Category Archives: Heller

Keeping the Ladies in Waiting: The Paycheck Fairness Act

Woman's List 2On January 23, 2013 — yes, that’s 2013 — Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT3) introduced H.R. 377, the Paycheck Fairness Act.  The House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections has jurisdiction over bills of this nature, and by April 2013 the bill hadn’t moved.  Supporters of the bill filed a discharge petition. As of Tuesday, April 1, 2014 the petition to get a vote on the bill got its 197th signature. (113-1) It is 21 signatures shy of the 218 required.

Discharge petitions are a strategy of questionable value, since depending upon how such maneuvers are analyzed the success rate ranges from about 2% to 9% of all such attempts. [WaPo]

Nor has the idea met with enough support in the U.S. Senate.  As the last signature was being appended to the House Discharge Petition 113-1 in April 2014, Republicans in the Senate were blocking consideration of a companion bill.  [Nation] S. 2199, Senator Barbara Mikulski’s (D-MD) Paycheck Fairness Act was blocked when Senate Republicans refused to lift their filibuster on a 53-44 vote. [rc 103] Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) was among those voting to sustain the filibuster.

Republican opposition to the Paycheck Fairness legislation appears to be a masterpiece of ideological spin.  We, announce the members of the GOP, are really supportive of women’s issues — but government isn’t the answer.

There was this example: “The fact is the Republicans don’t have a war on women, they have a war for women, to empower them to be something other than victims of their gender,” Mike Huckabee said at the Republican National Committee winter meeting in January.” [Nation] Huckabee offers a talking point in which any attempt to assist women (or any other group for that matter) merely serves to create a sense of ‘victimhood’ thus disparaging attempts by individuals to grab their own bootstraps at improve their own economic circumstances. It’s little more than the hoary Moral Hazard Issue, modified and transformed into an excuse to do nothing to help anyone, ever.

And this one:  “All Republicans support equal pay for equal work,” wrote Republican National Committee press secretary Kirsten Kukowski, communications director Andrea Bozek and NRSC press secretary Brook Hougesen in a memo. “And while we all know workplace discrimination still exists, we need real solutions that focus on job creation and opportunity for women.” [Nation]  This might be characterized as the Double Side Step Dance.  Oh, we’re all in favor of equal pay for equal work, but — we need more tax breaks for multi-national corporations, etc. offering more support for those elusive Job Creators.

And these: “Republicans have said that, although they support equal pay for equal work, the bill would increase civil lawsuits. They also say that the bill is unnecessary because discrimination based on gender is already illegal.” [WaPo] Ah, the recurring Republican nightmare, on display with nearly every bill which ever sought to regulate corporate behavior — It will spawn litigation.

The Lily Ledbetter Act was supposed to have done that [TNR]… except it didn’t.  Redundancy is another GOP argument for doing nothing.  The line can be summarized as, “There is no need to improve any employee protections because current statutes already provide enough protection.” This is an argument which neatly avoids the rationale set forth in the legislation which explains the necessity of the proposed improvements.  Witness, the prohibition of penalties for employees who discuss their wages, and the authority of the EEOC to collect data from employers about wages.

And finally: It’s just election year politicking. [NYT] Translation: You’re just trying to make us look bad. If so, it was successful.

So, what might disgorge the Paycheck Fairness Act (equal pay for equal work) from the Congressional bill grinder?

Get Specific:  At town hall sessions, and public Q&A events — Instead of asking “Do you, Congressman Bilgewater or Senator Sludgepump, support equal pay for equal work?” Ask them: What is wrong with prohibiting employers from penalizing employees who discuss their wages or salaries?  What is wrong with allowing the EEOC to collect data on wages and salaries from employers?

If they stammer out that those sound like good ideas, then ask “Why didn’t you support the Paycheck Fairness Act which included those two items?”  Or, if the individual is not an incumbent, ask “Will you support legislation which includes those provisions?”

Get rational: At bottom the Paycheck Fairness Act is of a piece with family finances. [Additional here]  From a previous post:

“The pay gap has some very real economic consequences.   One analysis projects that if the pay gap could be mitigated, and more women could participate in the workforce, we could add about 3 to 4% to our national economy.”

Again, specifics matter.  In Nevada, a woman earns approximately 88 cents for every dollar earned by a man.  Additionally:

“125,402 households in Nevada are headed by women. About 26 percent of those households, or 32,479 households, have incomes that fall below the poverty level. Eliminating the wage gap would provide much needed income to women whose salaries are of critical importance to them and their families.” [NatPart pdf]

Allowing a politician to pontificate about the highly generalized moral hazard of hypothetical victimhood, or rattle on about redundancy and projected litigation only serves to skirt real economic issues faced by real families.  Ask, “What would be the overall economic benefit to Nevada if the $6,319 yearly wage gap between the earnings of men and women were narrowed?”

Playing with the calculator — if only 1,000 of those households in Nevada, headed by women, were to get the same wages as their male counterparts for doing the same job, and that $6,139 gap were closed, the result would be $6,139,000 added to the aggregate demand for goods and services in this state.

Get Out and Vote.

