(Re)Productive Conventions

In one way, the DNC was almost the same as the RNC last week. Almost every woman who spoke self-identified as a mother. (This is a point Irin Carmon also made in this piece.) Lily Ledbetter was one exception; she didn’t mention her daughters and grand-daughters until the end, until she had talked about her life as a tire factory worker. And Jared Polis–whose legal right to be one is contested in many states–is the one man I remember foregrounding his fatherhood. Thus, at conventions dueling over women’s votes, they appealed largely (though reproductive health was a key issue last night) through motherhood, not womanhood.

Which is funny, because Democrats, at least, are reaching out not just to soccer moms, but they’re also reaching out to single women who are not yet mothers.

All that being said, Ann Romney and Michelle Obama presented different pictures of motherhood–or rather, parenthood.

Here’s Ann Romney’s pitch to the plight of women–which in her case is very explicitly limited to mothers, even though she admits some mothers also happen to be sisters or maybe she treats sisters as mothers of a type.

Sometimes I think that late at night, if we were all silent for just a few moments and listened carefully, we could hear a great collective sigh from the moms and dads across America who made it through another day, and know that they’ll make it through another one tomorrow. But in that end of the day moment, they just aren’t sure how.

And if you listen carefully, you’ll hear the women sighing a little bit more than the men. It’s how it is, isn’t it?

It’s the moms who always have to work a little harder, to make everything right.

It’s the moms of this nation — single, married, widowed — who really hold this country together. We’re the mothers, we’re the wives, we’re the grandmothers, we’re the big sisters, we’re the little sisters, we’re the daughters.

You know it’s true, don’t you?

You’re the ones who always have to do a little more.

You know what it’s like to work a little harder during the day to earn the respect you deserve at work and then come home to help with that book report which just has to be done.

You know what those late night phone calls with an elderly parent are like and the long weekend drives just to see how they’re doing.

You know the fastest route to the local emergency room and which doctors actually answer the phone when you call at night.

You know what it’s like to sit in that graduation ceremony and wonder how it was that so many long days turned into years that went by so quickly.

When Ann says, “you’re the ones who always have to do a little more,” she’s not directly addressing her example of the woman who has to “work a little harder” to earn the respect she deserves. Rather, she’s noting that the same woman who is treated unfairly at work also has to deal with kids’ homework when she gets home. The same woman has to deal with the troubles of elderly parents. The same woman has to know how to get her family to the emergency room–what happens if she herself has to go, I wonder?

Ann’s appeal to women only works–that extra sigh coming from women only happens–if women are expected to carry out more than half the nurturing roles in a family.

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Remember, the Question Is “Are YOU Better Off?” Not “Is Your Boss Better Off?”

The Romney campaign has started asking the snitch, Ronald Reagan’s question, “Are you better off than you were 4 years ago?” And partly because Obama’s advisors don’t have a ready answer, and partly because Democrats are misconstruing who’s being asked the question, it’s actually a tremendous risk for Democrats.

Before I get into why, let me caveat by saying that, at the moment, we’re not facing the kind of catastrophe we were facing in September 2008 (though that could change, depending on what happens in Europe). And Mitt’s preferred policies would exacerbate all the things I’m going to point to–Obama may not be fixing them adequately, but Mitt’s policies would almost universally make them worse.

But that’s not the response Democrats are giving to the question. Consider the way Josh Marshall answered the question: by pointing to GDP and job losses.

GDP, of course, measures productivity. And the last three years have continued (accelerated, actually) a long-term trend in which employers don’t share productivity gains with employees.

And while jobs aren’t being lost at the rate they were in 2008, that’s only part of the picture. First, much of the decline in unemployment came from people leaving the work force. And as a NELP report showed the other day, the jobs that have been created are disproportionately lower wage.

  • Lower-wage occupations were 21 percent of recession losses, but 58 percent of recovery growth.
  • Mid-wage occupations were 60 percent of recession losses, but only 22 percent of recovery growth.

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Maybe Republicans Didn’t Want Hologram Reagan Because They Didn’t Want a Snitch at Their Convention?

