John McCain is Now for Fair Pay after Being Against It

20 09 2008

In an effort to win over women voters, Senator John McCain is willing to say whatever he thinks they want to hear. Consider the issue of fair pay. With Gov. Palin as his cut woman by his side, Senator McCain has come to embrace fair pay as progressive cause he is worth campaign on, at least when talking to women: 

Earlier this week he assured an audience of women voters that:

I want to assure you, that we not only have a role model, but we will hire people and we will make sure people come to our administration wherever there is discrimination. We will eliminate it, we will fight it, and if necessary we’ll take ‘em to court. We’ll do those things.

Watch it. 

Suddenly, John McCain has found his feminist voice on pay discrimination.  This is a strikingly different tune than what he said just a few months ago when the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a bill that would strengten anti-pay discrimination legislation, came up for a vote in the U.S. Senate and McCain opposed it. While McCain did not actually cast a vote for the bill either yea or nay, he did tell the media that:  

I am all in favor of pay equity for women, but this kind of legislation, as is typical of what’s being proposed by my friends on the other side of the aisle, opens us up to lawsuits for all kinds of problems.

[snip]

This is government playing a much, much greater role in the business of a private enterprise system.

Never mind that the Fair Pay Act would merely correct what a bad Supereme Court decision, Lilly Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co.,  tried to errode by weakening provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The 1964 Civil Rights Act says a plaintiff must file a complaint within the 180 days “after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred.” The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, sex, creed, disability, age, and national origin.  For decades, the Supreme Court and lower courts understood this provision to mean that employees could sue within 180 of receiving a discriminatory paycheck since each check represented a related yet distinct instance of discrimination in a series of discriminatory acts.

But Justice Alito, however, had a different interpretation of the law.  In the Ledbetter decision the Justice Alito caluously concluded that Ms. Ledbetter filed her compliant too late and was not entitled to any compensation for her being discriminated against by her employer, despite the fact that she was doing the same job as her male peers, but being paid less for doing so. 

In writing for the majority, Justice Alito found Ms. Ledbetter should have filed her suit with the EEOC within 180 days of the original decision to pay her differently. “Current effects alone cannot breathe life into prior, uncharged discrimination,” declared the Justice.  Never mind that Ms. Ledbetter had no way knowing much leas proving she was discriminated against until she was informed about through recieving an anonymous note from a fellow co-worker.  

Now the bill as it was written in April would just restore the law back to its pre-Ledbetter interpretation and Mr. Straight Talk Express opposed it then, but is for it now. 

In arguing that the Fair Pay Act is another instance of unnecessary of government intrustion, and “opens us up to lawsuits for all kinds of problems” not only does it stand in tension with McCain’s rhetoric on the need for tighter regulation, but also highlights his view of the Courts. The Ledbetter decision was as much about discrimination as it was about who has access to the courts and under what circumstances to seek justice for a wrong done to them.  With the Ledbetter decision, Justices such as Samuel Alito and John Roberts on the Supreme Court sought to err on the side of big business at the expense of worker’s rights and ensure that workers don’t have a much of an opportunity to take their employer to court when they have been discriminated against. 

And John McCain must like these Juges because he told a conservative crowd this past spring what his models for the federal bench look like

Two of the best of those are Judges Alito and Roberts. You can be very proud of them. My friends, I want to tell you, I will try to find clones of Alito and Roberts. I will try to find people just like them.

(H/T: Think Progress)





Stumping on the Economy

18 09 2008

A little history and analysis from Dan Balz at the WaPo:

Only once since World War II has a political party maintained control of the presidency for three consecutive terms, which was from 1981-1993. Eisenhower’s eight years were followed by Kennedy’s and Johnson’s eight years, which were followed by Nixon’s and Ford’s eight years, which were followed by Carter’s four years.

Voters would not give Democrats a third term after the Clinton presidency, despite a robust economy and a nation at peace. After the tumult of Bush’s eight years, what might compel voters to reward the Republicans with a third consecutive term in control of the White House?

McCain has managed to make the best of this terrible environment. His pick of Sarah Palin proved enormously effective in the short term. His party appears newly energized, even enthusiastic about their ticket, even if they still distrust the leader of that ticket.

[snip]

How long can he sustain all this? Absent external events, he was doing well. With the economic news of this week, the polls hint at a deflation in his position. The playing field has once again tilted slightly toward Obama, who now must take advantage of it.

This of course begs the question as to why the race remains so close given the present climate. I of course will leave that to readers of this blog to figure out. But I do think that aside from Obama being a black guy with a funny name who is still largely unknown to huge swaths of the electorate and still manages to come off as inexperienced, it has a lot to do with the fact that the hope machine has never been as compelling candidate when stumping on the economy as much as he was campaigning as an anti-war advocate against Senator Clinton in the primary.