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Filed under Economy, equal pay, Heller, Ledbetter Decision, Nevada economy, Politics, Republicans, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

May the Force Abandon You: Heller and S. 2578

Heller 3Face it ladies, Senator Heller’s (R-NV) just not that into you.  As noticed by the NRDC, Senator Heller was one of those who voted in favor of sustaining the GOP filibuster of the Hobby Lobby Decision fix.  Here it is, big as “Pro-Life” itself, on Senate vote 228, Senator Heller’s opposition to a bill that would have:

“Affirmed requirements, notwithstanding the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, that: (1) an employer that establishes or maintains a group health plan for its employees must provide coverage of a specific item or service for the employees or their dependents where the coverage is required under federal provisions or regulations pursuant to those provisions; and (2) group health plans sponsored by an employer or employee organization, and any health insurance coverage, must provide coverage required under the Public Health Service Act, including preventive health services.

Authorizes the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Treasury to modify regulations concerning coverage of contraceptive services by group health plans of religious employers consistent with the purposes and findings (regarding coverage of birth control services and the Supreme Court decisions in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Burwell) of this Act.” [S 2578]

Simple, if the employer offers group health insurance plans as part of the earned benefits in the employee compensation package, the plans must meet federal standards; if the employer is a non-profit religious organization the rules can be modified.

But, but, but… The Republicans have another plan — yes, and it doesn’t address the problem. The GOP version of the legislation merely states that “no employer can block any employee from legal access to her FDA-approved contraceptives.” [TP]  All this does is reiterate that contraceptive medications are legal.  We already know they are legal, and there’s  a big difference between “Access” and “Affordability.”  For some individuals Affordability determines whether or not there is Access.

There appears to be a singularly silly bit of balderdash on offer from the Right Wing that contraceptives are available at the corner convenience store. [NBC]   They are, if your definition of ‘contraceptives’ is what we oldsters called a Rubber.  They aren’t, if we’re discussing The Pill, actually several kinds of pills, which are available only by prescription.  This means, of course, that there is an appointment with a physician required, and a prescription to be filled.  Honestly, I never thought I’d ever have to explain this to anyone, but in case Nevada contains some troglodytes only recently emerged from the cave, here goes:

#1. Contraceptives require a prescription, and a prescription requires a visit to a physician.  Physicians want to be paid.  In Massachusetts, for example, the cost for a female exam ranges from $185 to $240 per visit. [BCMa pdf]

#2. The notion that any woman can get prescription Pills for $9 per month is a myth.  Yes, there are some contraceptives which can be purchased in a pack of 28 for $9.00. However, some women are prescribed specific pills for specific purposes, and to address specific symptoms.  Jezebel explains:

“Birth control pills are made of hormones—sometimes just one hormone and sometimes a combination of two hormones (progesterone and estrogen). The combinations and sequences vary and are selected for each patient to distinctly meet her needs. For example, women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) will need a different level of hormones than other women and thus, her prescription needs to be carefully managed under a doctor’s care. The same goes with women suffering from irregular menses, dysmenorrhea, vaginal bleeding, ruptured cysts, or hemorrhagic cyst. That being said, birth control can cost a woman up to $129.99 per pill pack.” (emphasis added)

By the way… women don’t take Pills the way men take Viagra, when the “mood is right.”  So, the range spans the low end $9 form to the $130 per month packets, every month.  Some of the simpler compounds (estrogen/progestin) can be in that lower price range, but when folate is added (estrogen/progestin/folate combinations) the price tag hits the $116.00 per month for a 28 pill packet. [GoodRx]  The type of prescription medication is determined by the physician, and there are at least 57 types of birth control pills ranging from $18 to $130 per month. [GoodRx]

Remember, not so long ago, when the Republicans were bellowing that any federal reform of our health care system would be putting a third party in between a person and the physician?  That’s exactly what the Supreme Court did in the Hobby Lobby decision. It inserted an employer between the woman and her doctor, in essence telling the doctor, “We’re sorry if in your best professional judgment an IUD is the best option, because we’re not going to offer coverage for that in our group health insurance plans.”  By the way, an IUD costs between $500 and $1,000 and must be inserted by a health care provider — not the guy at the counter at the Gas ‘N Go.  And, NO, it doesn’t cause abortions.

Cheesy Whines

Why should an employer have to pay for something he doesn’t believe in?

Because — He’s providing an earned benefit (group health care insurance plans) as part of the total employee compensation package. Employee compensation packages are regulated.  There are minimum wages, there are overtime provisions, and there are rules for what must be covered in employer sponsored group health insurance plans.

Why do we have to give women free birth control?

Because — it isn’t free.  Employer sponsored group health insurance plans are usually set up such that both the employer and the employee are paying into them.  Why should an employee have to pay into a plan that doesn’t meet the federal standards for comprehensive health insurance coverage for basic medical services? However, there’s more to this argument isn’t there?

Send the children out, it’s time to talk about sex.

There are at least 5 million reasons for a comprehensive health care insurance plan being required to cover some contraceptive prescriptions — that’s the number of women in the country who suffer with endometriosis.  That’s a ball park figure because the NIH estimates that from 6% to 10% of all women in this country have this condition. [NIH]  Polycystic Ovary Syndrome affects about 5% to 10% of the female population, especially those between the ages of 18 and 44.  [NIH] Serious menstrual irregularities plague about 9% to 14% of the women in this country. [NIH]  Add all these numbers up and there are more than enough medical reasons contraceptive medication is covered in comprehensive health insurance plans.  But we know why many couples use contraceptives…

Contraceptives are used when partners want to have sex and don’t want more children.  To the Talibanic among us this is “sex without consequences.”   This sounds a bit silly because most sexual intercourse comes without those little consequences.