Last week, before we learned Mitt’s surprise speaker at the RNC was an actor speaking to an invisible President, there were rumors that the speaker would be a half-visible actor-President, hologram Reagan. But unlike Clint Eastwood’s invisible president, hologram Reagan actually exists. Only, the GOP didn’t think Mitt was up for the competition with hologram Reagan.

Despite some conflicting reports, Yahoo News has learned that a holographic projection of former President Ronald Reagan is in the works and was originally intended to debut outside the halls of the Republican National Convention this week. But its official unveiling has been put on hold until later this year or early 2013.

[snip]

However, Reynolds says he discussed the idea with a number of Republican activists who asked him to delay the project out of concern it would overshadow Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech.

“At the time he hadn’t chosen Paul Ryan, so I think they were a little worried about his energy,” Reynolds said. “Even in a hologram form I think Reagan’s going to beat a lot of people in terms of communicating.”

Or maybe there’s another explanation. Maybe the Republicans just didn’t want an FBI snitch reporting back on all the scandalous things they were doing at the RNC?

Reagan was more involved than was previously known as a government informer during his Hollywood years, and that in return he secretly received personal and political help from J. Edgar Hoover, the longtime F.B.I. director, at taxpayer expense.

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Immunizing Crimes: Blankfein, Zirbel, and Arpaio, but Whither Corzine?

DOJ has been doing a lot of immunizing of late. There’s Lloyd Blankfein, who not only ripped off his clients with “one shitty deal,” he then lied to Congress about it. There’s Matt Zirbel,* the CIA officer who had Gul Rahman doused with water and left to freeze to death in the Salt Pit. And there’s Joe Arpaio, who used the Maricopa County Sherriff’s office to investigate his political enemies.

DOJ immunized all these men in the last month, in spite of a vast amount of publicly available evidence clearly showing their crimes. And while DOJ had the courage to announce their decision about Blankfein and Goldman Sachs on a typical news day, not so their announcements about Zirbel and Arpaio–DOJ slipped those announcements into the journalistic distraction of Paul Ryan’s dishonest speech and Clint Eastwood’s empty chair, and the more generalized distraction of an imminent holiday weekend.

But with these grants of immunity, DOJ cleared the board of most of the politically contentious cases of immunized criminals just in time for election season. The Goldman banksters could donate with no worries, the NatSec types wouldn’t pull an October surprise, and Republicans couldn’t claim Arpaio was caught in a witch hunt because of the witch hunts he himself conducted.

DOJ cleared most, though not all, of the politically contentious cases they plan to clear though. The exception may prove the rule.

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Lie Cry?'>Did Mitt Romney Make Clint Eastwood Lie Cry?


A number of outlets responded to Clint Eastwood’s bizarre speech the other night by fact-checking the legend.

CNN:

“I haven’t cried that hard since I found out that there are 23 million unemployed people in this country,” Eastwood said. “This administration hasn’t done enough to cure that.”

But the U.S. Labor Department, which puts out the official government jobs data, counts 12.8 million people as unemployed — not 23 million.

Even if you add in unemployed people who are not counted in that total because they are not actively looking for work — a category the Labor Department terms “marginally attached” — that number rises to just over 15.3 million.

HuffPo:

Apparently Clint Eastwood is a fan of talking about things that don’t really exist.

At the Republican National Convention Thursday night, the man many know as “Dirty Harry” talked to an invisible President Obama. He also invented millions of unemployed people.

During his speech, Eastwood said he was crying for the 23 million unemployed Americans. The only problem: there are actually only 12.8 million unemployed Americans as of July, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, whose job it is to keep track of that sort of thing.

While both of these pieces acknowledge the Mitt campaign has said something similar…

The Romney campaign itself has used the 23 million figure, including in afour-minute campaign video entitled “A few of the 23 million.”

The video doesn’t explicitly say that the 23 million are unemployed. Instead, it says “millions of Americans are struggling under the Obama economy. Here are a few of their stories.” Read more

Did Clint Get Cold Feet?


There was a moment in Clint Eastwood’s rant last night that struck me then and strikes me even more now, when he explained that there are people of all ideologies in Hollywood.

