Employers Can Take ‘Personal Responsibility’ For Poverty Wages

Photo courtesy of 123RF

Photo courtesy of 123RF

Brace yourself America—Republicans have discovered poverty!

Right here, right under their noses, 48 million Americans are, as Senator Marco Rubio puts it, “soon-to-haves.” Because nothing says you understand institutional and generational poverty like using corporate-ese to describe it.

Now that Republicans have acknowledged one-fifth of the wealthiest country in the world is impoverished, they’re debating whether this is a viable issue for them. This doesn’t always work out for the Party of Saying “Reagan.” Notably the Grand Old Party tried to curry favor with religious groups but ended up calling Sandra Fluke a slut, launching the War on Women. In hopes of capturing the Latino vote, they brought out Cuban-American lawmakers to denounce amnesty for undocumented Mexican immigrants… a policy we have for undocumented Cuban immigrants. So Republicans are in need of a nice new signature wedge issue to transform them from the losing Severe Conservatives back into the winning Compassionate Conservatives.

This we-want-to-fix-poverty weather balloon could endear Republicans to people who find them to be the party of Mitt Romney (whom Jon Stewart once described as “the guy who just fired your dad”) and Newt Gingrich (the guy who thinks “child labor laws are stupid!” and then thinks, “I should say that out loud”). The party of assuming working people don’t want insurance but the government is forcing it on them. The party of drug testing welfare recipients. The party of voting to cut food stamps while funding corporate farm subsidies. The party whose party line has been being poor in the U.S. is pretty sweet because poor people have air conditioning and higher rates of obesity.

Poverty tone-deafness coupled with dismissive poor-shaming has been the GOP platform. Or as Congressman Stephen Fincher and other Republicans put it when voting to cut food stamps, “Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.”

But let’s give the GOP the benefit of the doubt. Let’s not just assume this is a cynical attempt to try to appeal to a swath of people they’ve vilified for three decades because they’re now bankrupt of ideas and thin on voting blocs. Let’s not just assume this is an “Extremist Makeover; Poverty Edition.” Let’s assume they’re sincere in their empathy for Americans who have nothing in this land where six people own as much as the bottom 42 percent.

Republicans will use the term “personal responsibility” to tell those with no hope that they’re on their own. That they should have planned better—worked harder—not lived in a flood zone. Had better insurance. Had savings. You get the picture. It’s not the government’s job to save you from yourself. That’s what we pay the police and fire departments for. (Cough.)

And Republicans believe corporations are people. So how about corporations live up to the GOP’s panacea of personal responsibility when it comes to poverty? Republicans are looking for market-based solutions to poverty. Let’s look at poverty’s market-based roots:

Of the 48 million Americans living below the poverty line, 16 million are children and 10.5 million are the working impoverished. Meaning they are not lazy, drug-addicted parasites—they work. The issue is their jobs don’t pay them enough. Corporations employing the working impoverished have decided, as a means of policy, their workers don’t need to earn enough to take care of their families—the government will step up. You want a picture of a Welfare Queen? Get a portrait of any of the Walmart heirs.

In Senator Rubio’s much-hyped War on Poverty cut-and-run speech he floated wage subsidies to tackle poverty. We already do that.

Here’s a better idea: Companies pay their workers enough to live on. Employed yet welfare-dependent is a byproduct of privatizing profit and nationalizing loss.

Marshalls, TJ Maxx and HomeGoods CEOs are paid $21.8 million annually but pay their sales associates less than $8 an hour. Those are poverty wages. Starbucks could take personal responsibility and pay their baristas more than the average $9 an hour. There are others which could make an impact on poverty in America just by giving their Bob Cratchits a much-needed raise: Macy’s, Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Sears, Kmart, KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Kroger, Target, McDonald’s and the biggest private employer in the country—Walmart.

These companies’ boardrooms get treated to executive compensation and the backbone of these companies get treated by Medicaid.

These American mainstay brands could lift more than 10 million Americans and their dependents out of poverty, but they choose not to.

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Tina Dupuy

Tina Dupuy Tina Dupuy is a native New Yorker born in exile.

The daughter of biblical brimstone hippie revolutionaries, her parents were members of a splinter sect so fringe it makes normal cult apologists shudder. This has given her a rather unique take on life. “My parents were missionaries, not to be confused with ‘mercenaries’ because that would actually be cool.”

Tina’s childhood was spent as glorified luggage, living in several countries on two continents and eventually attending nine elementary schools. The most stable home she had was an adolescent all-girls group home in Northern California where she made few friends by being an (alleged) stuck up nerd who “thought she was better than everyone else.”

Tina’s life long ambition of being a paleontologist was thwarted by the siren call of freelance journalism. An irreverent yet unassuming humorist, Tina is a natural for the work. ”Prostitutes are known for their hearts of gold, you never hear anyone say that about satirists,” she laments.

Sometimes a reporter, sometimes a comedian – always a wedge-issue enthusiast and devout skeptic – Tina is anaward-winning writer, investigative journalist, the former managing editor of Crooks and Liars . Tina appears frequently on MSNBC, Current TV, RT and BBC, and all over the radio frequencies via KCRW’s To The PointThe Stephanie Miller Show and The Leslie Marshall Show. She writes for Mother JonesThe AtlanticSkeptic, Fast CompanyAlternetLA Weekly, Los Angeles Times and Newsday among many others. Her weekly op-ed column is nationally syndicated through Cagle Cartoons.

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What If Rand Paul Was a Woman?

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore

Let’s imagine the junior senator from Kentucky were a woman. Not just any woman — let’s call her Randi — but, for the sake of this argument, a beautiful woman. The “men want to sleep with her — women want to be her” echelon of physical attractiveness. Everything else is identical: self-certified eye doctor, first-term senator, and she got the job with a boost from her father.

While the Republican Party is taking a nosedive in popularity, she says: “Does anybody remember Charlie Sheen when he was kind of going crazy … And he was going around, jumping around saying ‘Winning, winning, we’re winning’? Well I kind of feel like that, we are winning. And I’m not on any drugs.”

