I regret to give you this legislative update

I wrote a post-Thanksgiving blog post about the Republican’s big “fuck you” to the disadvantaged in the United States, while insisting on less taxes for those who don’t need it and contemporaneously insisting–in a contradictory fashion–that now is the time to address the federal budget deficit. Today we have an update on how the then-pending legislation ended up faring:

  • Increased spending on health care for 9/11 first responders: today Senate Republicans blocked the vote to end debate and allow the Senate to vote on it. If that’s not anti-American, I’m not quite sure what is.
  • Child Nutrition Act: at the beginning of December the House passed the Senate version of the bill, that funded the $4.5 billion bill with a $2.2 billion cut in food stamps funding (a.k.a. robbing Peter to pay Paul–now inadequate nutrition will just be centered in the home rather than schools.)
  • Extension of unemployment benefits: blocked by Senate Republicans late last week….because it’s not “paid for.” Yet…
  • Republicans continued to insist on giving tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. In fact, they went a few steps further, first essentially blackmailing Congress by pledging to block every piece of legislation that came up–including issues of national security like the START Treaty–until they get their tax cuts, and second, going even further than that by agreeing to extend unemployment benefits so long as they get their tax cuts for the rich. Looks like the Republicans aren’t actually all that interested in cutting the deficit after all, then, since the $75 billion tax cuts for the rich add billions onto the deficit, are far less stimulative than the $56 billion UI bill (they actually cost more than they stimulate), and there’s no good reason to buy the Republicans’ claim that the rich will use the cuts to add job, since jobs aren’t created out of the goodness of people’s heart but are added when they are economically necessary to businesses.

The GOPs true colors are blazing bold and clear–are Americans’ eyes opened yet?

(Cross-posted to The Reaction)

Published in: on December 10, 2010 at 12:04 am  Leave a Comment  

GOP screws 9/11 responders, unemployed, and poor: Happy holidays to the rich and corporate elite!

I’m really struggling to prevent my head from exploding over the very revealing juxtaposition of bills, policies, and positions swirling around the end of the 2010 legislative session.

The economy is still bad. There is only one job opening* for every 5 people looking for work, which means that even if all jobs were filled and none were lost, unemployment would only decrease by 20%.

After spending over a trillion on our wars in the Middle East, the GOP is suddenly concerned with deficits.

So what’s on the table right now?

Extending Unemployment Insurance: the clock is ticking on extending unemployment benefits; the bill must be passed next week or unemployed workers’ benefits will begin to stop. The unemployed are accused of being lazy even though there are objectively not enough jobs for everyone looking. In fact, there usually aren’t–100% employment is bad for capitalists because then the employees, not the owners, have the leverage. But typically there are 1-2 people looking for every job opening, not 5-6 as we’ve had in this recession, which makes the negative impact of unemployment on the rest of the economy that much greater. Unemployment benefits are needed not only to help the human beings in need, but to mitigate the negative economic impacts of mass unemployment.

Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010: the Child Nutrition Act gets reauthorized every 5 years. The Senate version passed in August, only after paying for the $4.5 billion program with program cuts, most of which ($2.2 billion) came from the food stamps program (SNAP). The House version did not include those cuts, and has been stalled for that reason. The cuts in SNAP essential shift the locus of inadequate nutrition from the lunchroom to the dining room. If the bill isn’t passed before the break, the process begins all over again.

The 9/11Illness Payout Bill: a bill providing funds to cover the medical costs for 9/11 first responders. the bill passed the House (even surviving a Republicans threat to add an amendment that would bar undocumented workers from receiving the benefits, as if their suffering from helping our fellow citizens wasn’t worth paying for), but the bill is now stuck in the Senate. I can’t believe this is even an issue, but the GOP has made it one: the bill will be paid for by closing corporate tax loopholes, and Republican senators are framing it as a tax increase.