I know what you are thinking. You are thinking, what’s a movie tradesman doing out here? You know they are all left-wingers out there, left of Lenin. At least that is what people think. That is not really the case. There are a lot of conservative people, a lot of moderate people, Republicans, Democrats, in Hollywood. It is just that the conservative people by the nature of the word itself play closer to the vest. They do not go around hot-dogging it. [my emphasis]

When he said it last night, I couldn’t tell whether he put himself in the conservative or the moderate classification (he doesn’t fit either label well, in any case).

He seemed, quite literally, trying to figure out what his political beliefs were on stage, talking to a chair.

Add in the fact that Clint reportedly had a script and no chair but threw out the script and got the chair at the last minute.

Then add the evidence that Clint demonstrably didn’t know what the fuck he was talking about. He criticized lawyer-Presidents at a party for a guy with a JD from the same school as Obama.

See, I never thought it was a good idea for attorneys to the president, anyway.

He evinced an isolationist stance on Afghanistan that would be totally at odds with GOP ideology if they discussed anything besides Israel.

But you thought the war in Afghanistan was okay. You know, I mean—you thought that was something worth doing. We didn’t check with the Russians to see how they did it—they did there for 10 years.

And while much of what Clint said was pitch perfect for Mitt’s campaign–the focus on jobs, Romney as a quote unquote stellar businessman, the support for Gitmo–ultimately this was a batty old man demanding that citizens get their country back again, a view profoundly at odds with the idea of that party thrown by the huge corporations and billionaires that own Mitt’s campaign and are trying to buy our government.

I would just like to say something, ladies and gentlemen. Something that I think is very important. It is that, you, we—we own this country.

(APPLAUSE)

We—we own it. It is not you owning it, and not politicians owning it. Politicians are employees of ours.

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The Quarter Billionaire’s $9 Jobs

Fairly early in Mitt’s speech last night he said this:

But today, four years from the excitement of the last election, for the first time, the majority of Americans now doubt that our children will have a better future.

It is not what we were promised.

[snip]

It’s not just what we wanted. It’s not just what we expected.

It’s what Americans deserved.

You deserved it because during these years, you worked harder than ever before. You deserved it because when it cost more to fill up your car, you cut out movie nights and put in longer hours. Or when you lost that job that paid $22.50 an hour with benefits, you took two jobs at 9 bucks an hour and fewer benefits. You did it because your family depended on you. You did it because you’re an American and you don’t quit. You did it because it was what you had to do.

But driving home late from that second job, or standing there watching the gas pump hit 50 dollars and still going, when the realtor told you that to sell your house you’d have to take a big loss, in those moments you knew that this just wasn’t right.

But what could you do? Except work harder, do with less, try to stay optimistic. Hug your kids a little longer; maybe spend a little more time praying that tomorrow would be a better day. [my emphasis]

The passage is fundamentally important to the logic of the speech–and indeed, Mitt’s entire campaign–both because it pretends Mitt understands the struggles of average people and because it suggests Obama failed to deliver on Hope and Change.

And at the core of the passage are $9 jobs that don’t pay enough to live on.

Which is funny, because just a few hours earlier, the Founder of Staples, Thomas Stemberg, bragged about Mitt’s role in this:

The truth is Mitt was not a typical investor. He was a true partner. Where some saw an unproven new business, he saw a store that could save people money. He recognized that efficiency creates consumer value. He never looked at Staples as merely a financial investment. He saw the engine of prosperity it could become.

Today Staples employs nearly 90,000 people. It has over 2,000 stores. Over 50 distribution centers.

The average self-reported hourly wage of a Staples EasyTech Associate is $8.89. The average self-reported hourly wage of a Staples Sales Associate is $8.54.

Those jobs Mitt talked about as a symbol of America’s failed promise, the ones that don’t pay a living wage? That’s what Mitt’s campaign boasted about last night as his idea of an “engine of prosperity.”

And it was an engine of prosperity, for Mitt, for Stemberg. Mitt’s worth at least $250 million. Stemberg is reportedly worth $202 million. And they got that money by running an engine of prosperity that relies on workers who are Mitt’s own example of the failure of the American dream. “This just wasn’t right,” Mitt said himself. Read more

Walt Kowalski to Speak at the RNC?