“..women who are 25 and have been trying to get pregnant for three months have an 18 percent chance of getting pregnant in their next menstrual cycle. By contrast, women who are 40 and have been trying for three months have only a 7 percent chance. After one year of trying, 25-year-old women have a 10 percent chance of getting pregnant in their next cycle; 40-year-old women have a 3 percent shot.” [HuffPo]

Obviously, if the woman has an irregular menstrual cycle it’s harder to “lower” those chances, but the odds of producing a little consequence are still rather low, even for healthy, young, females in their prime child bearing years.   Therefore, let’s leave the odds-making part of the procreation argument and move on to the recreational part — which has more health benefits than one might expect.

The Health Information Database provides this happy news:

“Frequent, pleasurable sex in marriage has countless emotional and physical benefits for both partners. In fact, sex, marriage, and well-being are closely related.  Studies show that frequent sex can help you live a longer and healthier life. For men, it can lower the risk of prostate cancer. Sex improves blood circulation and may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. It also has a positive effect on the immune system, which helps to protect you against diseases of all types.”

But wait, there’s more — posture improvement, muscle tone, functioning as a sleep aid, chemicals released in the brain assist in memory and mental functions, sexual activity burns off cortisol which in turn reduces appetite (weight loss anyone?) — with the added bonus: “The chemicals released in the brain during sex – oxytocin, serotonin, phenyl ethylamine, endorphins – all play a role in diminishing both chronic and acute pain.” [HID]

But for all the scientific wonders of sexual activity, perhaps the best reasons are emotional and psychological, and good for sustaining the marriage:

“Feelings of commitment and affection between partners are heightened by sexual activity. Sex boosts your self-esteem, reduces insecurity, and causes you to feel better about yourself. It makes you more optimistic and helps to combat depression. It is also one of the greatest stress relievers imaginable.” [HID]

With all this in mind, why would anyone oppose the use of contraception if it made marriage partners more likely to engage in the intimacy which produces all these good results?

Misogyny

Patriarchal religions, and that includes most of the major ones, devalued women.  There are Biblical references to women as property, as inferior beings, as subservient to male partners, but interestingly enough neither Jesus nor Mohammed was quite as strict on the subject as their followers. [RatWik]  Couple this with a common interpretation of Genesis 2 and we have the quotidian put down.

God planted the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen 2:9), and the Serpent advises Eve to eat the fruit because “your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen 3:4)  The First Couple eats the fruit and God tosses them out of the garden.

What do they realize when they awaken? They are naked. The rest of the animal kingdom doesn’t care.  Note, it’s not God who has a problem with nakedness — all the rest of the creatures aren’t sewing fig leaf fashions.  But then, all the rest of the creatures haven’t decided they have the god-like capacity to pronounce judgment about what’s good and what’s not.  Somehow, the message that mankind lost the innocence of the natural state, and set itself apart from the rest of Creation got transformed into Eve Bad Adam Good  But for Her.

Just how far this transformation can go is illustrated in John Knox’s  1558 “The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women.” Knox was particularly displeased with female monarchs,

“To promote a woman to bear rule, superiority, dominion, or empire above any realm, nation, or city, is repugnant to nature; contumely to God, a thing most contrary to his revealed will and approved ordinance; and finally, it is the subversion of good order, of all equity and justice.”  [BBC]

What Knox got for his trouble was the succession of Elizabeth I to the throne of England.   However, his 16th century sentiments still have their followers.  The idea that nakedness = sex, and sex = bad, and women tempt men, ergo women are bad, requires some mental gymnastics, but we appear to have an abundance of those who find this plausible.

The Victorian Era promoted motherhood and domesticity, and the unfortunate notion that sex was something to be endured while “closing one’s eyes and thinking of England.” Fast forward to women in the 1930a, and the advice is essentially the same, “nothing destroys the happiness of married life more than the lazy slovenly wife.” [Telegraph]  Notice, that’s not philandering, or lazy and slovenly,  husbands.  Fast forward once again, and we have Republican mouthpiece Rush Limbaugh proclaiming that men who support the contraceptive mandate only want sex.

“But the thing I have learned is that men are totally supportive. Today’s young men are totally supportive of somebody else buying women their birth control pills. Make sure the women are taking them, ’cause sex is what it’s all about.” [Politicususa]

From John Knox (and others) to the advice columns and treatises of the modern era; right down to the atrabilious Limbaugh, the old canard that sex = sin, maintains its force.

That force was in evidence yet again in Senator Dean Heller’s vote to filibuster X. 2578.  May this force leave us.

*Update & Mea Culpa for mis-identifying the bill number in the original, a mistake deeply regretted.

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Filed under Health Care, health insurance, Heller, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

The Unsportsmanlike Act

Duck StampThe Bipartisan Sportsman’s Act of 2014 (S. 2363) sailed through the first cloture roadblock on an 82-12 vote [roll call 218] and then sank in the mire of Senate obstructionism.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) pulled the plug in the face of Republican squabbling over amendments. [The Hill]  What started out as a simple two title bill got entangled in …. Guns.

Title I of the original bill would have allowed hunters to get duck stamps online, and allowed target practice on federal lands, among other improvements for those who truly are into hunting. Title II concerned conservation of various habitats. [S. 2363]  And then things got complicated.