As Nate Silver at Fivethirtyeight.com observed yesterday, “Obama’s never going to be a Clintonesque natural out there on the stump in responding to the economy — he might have to repeat a message three times where with Clinton it would have sunken in the first one.” Of course, this does not entirely account for his lack of support among those in Kentucky or West Virginia, but it may help explain some skepticism on the part of some persuadable independents and crossover voters in Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Nevada, and perhaps Ohio.

Of course, Obama is slowly morphing into a harder edged populist during these past few weeks, but he is going to have to work a lot harder to among certain segments of voting population.





Constitution and Citizenship Day Blogging

17 09 2008

Origins of Citizenship and Constitution Day

On September 17, 1787, the final draft of the U.S. Constitution was signed by 39 delegates to articulate our freedoms and the broad parameters on which Americans would govern themselves as a country.  In celebration of the day Congress made September 17th Constitution Day/Citizenship Day in 2004 and mandated the teaching of the Constitution in schools that receive federal funds.  The week in which Constitution Day falls is also known as Constitution Week. According to Wikipedia, prior to the enactment of the law it was also known as Citizenship Day.

Click here to read the full text of the U.S. Constitution.

Report: Expensive Fees Cause Dip in Citizenship Applications
According to a new report published last week by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrants and Refugee Rights entitled, “Priced Out: U.S. Citizenship A Privilege for the Rich and the Educated” the Bush administration has made citizenship less accessible and expensive for immigrants. Since the last fee increase in July 2007, 59 percent fewer immigrants applied for citizenship. Advocates cite the corresponding increasing in application fees as a reason, which went from $400 to $675 in July of 2007. The report also notes how while there has been a 27 percent increase in the minimum wage in the last decade, citizenship application fees went up 610 percent. There has also been dramatic drop in the number of citizenship applications filed during the past year in many if not all states with large population of foreign born people.

The report recommends experimenting with microloans and employer assistance programs to make the application process more affordable. The authors also recommend the passage of the Obama-Gutierrez Citizenship Promotion Act of 2007, which among other things, would require a study of the sluggishness of the FBI background check process and to identify obstacles to timely completion of the checks. It would also authorize funds for the USCIS to grant to community-based organizations to help prepare immigrants to become citizens.

Anti-immigrant Activists Lobby Congress
In response to recent lobbying efforts by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, an ant-immigrant organization with ties to white supremacists, the Service Employees International Union, the National Council on La Raza placed a full page ad in Roll Call and Politico. The ad featured images of white nationalists and other hate groups and quotes from prominent FAIR supporters. “As Whites see their power and control over their lives declining, will they simply go quietly into the night? Or will there be an explosion?” asks John Tanton the organization’s founder and top donor. “Should we be subsidizing people with low IQs to have as many children as possible?” asks FAIR’s current president Dan Stein. “New cultures…[in the U.S. are] diluting what we are and who we are,” warns another FAIR supporter.

The sponsors of the ad ask the reader “When Did Extreme Become Mainstream?” Good strong stuff.  Strong enough in fact to put FAIR on the defensive to issue a response where it called the ad “vitriolic” and said the ads sponsors were nearly calling all Americans one big hate group. I suppose FAIR believes they feel as if they speak on the behalf of all Americans.

National Polls Say Most Americans Approve of Immigration
Interestingly enough, despite the tenor of anti-immigrant sentiment during the past year, more than 60 percent of all Americans have consistently said immigration is a good thing for the country ever since mid-2005.





Regulation Chatter

17 09 2008

In a post entitled, “Obama’s Faulty Logic” Sebastian Mallaby at the WaPo’s blog Post-Partisan apparently has grown tired of the regulation versus deregulation soundbites on the campaign trail have devolved into an “appealingly simple” rhetorical trope. The UK economist takes issue with how the Obama campaign tried to draw “link between the Wall Street blow-ups and a lack of regulation,” and suggesting that the conventional wisdom regarding deregulation was somehow unique to Bush, McCain and his advisers.

Malaby tells us that:

Embarrassingly for Obama, the principal piece of financial deregulation over the past decade was the reform of Glass-Steagall, the law that separated investment banks from deposit-taking ones. This reform was sponsored by McCain’s friend, former Republican Senator Phil Gramm, but ending the division between the two types of bank was a policy that the Clinton team also supported, which does not fit the Obama narrative.

Mallaby fails to point out, however, that even after the push for deregulation of financial markets and other areas of our economy including telecom and elsewhere was not only met with deep skepticism within the Democratic party, but was widely considered an long term strategy for generating economic growth.  Yes, the Washington consensus of the Clinton years erred on the side of deregulation as a means of harnessing the power of the market, but few thought the federal government should permanently abdicate its role as a regulator or overseer of the market.

To the contrary, one of the great lessons of the late 90s, particularly after the financial contagion crisis, is that that government does have a role to play in world where capital – and the shocks associated with it – moves at the speed of a few clicks on a mouse.