People snicker about how dumb she is. Twitter erupts into sarcastic hashtags: #RandiLulz, #CandywithRandi and #RandiLogic. She’s considered a ditz — the Senate’s reliable airhead. Still, Randi gets ratings!

People tune in to her media appearances just waiting for her to say something stupid. It’s like NASCAR—part fandom, part hoping for a crash. It’s self-perpetuating: Because she’s shameless and not too bright, she becomes fascinating at a Real Housewives level. Her profile grows, and soon the conventional wisdom is that she’s very popular. Pundits deem her a kingmaker. “People find her very compelling,” liberal talking heads concede. Conservatives say Randi is Everywoman, the voice for mothers and career women alike. “And look, we’re talking about her again!” they all agree.

But Randi has a problem with the facts. They seem to elude her. She repeatedly says we have a trillion-dollar deficit when, according to the CBO, it’s only $378 billion. Plus she mixes up deficit and debt when she tries to show off her political philosophy. The Beltway press diligently points this out with a smirk. She’s “ambitious”—a word her detractors say with a snarl. “But easy on the eyes,” her supporters counter. The debate becomes Pretty vs. Pretty Dumb.

Randi tries to position herself as above this fray. “The fact-checking is not fact-checking. These are people with a bias. It’s purely an opinion. The stuff is so ludicrous I don’t even read it,” she says of her critics.

The headline is: “Randi Admits She Doesn’t Read!” The Internet breaks out in a rash of mansplaining. She’s dubbed Bluegrass Barbie.

Then an interview with Businessweek comes out. Asked specifically for a “nondead” ideal Fed Chairman, Randi answers, “Friedman would probably be pretty good, too, and he’s not an Austrian, but he would be better than what we have.” Milton Friedman died in 2006. The next two news cycles are guffawing about Madam President’s zombie cabinet: Paul of the Dead.

“Hacks and haters!” decries Randi.

The media hangs on her every word. They use her lack of civics knowledge as a peg to write explainers. On Syria, Randi says: “I think the failure of the Obama Administration has been we haven’t engaged the Russians enough or the Chinese enough on this, and I think they were engaged.” And because it’s the Drone Bimbo, we’d have weeks of blog posts about Cold War proxy battlefields pointing out how Russia is not on the same side as the U.S. in Syria.

Randi inspires a genre of columns: Ms. Paul said this, what she doesn’t understand is this.

Next come the serious think pieces asking whether Randi Paul is smart enough to be president. “Ms. Paul has drive and voter appeal but her grasp of basic economic and foreign policy issues makes even her most ardent supporters pause,” pundits write. They all entertain the idea that sexism plays a role in how the media treat her, but solemnly insist that doesn’t negate her basic lack of competency when it came to policy issues.

“If I were their journalism teacher in college, I would fail them,” Randi says in response to being caught plagiarizing a couple of speeches, an op-ed and a a few pages of her book. She had no credibility to lose. She was already a national punch line. A meme. A joke. A shiny distraction. And now she’s also a proven plagiarist. She’s referred to as “silly.” A silly airhead.

There’s a collective condescending chuckle at the thought of a girl like her in the Oval Office. Right?

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Tina Dupuy

Tina Dupuy Tina Dupuy is a native New Yorker born in exile.

The daughter of biblical brimstone hippie revolutionaries, her parents were members of a splinter sect so fringe it makes normal cult apologists shudder. This has given her a rather unique take on life. “My parents were missionaries, not to be confused with ‘mercenaries’ because that would actually be cool.”

Tina’s childhood was spent as glorified luggage, living in several countries on two continents and eventually attending nine elementary schools. The most stable home she had was an adolescent all-girls group home in Northern California where she made few friends by being an (alleged) stuck up nerd who “thought she was better than everyone else.”

Tina’s life long ambition of being a paleontologist was thwarted by the siren call of freelance journalism. An irreverent yet unassuming humorist, Tina is a natural for the work. ”Prostitutes are known for their hearts of gold, you never hear anyone say that about satirists,” she laments.

Sometimes a reporter, sometimes a comedian – always a wedge-issue enthusiast and devout skeptic – Tina is anaward-winning writer, investigative journalist, the former managing editor of Crooks and Liars . Tina appears frequently on MSNBC, Current TV, RT and BBC, and all over the radio frequencies via KCRW’s To The PointThe Stephanie Miller Show and The Leslie Marshall Show. She writes for Mother JonesThe AtlanticSkeptic, Fast CompanyAlternetLA Weekly, Los Angeles Times and Newsday among many others. Her weekly op-ed column is nationally syndicated through Cagle Cartoons.

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Obamacare and My Family

Stethoscope on money background of one dollar billsMy in-laws, whom I’ve written about in the past, are emblematic of the economic meltdown: They’re both 57 years old—in the doughnut hole of being too young for Medicare, too old for the job market. They worked as middle management in businesses tangentially related to the housing industry. After the crash they were both laid off. They went on unemployment until it ran out. They’ve yet to find work. They didn’t benefit from the boom times, but the crash hit them hard.

Their golden years have been fed to Goldman Sachs.

They’ve each been paying $1,000 a month for COBRA coverage (the only insurance that would cover them) since they’ve been unemployed. That’s $24,000 annually. Their retirement savings have been going to their premiums. And that pricy COBRA coverage is set to run out January 1. People in other industrialized nations—all with universal health care and most single payer—can’t imagine how Americans accept this as a reality. My in-laws aren’t even sick and health care costs were going to bankrupt them.

But under the ACA—Obamacare—they’re eligible for California’s primary public insurance program, Medi-Cal. Because of Obamacare the state expanded eligibility to poor adults with no dependent children. And once they’re back on their feet, they cannot be denied coverage for preexisting conditions (which is basically being over 55). Also because of Obamacare.

Politics is not a football game. It’s not who’s up and who’s down and what quarter we’re in. You might not gather that from the reporting on the budget showdown, but the stakes are just slightly higher than whose approval rating could be affected.