So let’s sum this up:

  • We have Republicans who have spent over $1 trillion on wars this decade wanting to cut the deficit, but refuse to fund the health care of those who risked their life in the events that were the so-called reason d’entre for those wars. They also refuse to cut military spending.
  • Republicans also want to increase the deficit by giving tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans, but refuse to allow more adequate child nutrition–that would lower health care costs and improve cognitive functioning of our poorest children, not to mention their basic quality of life–without robbing Peter to pay Paul.
  • Republicans want the wealthiest in the United States to get tax cuts, and are holding middle class tax cuts hostage to do so, while the unemployed, who by definition cannot become employed, are stripped of their poverty-level average UI benefit of $290/week ($15,000/year). Tax cuts for the rich are heralded by the GOP as a economy booster and job creator, even though unemployment benefits and the aforementioned food stamp program provide more economic stimulus than tax cuts of any sort. Businesses do not hire out of the goodness of their heart or because people need jobs. They hire when there is a need for more labor. Giving them a tax break doesn’t increase their need for more labor. Unemployment and food dollars being spent does. Those programs are not only right (or just), but they are effective.

What on earth is the logic here? The only one I can find is chilling: demanding to maintain military might by misunderstanding the source of terrorism and adherence to economic ideology despite the facts is worth more than helping those in need. Both GOP positions are self-serving. Especially at this holiday time of the year, this ought to be a stinging indictment of GOP policies and positions, if people would only see the forest, rather than the individual trees.

*The Cato Institute has criticized this number, saying that there are jobs available that aren’t advertised, and therefore that number is misleading. Even still, I highly doubt there are enough unadvertised jobs to even get close to filling the gap. further, these jobs are obtaining through personal networks, or what sociologists call social capital, something largely part of the privilege of one’s upbringing, as opposed to human capital, such as one’s education. This begs the questions, are these jobs really “available” to the millions of job seekers, or just those who are already well-connected?

(Cross-posted to The Reaction)

Published in: on November 28, 2010 at 5:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

Bipartisanship for bipartisanship’s sake makes for poor economic policy

Is anyone else sick of the bipartisanship overkill? Sure, bipartisanship is a nice idea. But the economy is falling apart–fast. The stimulus bill needs to actually stimulate; a half-assed job is not good enough. Including non-stimulating or less-stimulating items (i.e. a lot of tax cuts) . Wrong policy for the sake of bipartisanship is not going to fix our economy. And it puts the Republicans in the position to be able to blame the Democrats and Obama when/if it doesn’t work like it ought to–enabling them to claim that there is too much spending, when in reality, there are too much tax cuts and not enough spending.

You know what else I’m sick of? Is the Republicans saying (complaining and whining, really) that the bill isn’t bipartisan and that it doesn’t have enough of what they want (is this an attempt of tyranny of the minority?). Bullshit. There is a better than 60/40 spit between spending and tax cuts. Just because the bill is not being supported in a bipartisan fashion doesn’t mean the bill isn’t itself inclusive of both Democratic and Republican economic approaches. The Republicans are digging in their heels and claiming a lack of bipartisanship. No, it’s not really bipartisan–is anyone claiming it actually is?–because the Republicans refuse to vote for it despite efforts by the Democrats and the White House to include Republican one-solution-fits-all of tax cuts. As Rachel Maddow noted in her show yesterday, the compromise by the bipartisan group of Senate moderates has approximately the same ratio of spending: tax cuts and there are Senate Democrats: Republicans. It seems as though the Republicans will only call this bill bipartisan when tax cuts dominate and spending is minimal; in other words, when it becomes absolutely partisan in their favor. Seriously, they are whining that it’s not being done the way their ideology demands, despite the slew of economic experts who disagree, but why should they get their way when they’re wrong and they lost. (more…)

Published in: on February 7, 2009 at 4:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Frank defense of ideological disagreement

Lots of blogs have been circulating video clips and transcripts from Feb.1st’s “This Week” (ABC), hosted by George Stephanopoulous, with guests Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Federal Express CEO Fred Smith, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC). The show featured an ideological (some might say “partisan”) battle between Frank and DeMint.

A few interesting tidbits to point out (transcript here): (more…)

Published in: on February 3, 2009 at 4:55 pm  Comments (1)  

Republicans’ tax cut rhetoric is misplaced

After hearing so many Republican ideologues spouting their “tax cuts are always the solution for stimulus” rhetoric, I want to scream. Or maybe cry.