Guns Galore!

Thirty eight amendments were offered to the bill.  Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) wanted to add his “Second Amendment Enforcement Act” to the bill, which would have gutted gun regulations in the District of Columbia, and just about everywhere else for that matter. [CR S4283]  He also proposed allowing firearms in postal facilities. [CR S4283] Nothing like encouraging the customers to, in a phrase from a bygone era, “go postal?”

Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) joined Senator Paul in his efforts to add the proposed “Second Amendment Enforcement Act” to the bill, [CR S4283]  and he, too, wanted to extend firearm privileges in postal facilities. Lee’s three amendments essentially proposed the same extensions of Paul’s expansion of gun ‘rights.’

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TX) offered his “Second Amendment Enforcement Act” to the original bill, and Senator Jefferson Beauregard Session (R-Old South) chimed in with his rendition.  Not to be outdone, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) wanted a “Second Amendment Enforcement Act included in the three amendments he filed, as did Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Idaho Republican Senator Mike Crapo, Richard Burr (R-NC), Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) in three amendments, and Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), and Nevada’s own Senator Dean Heller.

There’s nothing new about this “Second Amendment Enforcement Act,” it was drafted by the National Rifle Association, and was introduced by Senators McCain (R-GreenRoom) and Tester (D-MT) as a response to gun regulations in the District of Columbia. [OV.com] By the lights of the NRA there shouldn’t be any.  It also showed up in the 110th Congress (2008) in the form of H.R. 6691.  It appeared in Representative Mike Ross’s H.R. 645 in 2011 [NRA] where it died in Committee in February 2011. [GovTrack]

If the fish can’t live in the water, why are you fishing there?

Senator Heller also signed on to Senator Barrasso’s amendment which deviated from the chorus of ‘gun rights’ and headed into the Clean Water Act.  SA 3453 took the regulation out of regulations concerning the identification of waters protected by the Clean Water Act:

“SEC. 1__XX. IDENTIFICATION OF WATERS PROTECTED BY THE CLEAN WATER ACT.
(a) In General.–Neither the Secretary of the Army nor the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency shall– (1) finalize the proposed rule entitled “Definition of `Waters of the United States’ Under the Clean Water Act” (79 Fed. Reg. 22188 (April 21, 2014)); or
(2) use the proposed rule described in paragraph (1), or any substantially similar proposed rule or guidance, as the basis for any rulemaking or any decision regarding the scope or enforcement of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.).  (b) Rules.–The use of the proposed rule described in subsection (a)(1), or any substantially similar proposed rule or guidance, as the basis for any rulemaking or any decision regarding the scope or enforcement of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.) shall be grounds for vacation of the final rule, decision, or enforcement action.”

That’s simple, if the Army and the EPA can’t finalize rules regarding the definition of protected water under the Clean Water Act, there’s no clean water? This unpleasant notion was also put forward by Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), and  Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO).

It’s rather difficult to imagine a bill intended to encourage hunting and fishing including a proposal to allow more pollution of hunting and fishing realms. However, several Republican Senators managed to do it.  This “Polluted Waters Act of 2014″ didn’t quite mesh with Senator Cardin’s (D-DE) amendment to enact the National Fish Habitat Action Plan.  Nor does it seem particularly appealing to someone like myself who thoroughly enjoys fly fishing — imagine all the fun of standing in a mountain stream watching what gray slime doesn’t attach to the waders float along downstream?

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) was disappointed there wasn’t an “amendment process,” [The Hill] but with the “Second Amendment Solutions” attached, and the specter of the Dirty Water Fishing Act of 2014 included, we shouldn’t be too disappointed that this little bill didn’t make it past the Senate Obstruction Machine.

It would have been nice if the hunters could have gotten their duck stamps online…

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Filed under Congress, ecology, Gun Issues, Heller, Nevada politics, Politics

Heller Rides (His Hobby Horse) Again

Hobby HorseThe U.S. Senate voted Tuesday evening on a cloture motion to stop the Republican filibuster of H.R. 4660, (Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2015 ) and the cloture motion was agreed to on a 95-3 vote.  The three Republicans voting to sustain the filibuster?  Paul (R-KY), Lee (R-UT), and Nevada’s own Dean Heller (R-NV). [roll call 200]

And, why might he have done this? Perhaps we have the answer in the following statement posted to Senator Heller’s web site:

“U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) has filed “No Budget, No Pay” as an amendment to the CJS Appropriations Bill (H.R. 4660).  The Heller No Budget, No Pay Amendment calls on Congress to adopt legislation requiring passage of a yearly budget and all twelve appropriations bills each fiscal year in order to receive pay.”

This particular hobby horse is a favorite toy for the Senator.   However,  proposal comes with a bit of a problem for the Constitution First Crowd — it’s unconstitutional.  See the 27th Amendment: “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.”   And, while the proposition has a lovely tinkly sound for fiscal conservatives it is no more grounded in reality than Tinker Bell.

In an article speaking for the ethereal proposal, former Comptroller General David Walker inadvertently included the core of the problem for the No Labels folk: “Congress has only passed spending bills on time four times since 1952. The last time Congress passed both a concurrent budget resolution and all required spending bills on time was 1996.” [Politico]  And, there’s another historical problem:

“In four of the last five election years in which the Republicans held at least partial control of Congress (1998, 2002, 2004 and 2006), they didn’t pass a budget resolution. That includes three years in which Republicans controlled both chambers.” [WaPo 2012]

There’s some irony in a Republican proposal to “solve” a problem created by … Republicans.  What might we call an unconstitutional, ahistorical, and flimsy proposal which is full of “sound and fury signifying nothing?”  The usual label is Grandstanding.