New York Times: “With Shutdown Near, Talk Is of Who’s at Fault, Not of a Deal?” USA Today: “Blame Game for Impending Shutdown Plays On.” Washington Post: “Just One in Four Approve of Republicans Handling of Government Shutdown Standoff.”

Because what really matters is who will challenge Ted Cruz in his 2020 presidential re-election campaign.

The House Republicans have voted to repeal Obamacare—the Affordable Care Act or ACA—42 times. The House GOP are lawmakers-in-name-only. They’ve been the leaders of the least productive Congress in the history of the institution. In this way Speaker John Boehner has already shut down the government. Now we’re just talking about degrees. James Lankford (R-OK) in an appearance on MSNBC’s “Up with Steve Kornacki” on Sunday morning said, “There are also people that are going to be negatively impacted by [Obamacare]. We want to fix that.”

They had 42 symbolic, go-nowhere votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Now Lankford tells the American public they just want to fix it…or shut the government down.

It’s a favorite GOP pastime to make up horror stories about Obamacare. In Ted Cruz’s meandering 21-hour talk-a-thon he used Sarah Palin’s 2009 Lie of the Year “death panels.” Tea party Freshman Congressman Tim Huelskamp tweeted on Sunday, “Because of a new #ObamaCare rule, Delno’s wife is prevented from receiving a much-needed surgery. #DontFundIt.” I asked the congressman via Twitter which “rule” in Obamacare he was referring to.

He never answered. Because there isn’t one.

The GOP has used a fire hose of baloney to try to thwart a law (they often refer to it as a bill) passed after a grueling 18-month debate in Congress, upheld by the Supreme Court and tested in a presidential re-election. Now the government is shut down: The Statue of Liberty, the symbol of American greatness is closed. The National Archives’ original copy of the U.S. Constitution is locked away. How very appropriate.

And for what? So that the House GOP can save us from having affordable health care? Yes.

“We’re very excited,” said Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) last Saturday when it seemed inevitable the government would be shut down. “It’s exactly what we wanted, and we got it.”

Speaker Tip O’Neil said, “All politics is local.” But really all politics is personal. And nothing is more personal than health care.

And the Teapublicans want nothing more (and I mean NOTHING more) than to repeal health care reform that’s set to give more Americans private health insurance.

Beltway prattle within the paradigm of who’s winning and who’s losing doesn’t register the impact of affordable health care on the struggling working class. They’re not an abstract—they’re my family.

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Tina Dupuy

Tina Dupuy Tina Dupuy is a native New Yorker born in exile.

The daughter of biblical brimstone hippie revolutionaries, her parents were members of a splinter sect so fringe it makes normal cult apologists shudder. This has given her a rather unique take on life. “My parents were missionaries, not to be confused with ‘mercenaries’ because that would actually be cool.”

Tina’s childhood was spent as glorified luggage, living in several countries on two continents and eventually attending nine elementary schools. The most stable home she had was an adolescent all-girls group home in Northern California where she made few friends by being an (alleged) stuck up nerd who “thought she was better than everyone else.”

Tina’s life long ambition of being a paleontologist was thwarted by the siren call of freelance journalism. An irreverent yet unassuming humorist, Tina is a natural for the work. ”Prostitutes are known for their hearts of gold, you never hear anyone say that about satirists,” she laments.

Sometimes a reporter, sometimes a comedian – always a wedge-issue enthusiast and devout skeptic – Tina is anaward-winning writer, investigative journalist, the former managing editor of Crooks and Liars . Tina appears frequently on MSNBC, Current TV, RT and BBC, and all over the radio frequencies via KCRW’s To The PointThe Stephanie Miller Show and The Leslie Marshall Show. She writes for Mother JonesThe AtlanticSkeptic, Fast CompanyAlternetLA Weekly, Los Angeles Times and Newsday among many others. Her weekly op-ed column is nationally syndicated through Cagle Cartoons.

More Posts - Website

Why I’m Against Exceptions for Rape and Incest

Photo courtesy of Tom Anthony

Politicians hone the art of the non-answer. The stock—often flippant—thing they say when asked a direct question; their go-to platitudes. For example: “What would you do about the war in Afghanistan?” Answer: “Listen to the commanders on the ground.” Translation: I wouldn’t DO anything. Another fave is saying, “I’d leave it up to the states.” It’s a way to not give your opinion and display a basic knowledge of civics. Slavery, segregation and later miscegenation were all state laws—but the “up to the states” verbal tic still sounds reasonable when said by a name on a yard sign.

But perhaps the worst, due to its lack of challenge in the stenographic media, is the answer on any abortion question: “I’m against it except for instances of rape, incest or the life of the mother.”

This (at least sometimes) is Mitt Romney‘s stance on abortion. It wasn’t his running mate, Paul Ryan‘s, until he joined the ticket. But Romney, after being staunchly pro-choice disclosing his family friend, Ann Keenan, died of an illegal abortion in 1963, now says he’d like to see it illegal once again. Except, he says, for women who are victims.

Romney and victims: It’s becoming a theme. If you worked at one of the companies Romney took over at Bain, Texas Governor Rick Perry called you a victim of “vulture capitalism.” Romney assesses a whopping “47 percent of Americans see themselves as victims” and the only way to get a medical procedure legally in Romney’s America is, yes, to be a victim.

What sounds like a not-so-extreme position on abortion rights is actually much worse than an outright ban.

If there are exceptions for ending a pregnancy requiring the recipient prove she was raped, two things happen: 1) Just as with total criminalization—abortion goes back underground. 2) Rape is trivialized.

The accusation of rape has always been plagued by the counter-accusation of an ulterior motive. “She’s trying to destroy a good man.” “It’s just the remorse talking!” “This is blackmail.”

Or as Paul Ryan-endorsed Wisconsin State Rep. Roger Rivard put it last week, “Some girls rape so easily.”

To put this into perspective, think of what Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky‘s victims had to endure to get justice: Sports fans rioted on campus after they came forward.