Perhaps there are other economic situations where tax cuts might be the way to go. This is not one of them, and it doesn’t take an economist to explain it. (more…)

Published in: on February 1, 2009 at 5:22 pm  Comments (3)  

Social institutionalization of heteronormative families

In sociology, one of the things we investigate is how the social forms we take as given are actually particular socio-cultural, historical forms.  Another aspect of sociological analysis is how ideologies guide the shape of our social institutions, as well as the way our identities are formed, as particularly races, sexed, gendered, and as people of particular sexual identities.  One thing I encounter in teaching introductory sociology is how we often assume that the way our society is set up is the only option–or that it is the necessarily best option.  I think part of this comes from American arrogance that “we” do everything right and we do it the best–the whole “envy of the world” bit.   No more do I see this than in talking about the family.

“Families come in many forms.”  Yes, this is what we say, but does this hold true in terms of our institutions, representations, and social supports?  There is a difference between merely accepting diversity and supporting a diversity of families.  The latter sees families as a system of supports that can take several forms, conferring legitimacy to many types of families and accounting for those valid and differentiated families when creating or reforming social policy; the former sees one type of family as ideal, and that there are others that exist, but their existence stems from an individual flaw (being pregnant-while-unmarried, divorce, cohabitation), and that no one really wants to have or should be encouraged to have “those” kind of families.   

I also talk a lot about how dominant identities and exclusionary thought become institutionalized in our society–ie institutionalized racism sexism, and heterosexism.  The idea behind something being “institutionalized” is that these -ism ideologies are carried out even if no one actively is discriminating, or hating, or believing the ideologies; such institutionalization also means that our society compels particular (appropriate) behaviors by making some practices and identities more valid and viable than others.  This happens by the way our society and its institutions are structured, taking a particular group or way of thought as the norm (privileging marriage, and excluding homosexuals from it), or by building damaging assumptions about particular groups into our social practices (i.e. racial profiling).   

Our society is marriage-centric, and as marriage is becoming less the rule while remaining the expectation, our society continues to be couple-centric (see the blog Onely for an excellent anti-heteronormative perspective on life).  The heterosexual married couple continues to be the assumed, ideal family, and any option types of families and they are responsible for dealing with the consequences of their non-normative family.  We may individually define our families in particular ways, but they are not socially or legally recognized as such.

I’ve been kind of vague so far, but I’m setting this up to propose a list I have been thinking about of how our society might be organized differently if single parent families, rather than two parent ones were the assumption for adults.  In other words, we would assume that all adults, with or without kids, work; adults working would be the “norm” and adults being expected to fill traditional gender roles would not be.  

  • we’d have universal daycare or graduated tax credits for daycare expenses, since we would never assume that an adult should stop working to care for their kids, thereby ceasing earning an income.
  • we wouldn’t give a tax break to married couples for their spousal dependent, a dependent who provides for the family the advantage of unpaid labor and/or childcare that single-adult families still have to do by either paying for it or by provide for themselves.  (i.e. currently, a two-parent family and a single family each earn the same income.  The two parent family pays less in taxes than the single parent family does–via having an extra dependent to deduct–and has the benefit of not having to pay for child care, which the single-parent family not only pays more in taxes but also has to pay a pretty penny for child care so that they can work at all.)
  • spouses wouldn’t be able to take advantage of their partner’s health care.
  • your sexual relationship to the person with whom you’d like to adopt a child would be irrelevant.
  • we’d have the same per capita work hours requirement to receive welfare services.
  • we’d offer tax deductions for rent, not just for mortgages*
  • I know there are more, but these have been on my mind.  

I think it’s clear, but some might wonder what’s wrong with having a family norm and with having people take responsibility for having kids only when “they can afford to”, with both time and money considerations.  Why shouldn’t they have to “pay the price” for choosing to be a single parent, or for “parenting-while-poor”?  The idea of having universal child care seems at first to giving some people a hand-out–an undue advantage over others; but the fact that we don’t have it means that in our society, we expect that certain adults should work and certain ones shouldn’t, and by not accounting for the necessity of child care, we are privileging those families who have an at-home parent.  The fact that single parents are supposed to suffer for their choice while two-parent families are benefitted by theirs demonstrates that our approach to social policies and structure privileges only one form of family. (more…)

Published in: on November 22, 2008 at 12:04 am  Leave a Comment