The idea has a lovely ring on the hustings, makes for great sound bite fodder, but as evidenced by the underwhelming support received by Senator Heller during vote #200, it has about Zilch chance of passage.

 

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Enough Said, It’s Time To DO Something

There’s been enough said already.

Heller Yellow Stripe

and so did:

S 649 Background Check Bill

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Heller and the ALEC by the back door minimum wage issue

Heller 2Yesterday’s post concerned Senator Dean Heller’s (R-NV) decision to support the Republican filibuster of an increase in the federal minimum wage, focusing primarily on the economic effects and the number of Nevada workers who might be immediately affected.  However, there was a second element to Senator Heller’s objection to the measure — that the states should be the ones to raise the minimum wage levels in their jurisdictions.   As if they would?

What might prevent a state from opting to increase the minimum wage?  ALEC.

The American Legislative Exchange Council is actively working toward the goal of enacting legislation reducing minimum wages and overtime pay, or stopping localities from doing the same:

“Since 2011, politicians backed by the American Legislative Exchange Council, which has hit the headlines for previous campaigns on voting rights and gun laws, have introduced 67 different laws in 25 different states on the issue.

The proposed laws are generally aimed at reducing minimum wage levels, weakening overtime protection or stopping the local creation of minimum wage laws in cities or states. Using language similar to “model bill” templates drafted by Alec, they were put forward by local politicians who are almost always Republican and affiliated with the powerful conservative group.” [TRS] (emphasis added)

Eleven of those bits of “model legislation” eventually became law, including in New Hampshire, Arizona, and Idaho.  For state legislators not inclined to do their own drafting, ALEC has conveniently provided a piece of fill-in-the-blank model legislation (pdf) for them.  In fact, according to the National Employment Law Project, ALEC is steadfastly opposed to  (1) minimum wage laws, (2) living wage legislation, (3) minimum wage laws for starting workers, (4) increases in overtime pay.  There is model legislation to preempt state efforts in all these areas. [NELP pdf]

However Jeffersonian Senator Heller may wish to sound about “state’s rights,” the design should be reasonably clear — conservative forces backed by deep pocketed corporate sponsors want to eliminate minimum wage legislation, prevent living wage bills, and preempt state and local efforts to enact protections for working people.  So, from the bully pulpit inside the Beltway, Senator Heller is free to pontificate about the desirability of state leadership in this economic realm BUT the practical effect is to toss the issue back into the state legislatures wherein ALEC can work its magic.

Nothing would please the Austerians more than to play the divide and conquer game — happily believing that lower labor costs will entice enterprises into low wage regions.   If, for example, Nevada were to eliminate its minimum wage, then in combination with other states with such draconian statutes, that would create pressure on other states to do likewise in order to be ‘competitive.’  We know this to be a pie in the sky solution because factors like transportation, infrastructure, work force experience and training, and resource availability are essential in the business location formula.  However, it does create the mixture necessary for a race to the bottom in wages and benefits. Just the sort of thing to make corporate revenues whistle and sing to the analysts.

The second problem with this plan is that while labor costs may be a major factor in manufacturing, they are not as crucial in other economic sectors.  We’ve looked at two types of retail operations before (restaurant and grocery); the important element for these small businesses is speed of service.  Long waits and long lines do not profitability make.   The more labor intensive the enterprise the more labor costs will be a factor, and this is illustrated by looking at the labor costs as a percentage of revenue for sole proprietorships, those little businesses the GOP purports to champion.)

The percentage for food service and bars is 36.74%, for agriculture 37.60%, for construction 53.64%, for health care 77.74%, for manufacturing 38.15%, for retailing 19.40%.  [BizStats]  We can drill down into the retail sector and find that the percentages are 20.43% for clothing stores, 13.66% for food and beverage establishments, and 6.48% for gas stations.   Indeed, for all those little sole proprietorship Mom and Pop stores to whom the Republicans appeal for support — the highest percentage never goes above 35%. [BizStats]

If we draw back and look at a large picture of productivity and worker compensation there’s not much to support Senator Heller’s apparent inclination to race to the bottom there either.

Labor productivity, as defined by output per hour, increased in 63% of the 52 service related and mining industries according to a BLS Study (pdf) using 2011 figures.  “Unit labor costs fell in 11 of 47 service providing industries Unit labor costs declined more frequently in industries where productivity rose, as productivity gains offset movements in hourly compensation.” [BLS pdf]

If productivity is increasing and unit labor costs are decreasing, then why would Senator Heller and his allies in ALEC want to eliminate minimum wage laws and prevent living wage legislation?

Let’s hazard the guess that the impetus to get even more productivity (more work per hour) at even less cost has everything in the world to do with Wall Street and not a heck of a lot to do with Main Street.