In order to terminate a pregnancy women who are raped will have to defend themselves against yet another charge: She just wants to get an abortion.

An exception for rape means not only ending legal abortions, it means profoundly changing rape.

As with anything, if abortion moves out of the light, it will find its place in the shadows, and then we’re back to where Mitt Romney’s family friend, Ann Keenan, found herself in 1963: bleeding to death from a botched back alley abortion.

Abortion rates don’t change with legality. A 2007 study by the World Health Organization found the same number of women who want abortions get abortions regardless of whether or not they’re legal. What changes is the numbers of women who die of unsafe procedures. In fact, the study noted, in Ethiopia abortion was completely illegal and also the second leading cause of death among women in that country. If you want to save lives—you want legal abortions, sex education and widely available birth control.

This rape clause is horrible public policy. This is not anything remotely resembling how a free country functions. This is not valuing life. It’s valuing easy answers to viscerally complicated issues.

If you morally disagree with abortion, then I suggest you don’t get one. But to nationalize women, to make their bodies legally akin to public incubators, is not the kind of country we want to live in.

It’s a country we should keep in our rearview. Abortion needs to stay legal, and most importantly—private.

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Tina Dupuy

Tina Dupuy Tina Dupuy is a native New Yorker born in exile.

The daughter of biblical brimstone hippie revolutionaries, her parents were members of a splinter sect so fringe it makes normal cult apologists shudder. This has given her a rather unique take on life. “My parents were missionaries, not to be confused with ‘mercenaries’ because that would actually be cool.”

Tina’s childhood was spent as glorified luggage, living in several countries on two continents and eventually attending nine elementary schools. The most stable home she had was an adolescent all-girls group home in Northern California where she made few friends by being an (alleged) stuck up nerd who “thought she was better than everyone else.”

Tina’s life long ambition of being a paleontologist was thwarted by the siren call of freelance journalism. An irreverent yet unassuming humorist, Tina is a natural for the work. ”Prostitutes are known for their hearts of gold, you never hear anyone say that about satirists,” she laments.

Sometimes a reporter, sometimes a comedian – always a wedge-issue enthusiast and devout skeptic – Tina is anaward-winning writer, investigative journalist, the former managing editor of Crooks and Liars . Tina appears frequently on MSNBC, Current TV, RT and BBC, and all over the radio frequencies via KCRW’s To The PointThe Stephanie Miller Show and The Leslie Marshall Show. She writes for Mother JonesThe AtlanticSkeptic, Fast CompanyAlternetLA Weekly, Los Angeles Times and Newsday among many others. Her weekly op-ed column is nationally syndicated through Cagle Cartoons.

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Here’s The Poll to Dispute

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto

Republicans say the polls are skewed, until they show their guy in the lead. Then the polls are clearly right and we should all take note! Democrats panic when the polls fluctuate in the least bit and start using words like “outlier” and “anomaly” (liberal words for skewed). We’ve never had more polls or more ways to compile polls and the controversy over their accuracy has never been higher.

Yes, it’s election season and along with the primetime presidential debates — everyone wants to debate poll numbers.

But there’s another poll warranting even greater scrutiny: A Pew Research Foundation report just released claims they found 20 percent of Americans do not identify themselves as religious. This, according to the foundation, is up from 2007 when the number was just over 15 percent. In the 30 years of age and under category, it’s 33 percent — a third of younger Americans will tell pollsters they’re not religious at all. With 90 percent saying they’re not interested in seeking religion whatsoever.

Just to put this into perspective, 19 percent of Americans are white evangelicals and 22 percent identify as Catholic. Their numbers are now on par with the “unaffiliated” and yes (gasp) atheists.

But here’s the problem when pollsters ask Americans about our religion: We lie. When someone with a clipboard asks us about our belief in god and our church attendance we give the answer we think we should instead of the truth. According to the Pew study in 2012, 73 percent of Americans were religious and 68 percent said that religion plays an important role in their lives. According to Pew: “[American religious importance] is far higher than in Britain (17 percent), France (13 percent), Germany (21 percent) or Spain (22 percent).”

How do we know Americans are embellishing their churchiness en masse? If 37 percent of Americans went to church weekly or more and 33 percent went monthly/yearly — you know what you’d see at churches? Lines of people. A hundred million people every single Sunday. Instead churches (even iconic mega-churches) are going bankrupt and the pews are collecting dust instead of donations.

No, when it comes to self-reporting religious devotion Americans cannot be trusted.

We under-estimate our calories, over-state our height, under-report our weight and when it comes to piety — we lie like a prayer rug.

A different study at the University of Michigan looked at the rate of self-reported church attendance by Americans in contrast with actual attendance. “America maintains a gap of 10 to 18 percentage points between what people say they do on survey questions, and what time diary data says they actually do,” said the report.

Which means Americans attend church as frequently as (gasp) Europeans. Only unlike those heathen Europeans, we feel the need to say we’re in church when we’re actually watching the NFL. In short: Americans attend “church.” Wink. Wink. Air quotes.

On the other hand, there’s no evidence people are telling pollsters they’re atheists and then secretly go to church. The deceit is one-sided.

So if we have been consistently over-reporting our religiosity by 10 to 18 percentage points, it’s reasonable to suggest this current estimate of non-religious Americans to be at 20 percent, could actually be closer to 38 percent. Which is on par with the largest religious group in the U.S., Protestant at 42 percent.

What does this mean? It means the non-believers, agnostic, non-theists, secularists, spiritual but not religious, and moral without mythology folks could be the actual silent majority.

It’s possible we’re completely surrounded. Shh.

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Tina Dupuy

Tina Dupuy Tina Dupuy is a native New Yorker born in exile.

The daughter of biblical brimstone hippie revolutionaries, her parents were members of a splinter sect so fringe it makes normal cult apologists shudder. This has given her a rather unique take on life. “My parents were missionaries, not to be confused with ‘mercenaries’ because that would actually be cool.”

