house? With a wind chill factor of 6 below 0. My furnace can’t keep up in this kind of weather, so I have to bundle up. So what else is in the news this morning? Let’s see….
Today the new Congress gets sworn in and there are a record number of women in the new Senate. From ABC News: Meet the New Class: The Senate Swears in a Historic 20 Female Senators
Today the Senate will make history, swearing in a record-breaking 20 female senators – 4 Republicans and 16 Democrats – in office….
“I can’t tell you the joy that I feel in my heart to look at these 20 gifted and talented women from two different parties, different zip codes to fill this room,” Sen. Barbara Mikulksi, D-Md., said while surrounded by the group of women senators. “In all of American history only 16 women had served. Now there are 20 of us.”
Senator-elect Deb Fischer, R-Neb., becomes today the first women to be elected as a senator in Nebraska.
“It was an historic election,” Fischer said, “But what was really fun about it were the number of mothers and fathers who brought their daughters up to me during the campaign and said, “Can we get a picture? Can we get a picture?’ Because people realize it and — things do change, things do change.”
There’s a group photo at the link.
Still, the war on women continues. HuffPo reports: House GOP Lets Violence Against Women Act Passed By Senate Die Without A Vote.
Despite a late-stage intervention by Vice President Joe Biden, House Republican leaders failed to advance the Senate’s 2012 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, an embattled bill that would have extended domestic violence protections to 30 million LGBT individuals, undocumented immigrants and Native American women.
“The House leadership would not bring it up, just like they wouldn’t bring up funding for Sandy [hurricane damage] last night,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), a key backer of the Senate version of the bill, in an interview with HuffPost. “I think they are still so kowtowing to the extreme on the right that they’re not even listening to the moderates, and particularly the women, in their caucus who are saying they support this.”
The Senate bill passed way back in April.
In April, the Senate with bipartisan support passed a version of VAWA that extended protections to three groups of domestic violence victims who had not been covered by the original law, but House Republicans refused to support the legislation with those provisions, saying the measures were politically driven. Instead, they passed their own VAWA bill without the additional protections. In recent weeks, however, even some House Republicans who voted for the pared-down House bill have said they would now support the broader Senate bill — and predicted it would pass if Republican leaders let it come to the floor for a vote.
“I absolutely would support the Senate bill,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) told HuffPost in late December, speculating that other House Republicans, namely GOP congresswomen, “are very supportive of that.”
Asked if he thought the Senate bill would pass in the House if it came up for a vote, Cole replied, “My judgment is yes.”
Too little, too late, Congressman. So Boehner managed to screw women yesterday too though it was the refusal to vote on Sandy relief that got all the media attention.
In India police have filed murder charges against five men in the horrific gang rape in New Delhi.
Authorities filed rape and murder charges Thursday against five men accused of the gang rape of a 23-year-old university student on a New Delhi bus, a crime that horrified Indians and provoked a national debate about the treatment of women.
Police said they plan to push for the death penalty in the case, as government officials promised new measures to protect women in the nation’s capital.
Prosecutor Rajiv Mohan filed a case of rape, tampering with evidence, kidnapping, murder and other charges against the men in a new fast-track court in south Delhi inaugurated only the day before to deal specifically with crimes against women. Mohan asked for a closed trial and a hearing was set for Saturday.
The men charged are Ram Singh, 33, the bus driver; his brother Mukesh Singh, 26, who cleans buses for the same company; Pavan Gupta, 19, a fruit vendor; Akshay Singh, 24, a bus washer; and Vinay Sharma, 20, a fitness trainer.
A sixth suspect was listed as 17 and was expected to be tried in a juvenile court, where the maximum sentence would be three years in a reform facility.
Read more at the link. The New Yorker has a good article on the New Delhi story by Basharat Peer: After a Rape and Murder, Fury in Delhi. Please go read the whole thing if you can.
Back in the USA, Republican state legislatures are up to their old tricks. Irin Carmon reports in Salon: Michigan, Virginia pass backdoor abortion restrictions.
In Michigan, Rick Snyder signed a bill passed by the lame-duck Senate — the same one whose anti-union legislating dominated headlines in recent weeks — requiring clinics that perform more than 120 abortions a year to become surgical outpatient facilities, a level of licensing intended to be onerous and put clinics out of business. He also approved a bill that purports to screen for women being coerced into abortions.
Snyder did veto another bill limiting insurance coverage in private employee plans, which would have required purchase of a separate abortion rider. He objected to that on the grounds that rape victims would have to pay out of pocket if they didn’t buy the rider, and because, “As a practical matter, I believe this type of policy is an overreach of government into the private market.” Overreach of government into other realms, of course, is another matter entirely. (According to Michigan resident Emily Magner, one legislator interrupted her to cry, “THIS ISN’T ABOUT WOMEN! THIS IS ABOUT PROTECTING FETUSES!”)
Virginia’s similar, hospital-level restrictions on clinics were somewhat overshadowed by the ultrasound requirements for women seeking abortions. Under threat of forever having the word “transvaginal” attached to his name, Gov. Bob McDonnell tried to split the difference on the ultrasound legislation, but in the final days of the year signed off on the clinic regulations. This followed months of conflict between the Board of Health and Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli over whether existing clinics would be grandfathered into the legislation. The governor’s office called the regulations “common-sense”; NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia said in a statement, “After two years of shocking backroom deals and bullying public health servants, Governor Bob McDonnell is clearly proving his disregard of Virginians’ opinions about women’s health care.”
Clinic regulations are the most insidious of abortion restrictions, because they’re harder for the layperson to understand and tend to incite less outrage as a result. And opposition to them tends to fall into antiabortion narratives about back-alley butchers resisting safety standards. But research has suggested that they also tend to be the most effective: It’s difficult to talk a woman out of having an abortion, but if you make access near impossible, you might take the choice off the table altogether.