Nothing so delights the financial markets as the prospect of creating more “shareholder value” by reducing the inputs — reduced costs for materials, reduced costs for fixed assets, reduced costs for depreciation, reduced costs for employee (read: worker not CEO) compensation.  As the lady once said of the turtles:  It’s earnings reports, earnings reports, earnings reports, all the way down to the bottom.  [CarnegieScience]

And there we have it. It’s workers — racing all the way to the bottom, with no federal minimum wage to underpin their economic security — it’s American workers being told that if their counterparts in China are willing to work for $1.74 per hour then they are being “overpaid” here.  And — with Senator Heller’s state’s rights excuse greasing the downward ramp.

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Heller: 0.01% trumps Nevada’s 15%

Heller 2As of 2012 there were some 161,317 workers in the state of Nevada who would be directly affected by an increase in the minimum wage, out of a total workforce of approximately 1.068,842.  Of the 161,317 directly affected 139,064 were aged 20 or above.  [EPI pdf] A bit of punching on the plastic brains (read calculator) shows that 15.1% of Nevada’s workforce would be directly affected, and that 86.2% of these workers were NOT teenagers.

So, why would Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) vote to sustain the Republican filibuster of the minimum wage increase bill in the U.S. Senate? [Senate]

Senator Heller offered two explanations: (1) “Heller’s vote was rooted in his belief the minimum wage should be determined by individual states and not the federal government, “and this particular legislation is no exception,” according to his spokeswoman Chandler Smith.” [LVRJ] (2) “Smith added Heller was persuaded by a Congressional Budget Office estimate that the legislation “could cost our economy 500,000 jobs.” [LVRJ]

Let’s take the second part first — Senator Heller seems to have read one half of the report, or one half of the CBO’s conclusions.  The conclusions created a “mixed message:”  A popular Democratic proposal to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, championed by President Obama, could reduce total employment by 500,000 workers by the second half of 2016. But it would also lift 900,000 families out of poverty and increase the incomes of 16.5 million low-wage workers in an average week.” [NYT]

Evidently, it doesn’t take too much precision to convince Senator Heller to embrace half a report.  He missed the part wherein there were two options ($9.00 and $10.10) and he obviously missed this portion of the text:

In CBO’s assessment, there is a two-thirds chance that the effect of the $9.00 option would be in the range between a very slight increase in the number of jobs and a loss of 200,000 jobs. If employment increased under either option, in CBO’s judgment, it would probably be because increased demand for goods and services (resulting from the shift of income from higher-income to lower-income people) had boosted economic activity and generated more jobs than were lost as a direct result of the increase in the cost of hiring low-wage workers. [CBO pdf]

There’s our old friend “aggregate demand” again, if more workers have more money there will be more demand for goods and services and hence more employment.  Unfortunately, Senator Heller is still locked into his mantra “less regulation, more tax cuts (especially for the 0.01%), “rein in government spending” (unless that means loopholes for corporations), and supporting comprehensive energy policies (read: support the oil and gas giants and the Canadian XL Pipeline).” [Heller]  None of this is substantiated by the conclusion reached in the February 18, 2014 version of the report issued by the CBO. Nor is the conclusion all that solid.

“Once fully implemented in the second half of 2016, the $10.10 option would reduce total employment by about 500,000 workers, or 0.3 percent, CBO projects (see the table below). As with any such estimates, however, the actual losses could be smaller or larger; in CBO’s assessment, there is about a two-thirds chance that the effect would be in the range between a very slight reduction in employment and a reduction in employment of 1.0 million workers.”

With all due respect to those who toil diligently at the CBO to provide economic analysis, a conclusion that there is a 66% chance of a range of employment displacement from “very slight” to 1 million isn’t all that robust.   However, this seems sufficient to support Senator Heller’s proclivity for hugging his favorite talking points.

At the risk of over-simplifying his position, the core of it is essentially Trickle Down Hoaxsterism with Austerity for All and Prosperity for A Few.   Somehow we are to believe that cutting taxes (especially for the 0.01%) and deregulating Wall Street will “create jobs” … sometime…somewhere.  Meanwhile, social safety net programs are subsidizing the poverty level wages being paid by major corporations. [HuffPo]

Meanwhile back in the real world, and in the state of Nevada — of those 161,317 workers directly affected by an increase in the minimum wage increase 68,247 are non-Hispanic whites, another 54,572 are Hispanic, and 12,957 are African American.  [EPI pdf]

As to the argument that minimum wage jobs tend to be part time, the EPI statistics don’t support that myth either — 81,115 are full time employees.  56,971 are mid-time employment, i.e. from 20 to 34 hours per week, and only 23,230 are actually part time jobs with 20 hours per week or less.    Nor are the people working a minimum wage jobs necessarily “drop outs” — 64,606 are high school graduates, 40,187 have some college or post secondary education, 5,824 have an associate’s degree, 12,051 have bachelor-level degrees; leaving 38,639 with less than a high school diploma or its equivalent.  [EPI pdf]

The notion that when speaking of minimum wage workers we’re talking about teens, females, and drop outs isn’t sustained by the actual numbers, in fact, while there are more Nevada women holding down minimum wage jobs (83,079) there are 78,238 men trying to maintain life on the minimum wage in Nevada. [EPI pdf]

We might summarize by concluding that Senator Heller would far rather support further tax cuts for the 0.01%, and more deregulation of the Wall Street Casino, and yet more “austerity” for those who work for corporations paying below living wages, than he would care to support legislation to support at least 15% of Nevada’s working men and women.