Tina’s childhood was spent as glorified luggage, living in several countries on two continents and eventually attending nine elementary schools. The most stable home she had was an adolescent all-girls group home in Northern California where she made few friends by being an (alleged) stuck up nerd who “thought she was better than everyone else.”

Tina’s life long ambition of being a paleontologist was thwarted by the siren call of freelance journalism. An irreverent yet unassuming humorist, Tina is a natural for the work. ”Prostitutes are known for their hearts of gold, you never hear anyone say that about satirists,” she laments.

Sometimes a reporter, sometimes a comedian – always a wedge-issue enthusiast and devout skeptic – Tina is anaward-winning writer, investigative journalist, the former managing editor of Crooks and Liars . Tina appears frequently on MSNBC, Current TV, RT and BBC, and all over the radio frequencies via KCRW’s To The PointThe Stephanie Miller Show and The Leslie Marshall Show. She writes for Mother JonesThe AtlanticSkeptic, Fast CompanyAlternetLA Weekly, Los Angeles Times and Newsday among many others. Her weekly op-ed column is nationally syndicated through Cagle Cartoons.

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Beyond Broken: Congress is Morally Bankrupt

I don’t really make predictions. But my prediction is in 10 years, we will all snidely refer to anything inept, broken, petty and lazy as being like the 112th Congress.

Coaches will yell it at their athletes when they’re falling behind, “Do you want people to call you the 112th?! Do you? Then get up and get back in the game!” A nasty burn in a breakup: “You’re too 112th to live with, Darrel.” This Congress should not have its jersey retired—but quarantined—nothing we ever like, respect or care about should ever be called 112th.

Out of 112 Congresses this batch of Brooks Brothers barnacles has managed to break the institution. Their public approval rating is hovering around the margin of error—and that’s only because some of the people pollsters called think the president is Martin Sheen.

Because of the abuse of the filibuster, the Senate can no longer function. The filibuster is a storied device to pause a vote with a Senator’s yammering. Now it’s used as a veto threat. It’s as if the “hold” button was rigged to just hang up the call (and then block the number). Anything less than one party having 60 lock-step voting members means a stalemate. Without a super majority “nothing” is now the only thing possible in this deliberative body. The same amount of votes it takes the Senate to amend the Constitution is now what it takes to rename a post office.

Speaking of which, that’s basically all the 112th House has done for two years: re-name post offices. Naming things that already have a name. That’s what they’ve been doing on our dime. Out of the paltry (and pathetic) 124 laws that have originated in the House, 27 of them have named post offices. Two have issued commemorative coins. That means of the two years this House has met they’ve only originated 95 bills that have become laws.

How do they compare? Well the average number of laws originating in the House in a normal (not mind-numbingly obstinate) Congress is around 300. The 111th House, under Democratic majority, made 254. The 109th House, with a Republican majority made 316 laws. Going back to the 1970s, the 93rd Congress had 337 laws originate in their chamber.

What has the House been doing? “Nothing” would be something to aspire to. They’ve been introducing symbolic, go-nowhere bills that will never be brought up in the dysfunctional Senate and therefore never make it to the President’s desk. Their bills have mainly been to outlaw abortion and overturn the Affordable Care Act. That’s right: Not only have they been ineffective at MAKING their own laws—they’ve been ineffective at unmaking other laws.

They’ve voted 33 times to overturn ObamaCare. As if the president was going to sign that piece of legislation. Ever.

Jobs, jobs, jobs? More like: Blah, blah, blah.

I asked a congressional staffer the other day if working in the lowest rated Congress in the history of counting was like being on the set of “Gigli.”

His answer? “Pretty much.”

Part of this is our fault. To paraphrase P.J. O’Rourke, we voted in a bunch of people who think government is ineffective so they have to prove themselves right once on government dole.

But really, I’ll just quote congressional candidate Wayne Powell running against House Majority Leader Eric Cantor: In a debate last week the retired Army Colonel said, “You don’t like government. You should just resign and then I’ll take over.”

Indeed. But instead on October 5, 2012, Congress will take (yet another) break. They will not resume their idle busy work until November 13. They’re taking five weeks off so they can campaign to keep their jobs they don’t really do.

Like I said: morally bankrupt.

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Tina Dupuy

Tina Dupuy Tina Dupuy is a native New Yorker born in exile.

The daughter of biblical brimstone hippie revolutionaries, her parents were members of a splinter sect so fringe it makes normal cult apologists shudder. This has given her a rather unique take on life. “My parents were missionaries, not to be confused with ‘mercenaries’ because that would actually be cool.”

Tina’s childhood was spent as glorified luggage, living in several countries on two continents and eventually attending nine elementary schools. The most stable home she had was an adolescent all-girls group home in Northern California where she made few friends by being an (alleged) stuck up nerd who “thought she was better than everyone else.”

Tina’s life long ambition of being a paleontologist was thwarted by the siren call of freelance journalism. An irreverent yet unassuming humorist, Tina is a natural for the work. ”Prostitutes are known for their hearts of gold, you never hear anyone say that about satirists,” she laments.

Sometimes a reporter, sometimes a comedian – always a wedge-issue enthusiast and devout skeptic – Tina is anaward-winning writer, investigative journalist, the former managing editor of Crooks and Liars . Tina appears frequently on MSNBC, Current TV, RT and BBC, and all over the radio frequencies via KCRW’s To The PointThe Stephanie Miller Show and The Leslie Marshall Show. She writes for Mother JonesThe AtlanticSkeptic, Fast CompanyAlternetLA Weekly, Los Angeles Times and Newsday among many others. Her weekly op-ed column is nationally syndicated through Cagle Cartoons.

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Trickle Down Economics is a Pyramid Scheme

Photo courtesy of Victor Varela

A few years ago, I had a friend who didn’t want anyone to know she was going to therapy. Instead, she would announce at her place of business she was leaving to attend her Amway meeting. At one point I had to inform her, “You know that doesn’t make you look any less crazy, right?”

