Amid a flood of lies being uttered at the Republican National Convention this week, there is one truth the GOP has told.
They want you to work for yourself.
The Republican obsession with working for yourself stems from a campaign strategy–to recruit a parade of people–many of them whose businesses suck at the government teat—to “refute” an Obama quote they’re taking out of context, “You didn’t build that”
My Mom started a small business, and I’ve seen what it takes. Mom was 50 when my Dad died. She got on a bus every weekday for years, and rode 40 miles each morning to Madison. She earned a new degree and learned new skills to start her small business. It wasn’t just a new livelihood. It was a new life. And it transformed my Mom from a widow in grief to a small businesswoman whose happiness wasn’t just in the past. Her work gave her hope. It made our family proud. And to this day, my Mom is my role model.
But the most absurd case came from Senator, former NH Attorney General, prosecutor, and before that private practice lawyer Kelly Ayotte, who instead of talking about her considerable and impressive professional experience, focused on shoveling snow. (This served the other apparent convention strategy to have all women, save Condi Rice, to define themselves first and foremost as wife and/or mother.)
My husband Joe – who was on track to be a commercial pilot – instead served our great country flying combat missions in Iraq.
When he returned home from the war – he found himself in the same position as so many Americans – he needed a job.
So he started a family business – a landscaping and snowplowing company.
And when I say he – I mean we – because I spent many a sleepless night shoveling snow. And I’m proud of the fact that in addition to being a United States Senator – I’m also pretty good with a snow plow!
Now, Ayotte’s husband Joe Daley’s story could have served any of several narratives. His military service itself. The declining opportunities for airline pilots, an industry repeatedly bailed out by government. The difficult job market for veterans. But instead it became a story about an Attorney making $174,000 a year for her day job in public service plowing snow.
But it’s not just Ayotte’s admirable career in public service that gets short shrift here. While many of the speakers talked about how many employees their small business supported, no one I saw–save Condi Rice, who rightly celebrated her success rising from segregated Birmingham to become Secretary of State–talked about the honor of working as an employee, whether as a public servant or in the private sector.
That points to several larger trend that fits well with the real thrust of the policies Mitt and Ryan would implement. First, the Bain-like stripping of real employment relationships in exchange for transient, insecure contracts. The denial of responsibility anytime a contractor makes a mistake. And perhaps most importantly, a tax system that values wealth creation over work.
The RNC is all about these American Dream stories, and a few of them are actually what they appear to be, stories about entrepreneurs building something of their own with little help from the government. But this is about the value of working hard to own things, not work itself.
As I noted last week, every single Catholic Senator save Susan Collins who voted for the Blunt Amendment last week appears likely to have relied on the birth control their Church prohibits to limit the size of their families. Lisa Murkowski, who has just 2 kids, was among the 10 Catholics who was using her position to help the Catholic Church enforce a doctrine she herself has ignored.
What Lisa Murkowski told me I already suspected. She’s a moderate. She supports abortion rights and contraception coverage. She also doesn’t line up completely with the Catholic Church when it comes to birth control. She regretted her recent vote.
I pointed out that her support for birth control conflicts with the Catholic mandate against it.
“You know, I don’t adhere to all of the tenets of my faith.
Now, she’s still spinning her vote (and her letter opposing Obama’s rule on contraception) as one in favor of religious freedom.
She’d meant to make a statement about religious freedom, she said, but voters read it as a vote against contraception coverage for women.
But it is not “religious freedom” to craft laws to help the Church enforce mandates that almost none of its adherents–and probably few, if any, of the Catholic Senators supporting the law–abide by. It is an improper use of government to aid a religious institution.
Not to mention, rank hypocrisy.
I confess. I’m contemplating calling all the Senators who voted for the Blunt Amendment yesterday to ask for a statement detailing:
Mind you, I think such questions are inappropriate. But given that 48 Senators–including 3 Democrats and 4 women–voted yesterday to say that employers should have really intrusive control over their employees’ healthcare decisions (including, but in no way limited, to reproductive health), it seems fair to at least inquire whether these men and women have been relying on birth control to plan their families, whether their use of birth control violates their religion’s stated doctrine, and whether taxpayers paid for birth control during their child-bearing years.
As you can see from the list below, the vast majority of Senators who voted for the Blunt Amendment are likely to have relied on birth control or sterilization to limit their family size. Just three–Susan Collins, Kay Bailey Hutchison, and Lindsey Graham–have no biological children. And just three–Mike Crapo (5), Chuck Grassley (5), and Orrin Hatch (6)–have more than 4 biological children (McCain and Blunt have more with their adopted kids). Of those likely to have used birth control or sterilization, 22 worked for local, state, or federal government during a roughly calculated “child-bearing” period of their life, meaning taxpayers may have paid for their birth control (though of course their spouses’ employers may have provided health care, too). Of those likely to have used more than the rhythm method, 10 are Catholic.
So I’m going to contemplate this over the weekend. But for the moment, consider that the great majority of the Senators who voted to let employers restrict birth control access seem to have families that have been shaped by birth control.
Note the following details are a first draft–please let me know of any inaccuracies.
Update: Adam Serwer informs me that I misunderstood what happened in the colloquy where this was discussed. Ayotte’s pro-torture amendment was withdrawn.
I apologize for my error.
As Jeff Kaye laid out here, Kelly Ayotte submitted an amendment to the Defense Authorization that would override Obama’s Executive Order eliminating torture (the language of the amendment is below).
I had thought the amendment would get a vote, be easily defeated, and be history.
But instead, the amendment got referred to the conference that will work out differences between the House and Senate bills.
Now, normally, I’d assume this is a convenient way to get rid of it. But given that the amendment would presumably have been voted down by the Senate, I worry that this effectively keeps it alive to be put in the larger package. Then, members of the House and Senate will vote for the whole package (not wanting to defeat the whole defense authorization). Who knows, maybe they’ll stick it in the classified section of the bill, so none of us will be able to prove that our members of Congress are voting for torture?
Such decisions get made by the sponsor of a bill–in this case, Carl Levin. And they rarely get made without the assent of the Administration.
While it’s not clear what will happen to Ayotte’s amendment–and to our brief efforts to stop torturing–the fact that it won’t be defeated by a upperdown vote bodes ill.