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Backpedaling In the Brush: Heller, Bundy, and the Radical Right

BundyOh my, there is something to be said for not jumping on the Fox Faux News bandwagon in seemingly opportune moments — and Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) may be feeling a bit of that now?  [NVP]

Only days ago Senator Heller was calling Cliven Bundy and his Brigands “patriots.” [Roll Call]  Senator Reid’s commentary on this latest manifestation of the radical right (domestic terrorists) was “too broad a brush” for Senator Heller who was concerned about federal lands in Nevada and the proportionality of BLM operations.

And then Mr. Bundy started talking…..

He talked about people (read African Americans) in North Las Vegas. He talked about people sitting on porches with nothing to do. He talked about people getting government subsidies instead of picking cotton.  He talked about how “maybe they were better off” in those good old days…. [NYTUpdate: The Rachel Maddow Show provided context for Mr. Bundy’s remarks which explains the radical racism forthcoming from the “sovereign citizen” rancher.  (video)

Senator Heller moved quickly from characterizing Mr. Bundy and his cohorts as “Boy Scouts and Grandmothers,” to back pedaling as fast as he could: ” Chandler Smith, a spokesman for Mr. Heller, said that the senator “completely disagrees with Mr. Bundy’s appalling and racist statements, and condemns them in the most strenuous way.” [NYT]

The Nevada Democratic Party reacted swiftly, and noted that Senator Heller wasn’t the only Nevada Republican to associate him or herself with the Bundy Cause Celebre:

“These comments are reprehensible, and every Republican politician in the state of Nevada who tried to latch on to Cliven Bundy’s newfound celebrity with TEA Partiers and the militia movement should be ashamed of their actions.  If Dean Heller, Cresent Hardy, Niger Innis, Michelle Fiore, Adam Laxalt and every other Republican politician who tried to attach themselves to this man seemed desperate a week ago, now they look downright pathetic.  Every Republican elected official who risked inciting violence to gain political capital out of Cliven Bundy now owes the people of Nevada an apology for their irresponsible behavior of putting their own political future ahead of the safety of Nevadans.”

There were others.  There was Assemblyman Jim Wheeler (R-Douglas), and Senator Don Gustavson (R-NV14, Humboldt, Lander, Mineral, Pershing, Nye [part], and Washoe [part]) and Assemblyman John Ellison (R-NV33, Elko, Eureka, White Pine, Eureka) and Assemblyman Ira Hansen (R-NV32, Humboldt, Pershing, Lander, Mineral, Esmeralda, Washoe [part]) joining in the call for “a probe of the armed incursion” by the Bureau of Land Management, along with Assemblywoman Michele Fiore (R-NV4) [Ralston]

Why would anyone be particularly shocked that Cliven Bundy would receive accolades and support from any of these self identified and self described conservative Republicans?

Assemblyman Wheeler earned some notoriety last October when he told a Story County GOP crowd he’d ‘hold his nose and vote for slavery if that’s what his constituents wanted.’ [LVSun]  Which is probably why we generally don’t want the majority voting on minority rights.

Senator Gustavson happily signed onto the “10-4″ pledge as a member of the 10th’ers. “I have always been a strong supporter of the 10th Amendment and the Constitution itself including all of the “Bill of Rights”. I was a co-sponsor to AJR 15, (Claims sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution) during the 2009 Session of the Nevada Legislature. It is time for Americans and the States to take back their constitutional rights!

Assemblyman Ellison is the Hero of the Battle of Bunkerville, to some, — “If the(re) was a hero in the Bundy Ranch standoff it was Nevada Assemblyman John Ellison who when most other Nevada political leaders were heading as far away from the range war as possible, Ellison charged in and just may have prevented the standoff from exploding.” [CTV]  Assemblyman Ellison might have wanted to join the more cautious members of his party and distance himself from the racists and militia radicals who constituted the ‘protesters’ in Bunkerville — before Mr. Bundy started talking?

Assemblyman Hansen has something in common with Mr. Bundy, both have refused to pay fines for illegal operations.  Assemblyman Hansen has an ongoing feud with the Nevada Department of Wildlife who fined him for placing snare traps too close to a highway. They fined him, he refused to pay. [RGJ]  Sound familiar?

Assemblywoman Fiore seemed happy to bask in right wing praise for her TV time discussing the situation with Cliven Bundy, [CL] She’s also happy to tell us she’s a lifetime member of the NRA, who is pleased to support open carry on school campuses. [TNV] [HJ] Perhaps the question should be not why she’s backing the likes of Cliven Bundy, but why it took her so long?

And, no, the Nevada Democratic Party probably won’t be getting any apologies from these people or explanations as to why they chose to support a radical, racist, law breaker any time soon.

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A Well Tuned Whine at the Bundy Ranch

Bundy 2Just what do you say to lawbreakers when they refuse to cooperate with legal decisions?  In Public Lands Council vs. Babbitt the U.S. Supreme Court decided that, yes, the Bureau of Land Management did have the Constitutional authority to enforce the provisions of the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934, 43 USC 315.  What do you say to a freeloading rancher who lost in a Federal District Court in July 2013 (pdf) and again in October 2013 (pdf)?

Nevada’s own freeloading rancher, Cliven Bundy, doesn’t have any “right” to graze his cattle on public land. The land is not his property. He has no deed for the property, it is not for his sole and exclusive use.  [TWN]  There is no “land grab” because the land never belonged to Mr. Bundy in the first place.  How much simpler can the issue be? It is public land, the administration and management of the land is established in 43 USC 315, the law was confirmed as Constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court on May 15, 2000 in a 9-0 decision from Chief Justice Rehnquist’s court.  [Oyez Project] And, not one but two Federal judges have informed Mr. Bundy he has no case.