The classic multi-level marketing or pyramid scheme is where one guy at the top convinces people at the bottom to give the top money. The hope is the guys in the middle will recruit enough people under them to move from the middle to the top—hence the pyramid shape. The model is, clearly, and provably unsustainable. Only a couple of people (those at the top) do well. Everyone else gets ripped off.

In fairness, Amway, has massaged its methods enough to not qualify as the illegal type of pyramid scheme. It’s now the more legal type of pyramid scheme.

But the model—the idea of those at the bottom sacrificing their retirement benefits (pensions, social security, Medicare etc.) so that the top tier can pay even less in taxes is what Romney/Ryan are peddling. Mitt Romney wants to cut taxes for the wealthy. Paul Ryan‘s budget would shrink benefits to give the savings in the form of a tax cut to the highest brackets. What didn’t work in the Bush years to strengthen the middle-class (evident by their Lost Decade), they tell us will work this time! Or as veep-pick also-ran, Senator (R-FL) Marco Rubio put it, “We have never been a nation of haves and have-nots. We are a nation of haves and soon-to-haves.”

No, actually, we are a nation of haves and have-nots. We have the worst wealth inequality of all industrialized nations. Our poverty rate is the highest in more than 50 years at 15.7 percent. Contrast that with the top 1 percent of Americans who own nearly half—42 percent of the nations wealth. Also that same top 1 percent only has 5 percent of the nation’s debt. So 99 percent of Americans own 58 percent of the pie and have 95 percent of the debt. We’re fatter, sicker, further in debt and using the most illegal drugs in the world—all signs Americans have become overspent from bad economic policies.

But the haves—these demigods of capitalism—won’t trickle their wealth down to us because of “uncertainty in the market” according to Republicans. Therefore we bribe them with an even lower tax rate!

Instead of calling it “trickle down” which has been largely panned for decades—the new term is “not punishing success.”

“If your priority in this country is to punish success vote for President Obama,” said the offshore account holder, Mitt Romeny.

If the rich get richer—we’re not getting thinner, healthier, solvent and off the crack needle. If the rich get richer, the middle-class doesn’t get more stable.

If the rich get richer, the working poor don’t get pulled out of poverty. If the rich get richer—they just get richer and park their money in Luxembourg (where at least their money will be near universal health care).

We’re actually not a nation of haves at all. Not if you go by a simple majority—or even a super majority—we’re a nation of have-nots. Have-nots being sold on a fantasy of wealth trickling down if we’re nice enough to the haves.

Trickle down economics is a pyramid scheme: It’s the rich telling us if we just recruit others to believe in the con then we will become the rich too.

It’s a lie.

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Tina Dupuy

Tina Dupuy Tina Dupuy is a native New Yorker born in exile.

The daughter of biblical brimstone hippie revolutionaries, her parents were members of a splinter sect so fringe it makes normal cult apologists shudder. This has given her a rather unique take on life. “My parents were missionaries, not to be confused with ‘mercenaries’ because that would actually be cool.”

Tina’s childhood was spent as glorified luggage, living in several countries on two continents and eventually attending nine elementary schools. The most stable home she had was an adolescent all-girls group home in Northern California where she made few friends by being an (alleged) stuck up nerd who “thought she was better than everyone else.”

Tina’s life long ambition of being a paleontologist was thwarted by the siren call of freelance journalism. An irreverent yet unassuming humorist, Tina is a natural for the work. ”Prostitutes are known for their hearts of gold, you never hear anyone say that about satirists,” she laments.

Sometimes a reporter, sometimes a comedian – always a wedge-issue enthusiast and devout skeptic – Tina is anaward-winning writer, investigative journalist, the former managing editor of Crooks and Liars . Tina appears frequently on MSNBC, Current TV, RT and BBC, and all over the radio frequencies via KCRW’s To The PointThe Stephanie Miller Show and The Leslie Marshall Show. She writes for Mother JonesThe AtlanticSkeptic, Fast CompanyAlternetLA Weekly, Los Angeles Times and Newsday among many others. Her weekly op-ed column is nationally syndicated through Cagle Cartoons.

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Stop Comparing Paul Ryan to Sarah Palin

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore

The charm of Sarah Palin as a vice presidential pick is she set the bar incredibly low for her successors. As long as a nominee can name a newspaper and their foreign policy experience isn’t living next to a foreign country, the press can dub them better than Sarah Palin. More qualified. More gravitas. More ready to lead than Palin was…

A Palin standard for being fit for public office is like a Donald Trump standard for public humility. Basically, no standard at all.

It’s really not fair to compare Paul Ryan to Sarah Palin. Sure it makes Ryan as a VP nominee seem less cynical——less Hail Mary——less desperate than if Palin had never word-souped the nation four years ago. If John McCain would have picked Tim Pawlenty in ’08, the Ryan pick would look pretty irresponsible. But now the GOP has the “Palin Standard.”

A better comparison for Paul Ryan is former Republican presidential candidate Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. Both are from mid-western cheese-heavy states. Both are high-profile tea party Republicans in the lowest-rated Congress in the history of percentages. Even when Bachmann is causing international incidents with her xenophobic race baiting about the Muslim Brotherhood’s alleged infiltration of the U.S. government——she sounds as pleasant as someone selling orange juice on television.

If the 1980′s Michael J. Fox sit-com character——the beloved Reagan-idolizing Alex P. Keaton——were a self-hating public employee who cherry-picked all the worst parts of Ayn Rand, the Bible and the Heritage Foundation’s reading room, he’d be Paul Ryan! Quirky, young and clearly trying to fill a larger man’s suit——the rightest of Republicans love Paul Ryan.

Well they kind of love him. Both Paul Ryan and Michele Bachmann are guilty pleasures for Republicans. They like listening to them beat up on President Obama and spout their cheery condemnations of liberalism, but they don’t want to admit it too loudly lest they get stuck defending ALL their ideas. Bachmann won the Iowa straw poll but now she’s not even invited to introduce anyone, let alone speak, at the upcoming Republican National Convention.