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Remember this ad? It played during the Super Bowl, Chrysler’s second great Super Bowl ad in a row. When it played, Republicans immediately accused Chrysler of running the ad as a sop to Obama for bailing the company out. Karl Rove blasted the ad.

I was, frankly, offended by it.

I’m a huge fan of Clint Eastwood, I thought it was an extremely well-done ad, but it is a sign of what happens when you have Chicago-style politics, and the President of the United States and his political minions are, in essence, using our tax dollars to buy corporate advertising and the best-wishes of the management which is benefited by getting a bunch of our money that they’ll never pay back.

Which makes the buzz–that Clint Eastwood appears to be Mitt’s surprise speaker tonight–all that more interesting.

A lot of people are talking about what an odd choice, ideologically, Eastwood is for the radicals that make up today’s GOP. He supports gay rights; Mitt’s Church bankrolled opposing them. He’s socially liberal; they’re not. He thinks climate change is serious; they think petroleum profits are.

But I’m most interested in the possibility that Eastwood is the big secret because of what I noted when the ad ran in February. The logic behind having Eastwood star in a Chrysler ad about Detroit is not Dirty Harry, but rather Walt Kowalski, the grouchy old former auto worker from Eastwood’s Gran Torino. And that Clint Eastwood character is actually a great fit for today’s GOP: At the start of the movie, it would not have been out of character for Kowalski to throw peanuts at an African American woman as he bitched about “gooks” and Jews. Over the course of the movie, he comes to realize the Hmongs who have moved into his neighborhood are just as much a part of America as he is.

Walt Kowalski, like a lot of Republicans, was an old white dude struggling to cope with the increasing diversity of his world.

But then there’s the other reason I find it appropriate. I described in February how Walt Kowalski came to symbolize Detroit only because of government investment.

Gran Torino, that tale of troubled old America coming into conflict with, and learning to love, the future of America, was shot in Detroit rather than the Twin Cities because of government intervention. Read more

They Should Have Just Called It a Poll Tax

I’m grateful that a 3-judge panel just unanimously held that Texas’ Voter ID law violates the Voting Rights Act. (See Ari Berman for background and Rick Hasen for analysis.)

But given this language of the decision (as cited by Berman), couldn’t they have simply called it a poll tax?

According to undisputed U.S. Census data, the poverty rate in Texas is 25.8% for Hispanics and 23.3% for African Americans, compared to just 8.8% for whites. This means that the burdens of obtaining [voter ID] will almost certainly fall more heavily on minorities, a concern well recognized by those who work in minority communities.

…Undisputed census data shows that in Texas, 13.1% of African Americans and 7.3% of Hispanics live in households without access to a motor vehicle, compared with only 3.8% of whites.

… while a 200 to 250 mile trip to and from a DPS [Department of Public Safety] office would be a heavy burden for any prospective voter, such a journey would be especially daunting for the working poor. Poorer citizens, especially those working for hourly wages, will likely be less able to take time off work to travel to a DPS office—a problem exacerbated by the fact that wait times in DPS offices can be as long as three hours during busy months of the year. This concern is especially serious given that none of Texas’s DPS offices are open on weekends or past 6:00 PM, eliminating for many working people the option of obtaining an EIC [“election identification certificate”] on their own time. A law that forces poorer citizens to choose between their wages and their franchise unquestionably denies or abridges their right to vote. [my emphasis]

This is, for someone making minimum wage who would have to take a day off work, an $80 fee to vote, or 6% of an entire month’s wages. Even ignoring the problem with transportation (which involves additional costs), that is a significant burden for a working poor person, much less a senior living on a fixed income.

It’s a poll tax. It’s time to start calling poll taxes poll taxes again.

One Truth the GOP Did Tell: They Want You To Work For Yourself

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 teatto “refute” an Obama quote they’re taking out of context, “You didn’t build that”

Here’s how Paul Ryan claimed credit to building a business (he didn’t mention it was made possible by Social Security survivor benefits.

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.

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