On the “Fiscal Bunny Slope,” as Dakinikat refers to it, TPM reports that Simpson and Bowles of the famous Catfood Commission didn’t like the deal hammered out by the Senate and passed by the House. It seems it doesn’t cause enough suffering for the poor and elderly to satisfy them. Here’s their statement:
“The deal approved today is truly a missed opportunity to do something big to reduce our long term fiscal problems, but it is a small step forward in our efforts to reduce the federal deficit. It follows on the $1 trillion reduction in spending that was done in last year’s Budget Control Act. While both steps advance the efforts to put our fiscal house in order, neither one nor the combination of the two come close to solving our Nation’s debt and deficit problems. Our leaders must now have the courage to reform our tax code and entitlement programs such that we stabilize our debt and put it on a downward path as a percent of the economy.
Washington missed this magic moment to do something big to reduce the deficit, reform our tax code, and fix our entitlement programs. We have all known for over a year that this fiscal cliff was coming. In fact Washington politicians set it up to force themselves to seriously deal with our Nation’s long term fiscal problems. Yet even after taking the Country to the brink of economic disaster, Washington still could not forge a common sense bipartisan consensus on a plan that stabilizes the debt.
It is now more critical than ever that policymakers return to negotiations that will build on the terms of this agreement and the spending cuts in the Budget Control Act. These future negotiations will need to make the far more difficult reforms that bring spending further under control, make our entitlement programs sustainable and solvent, and reform our tax code to both promote growth and produce revenue. We take some encouragement from the statements by the President and leaders in Congress that they recognize more work needs to be done. In order to reach an agreement, it will be absolutely necessary for both sides to move beyond their comfort zone and reach a principled agreement on a comprehensive plan which puts the debt on a clear downward path relative to the economy.”
Don’t you love the way they call for “courage” from rich Congresspeople and then tell them to cut the sole income of millions of elderly and disabled people? What about calling for the real courage it would take for them to raise the cap on Social Security contributions so that rich people could pay a little more into the system? I doubt if many of them turn down the paltry extra income they get from it.
I’m running out of space, but I have some more fiscal cliff reads for you that I’ll pass on in link dump fashion.
Paul Krugman: That Bad Ceiling Feeling
Noam Scheiber: The House Comes Around on the Cliff. Why Am I Not Reassured?
Washington Post: U.S. markets surge after Congress approves ‘cliff’ deal
George Zornick at The Nation: While Congress Plays Deficit Games, Jobs Crisis Goes Unaddressed
Joan Walsh: Biggest Fiscal Cliff Lessions
Jonathan Chait: The Big Lebowski Explains the Fiscal Cliff
Joe Conason: The GOP Clown Car Crashes, Again
I’ll end with a couple of articles on the European-style austerity that we’re heading for right now.
Brad Plummer at the Washington Post: U.S. now on pace for European levels of austerity in 2013
For years now, economists like Paul Krugman have been criticizing countries in Europe for engaging in too much austerity during the downturn — that is, enacting tax increases and spending cuts while their economies were still weak.
But after this week’s fiscal cliff deal, the United States is now on pace to engage in about as much fiscal consolidation in 2013 as many European nations have been doing in recent years — and more than countries like Britain and Spain.
A back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests Congress has enacted around $336 billion in tax hikes and spending cuts for the coming year, an austerity package whose total size comes to about 2.1 percent of GDP. (That’s merely the size of the cuts and taxes; it’s not necessarily the effect on growth.)
This includes the expiration of the payroll tax cut, which will raise about $125 billion this year. It includes $68 billion in scheduled cuts to discretionary spending from the 2011 Budget Control Act. It includes $24 billion in new Obamacare taxes and $27 billion in new high-income taxes. And it includes about $92 billion from the now-delayed sequester cuts — assuming that these either take effect or are swapped with other cuts.
Check out the graph at the link. And in Greece, the Guardian reports: Euros discarded as impoverished Greeks resort to bartering
It’s been a busy day at the market in downtown Volos. Angeliki Ioanitou has sold a decent quantity of olive oil and soap, while her friend Maria has done good business with her fresh pies.
But not a single euro has changed hands – none of the customers on this drizzly Saturday morning has bothered carrying money at all. For many, browsing through the racks of second-hand clothes, electrical appliances and homemade jams, the need to survive means money has been usurped.
“It’s all about exchange and solidarity, helping one another out in these very hard times,” enthused Ioanitou, her hair tucked under a floppy felt cap. “You could say a lot of us have dreams of a utopia without the euro.”
In this bustling port city at the foot of Mount Pelion, in the heart of Greece’s most fertile plain, locals have come up with a novel way of dealing with austerity – adopting their own alternative currency, known as the Tem. As the country struggles with its worst crisis in modern times, with Greeks losing up to 40% of their disposable income as a result of policies imposed in exchange for international aid, the system has been a huge success. Organisers say some 1,300 people have signed up to the informal bartering network.
For users such as Ioanitou, the currency – a form of community banking monitored exclusively online – is not only an effective antidote to wage cuts and soaring taxes but the “best kind of shopping therapy”. “One Tem is the equivalent of one euro. My oil and soap came to 70 Tem and with that I bought oranges, pies, napkins, cleaning products and Christmas decorations,” said the mother-of-five. “I’ve got 30 Tem left over. For women, who are worst affected by unemployment, and don’t have kafeneia [coffeehouses] to go to like men, it’s like belonging to a hugely supportive association.”
Much more at the link.
So….what’s on your reading and blogging list today. I look forward to clicking on your links.