Obama tried to campaign against the Ryan Budget plan this past spring since the House GOP voted for it, but that was declared out-of-bounds. Now? It’s in play and Republican politicians are not thrilled about explaining their vote to give future senior citizens coupons for chemotherapy.

Bachmann and Ryan also share the distinction of being ineffective lawmakers. According to ThatsMyCongress.com, in her nearly six years in office “Bachmann has passed three rhetorical bills with no force of law, and one amendment that asks an Inspector General to conduct inspections.” Paul Ryan has been an incumbent for twice that time and has only introduced two bills that have become law: One renaming a post office in his home town, the other changing how arrows are taxed (how very 21st century).

Bachmann at least gets to distance herself from the Republican Congressional blank check given to the big-spending Bush administration. Under Ryan’s allegedly hawkish eye, his party started two unpaid-for wars, cut taxes during said wars, grew the government, exploded the national debt and then bailed out unregulated banks with taxpayer money. Paul Ryan voted yes for all of it and doesn’t ask for a correction when he’s called a small government conservative.

Both Bachmann and Ryan are also at the extreme end of the spectrum when it comes to gay rights and reproductive freedoms. They both have consistently voted for any anti-abortion/anti-contraception bills that came before them. Ditto with expanding martial rights to same sex couples. Ryan, with all his libertarian billing, has voted to take away liberties from his fellow citizens. He is the government he’s warned us about: Freedom is for corporations, and regulations are for our private lives.

If Ryan is now the Republican mainstream, Bachmann is now the Republican mainstream. If Ryan is getting the full embrace of his party——Bachmann should be getting that same welcome into the fray.

Or in the case of Republicans in 2012, the fringe.

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Tina Dupuy

Tina Dupuy Tina Dupuy is a native New Yorker born in exile.

The daughter of biblical brimstone hippie revolutionaries, her parents were members of a splinter sect so fringe it makes normal cult apologists shudder. This has given her a rather unique take on life. “My parents were missionaries, not to be confused with ‘mercenaries’ because that would actually be cool.”

Tina’s childhood was spent as glorified luggage, living in several countries on two continents and eventually attending nine elementary schools. The most stable home she had was an adolescent all-girls group home in Northern California where she made few friends by being an (alleged) stuck up nerd who “thought she was better than everyone else.”

Tina’s life long ambition of being a paleontologist was thwarted by the siren call of freelance journalism. An irreverent yet unassuming humorist, Tina is a natural for the work. ”Prostitutes are known for their hearts of gold, you never hear anyone say that about satirists,” she laments.

Sometimes a reporter, sometimes a comedian – always a wedge-issue enthusiast and devout skeptic – Tina is anaward-winning writer, investigative journalist, the former managing editor of Crooks and Liars . Tina appears frequently on MSNBC, Current TV, RT and BBC, and all over the radio frequencies via KCRW’s To The PointThe Stephanie Miller Show and The Leslie Marshall Show. She writes for Mother JonesThe AtlanticSkeptic, Fast CompanyAlternetLA Weekly, Los Angeles Times and Newsday among many others. Her weekly op-ed column is nationally syndicated through Cagle Cartoons.

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The GOP Wants Fewer People to Vote for Them

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore

The Republican primary has been over for months now but it’s hard to tell. The presumptive nominee (I’ll get to stop writing that phrase in a couple of weeks … hopefully), Mitt Romney, is still campaigning like he’s trying to convince his own party he’s Mr. Right, Mr. Right-Enough—or in his case Mr. Right…Now.

“What America is not is a collective where we all work in a kibbutz,” Romney said at a fundraiser in Chicago this week. “Instead it’s individuals pursuing their dreams and building successful enterprises which employ others and they become inspired as they see what has happened in the place they work and go off and start their own enterprises.”

America, not a collective: Not a place where people work together, according to Romney. Just a place where bosses are untethered by the shackles of pensions, environmental concerns or worker safety regulations so they can create magical towers of tax-free enterprise which “employs others.”

Willard M. Romney, the Everyman.

Romney is not trying to be popular; he’s running for president on the Republican ticket. He’s still trying to get Republicans to like him and Republicans now make up less than 35 percent of Americans. Reaching outside of their “big tent,” Romney spoke at an National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) event, and after being booed by the crowd he explained it was because the attendees at the NAACP event want free stuff. He loves free stuff (like tax-free!) but finds it distasteful in people not clever enough to borrow money from their parents for college.

Romney’s international tour was of a whopping three countries. Notably at least one didn’t boo him. In the immortal words of George W. Bush, “Don’t forget Poland!”

Romney doesn’t appear to be trying to win the support of the majority of Americans (or the world for that matter). He appears to be playing for the affections of a few key shareholders. Romney is a niche candidate of a tiny percent of Americans who think working for a living describes what your money does for you.

Let’s take stock of the groups Republicans are no longer attempting to appeal to: Wage earners. Women in their child-bearing years. People with pre-existing conditions. Unions. Public workers. The unemployed. Monogamous gay couples. The under-employed. Moderate Republicans. Muslims. Latinos. Oh and independent voters. We’re not going to see a “Romney Democrats” group pop up before November, save maybe a political wonk’s Halloween party.

Romney is nominee no one really likes. Fewer people will vote for Mitt. The only chance for a mediocre candidate to win the majority of votes is for fewer votes to be counted. Voter ID laws have become vogue in states like Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, South Carolina and Indiana. All of a sudden the Grand Old Party is concerned about voter fraud, even though the Republican National Lawyer Association can only point to 311 cases in the last decade. Other estimates put the number in the tens.

Way more Americans have won gold medals than have voted fraudulently. So Republicans must “fix” this non-problem (in places which just so happen to swing states/counties/districts) by making it as difficult as possible to cast a ballot.

On ABC’s This Week, Washington Post columnist George Will called early voting “deplorable” because it interferes with campaigning. The horror! You know what interferes with voting? Having a j-o-b. Early voting is the easiest way for blue-collar workers to be able to have their vote counted. Less early voting, fewer people who earn a paycheck at the polls. And that’s deplorable if you’re a Republican in the 2012 election cycle.