It isn’t too difficult to come to the conclusion that Mr. Bundy is all for the U.S. Constitution — until a law he doesn’t personally like is declared Constitutional.  He may be all for law and order — until the law doesn’t suit his purposes.  What do we call the people who violate or ignore laws with impunity?  The answer is commonly “anarchists.”

Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) has another answer. He called them “Patriots.” [Roll Call]   Heller offered yet another example of his “Government as Bully” perspective, “I take more issues with BLM coming in with a paramilitary army of people, individuals with snipers, and I’m talking to people and groups that were there at the event, and to have your own government with sniper lenses on you, it made a lot of people very uncomfortable.”

Let us parse.  What’s a “paramilitary army of people?” On March 15, 2014 after twenty years of trying to get Mr. Bundy to comply with orders,  the Bureau of Land Management informed Mr. Bundy, by letter, that his cattle were “trespassing” and would be impounded.  Mr Bundy’s response — to ask the Clark County Sheriff’s Department for “protection.”  Bundy gives interviews by the hay wagon load and fans the fire of his displeasure. [WaPo]  Members of so-called freedom-fighters gather in Bundy’s support.   Bundy family members confront law enforcement personnel, and one is tazered after he kicks a police dog.

That “paramilitary army” of people were law enforcement personnel, BLM employees, and cowboys hired to round up and impound the cattle.

On the other side, a very visible group of Bundy supporters is the Oath Keepers organization, closely associated with the Tea Party, and infamous for proudly announcing what orders they will not obey. The organization includes members of the 3%’ers and former Arizona sheriff Richard Mack who refused back in the 90′s to enforce the Brady Laws.  [MJ]

Perhaps Senator Heller was ‘inartful’ using the term Paramilitary, but the word usually means an organization the structure, training , culture, and function of which is similar to the military, but is NOT considered a part of a state or federal military branch.  So, who has gathered a “paramilitary army of people?”  From the photographs of the scene the honors appear to go to Mr. Bundy.

But, Senator Heller is disturbed that people have their own government with sniper lens on them. It makes them uncomfortable.  At the risk of flippancy, when is it acceptable to have those who have broken the law for 20 years feel “comfortable?”

The radical right gives every appearance of wanting another drama — another Ruby Ridge, — another Waco, — another armed confrontation with authority, especially federal authority.  Senator Heller’s unfortunate use of the word “Patriot” offers sustenance to the fantasies of the radical right wing which feeds on these scenarios, and revels in the scripted Hollywood versions like Red Dawn.

Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) is more accurate calling antigovernment types like Bundy “domestic terrorists.” [previous post]  Certainly, there are euphemisms which might make the lawbreakers and their allies more “comfortable,” perhaps we could call them “puerile anti-authority activity advocates?”  However, it is not particularly helpful to apply euphemisms to assuage the tender sensitivities of extremists while ignoring the deleterious ramifications of their intentions, and covering their lawlessness with a patina of polite phrases.

The strident whining of the radical right extremists with its cacophony of hypocritical complaints is out of tune with a nation of laws — not of men.

 

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Questioning, Questionable, Values

** Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) would like to do something about the backlog of paperwork stalling veterans’ benefits, and has signed onto the 21st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery Act (S.2091) also sponsored by Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), David Vitter (R-LA), Jon Tester (D-MT), Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Jerry Moran (R-KS).  Details of the bill can be found at Senator Casey’s web page.   Just a thought — but before we send “boots on the ground” into another armed conflict it might be advisable to consider the requirements necessary to provide services to the veterans of that conflict BEFORE leaping into the fray?  Do we really value the service of our members of the Armed Forces?

** Oh, spare me the rhetorical flourishes!  “Cliven Bundy’s standoff with the Bureau of Land Management over the agency’s roundup of his cattle will go down in history as a high-profile clash of Old West values with today’s federal regulations on the use of public lands and natural resources.” [LVRJ]  Or, might we opine that the squabble will be added to the list of Cranky Old Welfare Queens who want to graze their privately owned cattle on public land — at public expense?  And, what, pray tell, is an “Old West value?”  Before contributing a Hollywood stereotypical opinion on the matter — please note that the original ‘cowboys’ were vaqueros, Mexican, Spanish speaking cattle hands.  As for land use issues — the introduction of barbed wire restricting open range was a particular sore point [LIOW] exacerbating the trouble between farming and ranching interests.  Or, is Bundy harkening back to the Good Old Days when his hands could apply wire cutters to fencing around crop lands, decimating the neighbor’s alfalfa crops?  Was THAT an old west value?

**  The real face of poverty in America?  Recommended reading: Clarence Page’s contribution on the subject, reprinted in the Las Vegas Sun.  While the Republicans may be using “Urban” as a code word for African American, and “welfare” takes on a darker hue, the numbers are revealing –  of those participating in the WIC nutrition program 10.3% are Native American, 2.72% are Asian, 19.3% are African American, and 60.94% are White. [USDA]

Families receiving TANF aid are 31.8% White, 31.9% African American, and 30% Hispanic ethnicity. [HHS]

Do we value the lives of our neighbors — or just a little more or less so depending on the pigmentation?

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