Republicans are working very hard to get fewer votes. Instead of stacking the deck, they’re just trying to disenfranchise all the cards who disagree with them (you know, the majority of the country). It’s a reasonable strategy as their presumptive nominee (gah!) brands himself as the small government/voting bloc candidate who likes being able to fire people.

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Tina Dupuy

Tina Dupuy Tina Dupuy is a native New Yorker born in exile.

The daughter of biblical brimstone hippie revolutionaries, her parents were members of a splinter sect so fringe it makes normal cult apologists shudder. This has given her a rather unique take on life. “My parents were missionaries, not to be confused with ‘mercenaries’ because that would actually be cool.”

Tina’s childhood was spent as glorified luggage, living in several countries on two continents and eventually attending nine elementary schools. The most stable home she had was an adolescent all-girls group home in Northern California where she made few friends by being an (alleged) stuck up nerd who “thought she was better than everyone else.”

Tina’s life long ambition of being a paleontologist was thwarted by the siren call of freelance journalism. An irreverent yet unassuming humorist, Tina is a natural for the work. ”Prostitutes are known for their hearts of gold, you never hear anyone say that about satirists,” she laments.

Sometimes a reporter, sometimes a comedian – always a wedge-issue enthusiast and devout skeptic – Tina is anaward-winning writer, investigative journalist, the former managing editor of Crooks and Liars . Tina appears frequently on MSNBC, Current TV, RT and BBC, and all over the radio frequencies via KCRW’s To The PointThe Stephanie Miller Show and The Leslie Marshall Show. She writes for Mother JonesThe AtlanticSkeptic, Fast CompanyAlternetLA Weekly, Los Angeles Times and Newsday among many others. Her weekly op-ed column is nationally syndicated through Cagle Cartoons.

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Olympics Represent the Best of Our Team Efforts

Photo courtesy of AdamKR

It’s hard to get excited about the Winter Olympics. Watching elite athletes do elite sports is not on the same level of human drama that plays out at the Summer Games. Face it – you have to be pretty well off to even discover an aptitude for skiing. The winter games are mostly watching privileged people be better at something you can’t afford to try. Plus if you qualify for the Winter Olympics you are more than likely from an industrialized nation with a history of human rights (something about snow ensures basic government functioning).

In short: Curling isn’t the only reason the Winter Olympics are lame.

While only 82 countries participated in the 2010 games in Vancouver, every nation save three (South Sudan, Kosovo and Vatican City) will be competing in the 2012 games in London. It’s truly a global event. It’s also the first time every nation will have sent a female athlete. Saudi Arabia, where women can barely vote (let alone drive), is sending two female athletes to the games for the first time. Qatar and Brunei (also with spotty women’s suffrage) have women representing them as well this year.

The Summer Olympics are not just about seeing who throws farther than other people who can throw far. The Summer Olympics are a metaphor for what we idealize as the American Dream. Our impenetrable Puritan values: Hard work has a pay off. It’s the pageantry of the best of the best and how they got there. Sure, it’s sportsmanship, but for Americans the summer games is an opportunity for us to romanticize individualism.

Americans, after all, see ourselves as pioneers—as homesteaders—people who in our mythology can handle a hurdle race or two.

For us, Olympian rags-to-riches tales are what America is based on: Pulling on your bootstraps until you find yourself on the center rostrum.

Last week, President Obama botched paraphrasing an Elizabeth Warren line, “No one in this country got rich on his own,” and ending up saying (if you scrub all context) no one built their own business. The right-wing has been quick to refute this gaffe with a collective “did too!” The theme (at least) was clear: Success is a group effort.

Every Olympian represents an army of people supporting, nurturing and encouraging ability. No one gets to the Olympics on their own. No matter how naturally gifted—they’re on their way to London because people helped them get there. “People” meaning communities, parents and yes, governments.

I was raised in foster care. The alleged nanny state was my actual nanny. People will argue with me that I was raised by “people” and not the government. Which is like saying you don’t need electricity to light your home because you have a lamp. I know there was a mass of people (many employed by the state) investing their time and energy into my wellbeing. I showed up and did the work but I could not have done it all by myself. I had help. Tons.

That’s what the president was talking about: infrastructure. Our collective investment in our country.

When I watch the Olympics I see how the world treats its young people. I see their hope for the future on a balance beam. I see politics. I see progress. I see individuals representing the best of us—and all we can accomplish. I see the opposite of isolationism and selfishness. But mostly I see that truly American story of coming from behind and going for the gold.

Go team!

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Tina Dupuy

Tina Dupuy Tina Dupuy is a native New Yorker born in exile.

The daughter of biblical brimstone hippie revolutionaries, her parents were members of a splinter sect so fringe it makes normal cult apologists shudder. This has given her a rather unique take on life. “My parents were missionaries, not to be confused with ‘mercenaries’ because that would actually be cool.”

Tina’s childhood was spent as glorified luggage, living in several countries on two continents and eventually attending nine elementary schools. The most stable home she had was an adolescent all-girls group home in Northern California where she made few friends by being an (alleged) stuck up nerd who “thought she was better than everyone else.”

Tina’s life long ambition of being a paleontologist was thwarted by the siren call of freelance journalism. An irreverent yet unassuming humorist, Tina is a natural for the work. ”Prostitutes are known for their hearts of gold, you never hear anyone say that about satirists,” she laments.

Sometimes a reporter, sometimes a comedian – always a wedge-issue enthusiast and devout skeptic – Tina is anaward-winning writer, investigative journalist, the former managing editor of Crooks and Liars . Tina appears frequently on MSNBC, Current TV, RT and BBC, and all over the radio frequencies via KCRW’s To The PointThe Stephanie Miller Show and The Leslie Marshall Show. She writes for Mother JonesThe AtlanticSkeptic, Fast CompanyAlternetLA Weekly, Los Angeles Times and Newsday among many others. Her weekly op-ed column is nationally syndicated through Cagle Cartoons.

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