But the Bush administration was wedded to the notion that the market will solve its own problems even if industries experience such dramatic change that they necessarily merit regulation and oversight. Consider mortgage lending. Mortgage lending has changed dramatically during the last several years. According to the Pew Center on the States, “10,000 lending institutions were in business 20 years ago; today, just a few dozen lenders dominate.” But once the source of capital went for home loans went from mainly small lenders to primarily bonds underwritten by the financial markets, the evaluation of the loans themselves changed. Put simply, they were less likely to be valued on the basis of their performance than they were on their size and terms.

This evolution of the lending market also coincided with another change. By incorporating the use of data metrics, such as credit scoring and consumer data, credit became much more accessible. As a result, the subprime lending sector expanded as the creditor market overall began to grow.

In order to keep up with the proliferation of loans in a market with increasingly lax lending standards many resorted to a less rigorous computerized underwriting. This imprecise method of rating the creditworthiness of borrowers often led to many people being offered subprime loans despite qualifying for more conventional loans.

Subprime loans are high cost loan products often, but not always, sold to borrowers are low-income or have a modest savings, or with less than pristine credit. By contrast, prime loans are sold at market rate to people with solid credit scores at competitive low interest rates. To hedge against the lending to borrowers with “higher credit risks,” subprime borrowers are charged higher rates. According to the Center for Responsible Lending, more than 80 percent of those loans came with adjustable interest rates as opposed to a 30 or 40 year fix rate mortgage loan.

To be sure, when done responsibly subprime lending can lead to opportunities for many people who might otherwise never own a home or obtain credit civil rights advocates have an interest in preserving the subprime market. But during the past few years, we have witnessed an explosion in risky mortgage products and a rapid decline in the use of sensible lending practices.

Congress should have stepped up their efforts in calling hearings to shine a light on the most egregious violators of fair housing laws and place pressure on federal agencies to go after these so-called independent brookers who are exploiting borrowers and find out why there was such an incentive from wall street investors to get as many loans on the books as possible.

A little oversight would have revealed the inefficiencies withing the market and the looming burst of the bubble was near.

As Obama rightly noted in his speech at Cooper Union in New York earlier this year:

Under Republican and Democratic administrations, we’ve failed to guard against practices that all too often rewarded financial manipulation instead of productivity and sound business practice. We let the special interests put their thumbs on the economic scales. The result has been a distorted market that creates bubbles instead of steady, sustainable growth; a market that favors Wall Street over Main Street, but ends up hurting both.

Nor is this trend new. The concentrations of economic power and the failures of our political system to protect the American economy and American consumers from its worst excesses have been a staple of our past: most famously in the 1920s, when such excesses ultimately plunged the country into the Great Depression. That is when government stepped in to create a series of regulatory structures, from FDIC to the Glass-Steagall Act, to serve as a corrective, to protect the American people and American business.





Campaigning through the Mud

15 09 2008

In what seems like ages ago, the McCain campaign and GOP at large were concerned about a potential backlash against attacking Obama unfairly.  In a February article in the Jack Kemp, albeit not your typical Republican, told the Politico, “You can’t run against Barack Obama the way you could run against Bill Clinton, Al Gore or John Kerry” because it would highlight how much a “all white country club party” the Republican party truly is.

“You can’t allow the party to be Macaca-ed,” one operative noted, “The P.C. [politically correct] police will be out and the standards will be very narrow,” said another strategist. Senator McCain even defended Senator Obama after hearing Bill Cunningham, one of the more vile radio talk show hosts on the extreme right, disparage the Illinois Senator in a rant in which the McCain supporter invoked the now Democratic  Presidential nominee’s middle name three times.

According to the New York Times, McCain took the stage at the fundraiser and told the crowd there:

It’s my understanding that before I came in here a person who was on the program before I spoke made some disparaging remarks about my two colleagues in the Senate, Senator Obama and Senator Clinton. I have repeatedly stated my respect for Senator Obama and Senator Clinton, that I will treat them with respect. I will call them Senator. We will have a respectful debate, as I have said on hundreds of occasions. I regret any comments that may have been made about these two individuals who are honorable Americans.

My how times have changed. I wonder where that guy is today? And surprise surprise the so-called PC police aren’t as strong or intimidating as Republicans said they were.

Maybe I am just waking up to the fact that its mud season. And its been that way for some time.





I Got This

14 09 2008

With the advent of Palinmania, many Obama supporters have grown worried about their candidate’s prospects this coming November, but a recent column by Gail Collins urges observers and fervent supporters alike to sober up.   To Collins, to many people are paying attention to the fluctuations in polls among independents and undecideds when those are the very people who tend to make up their minds at the last minute.

One of the great things about this campaign is that both sides are convinced they’re going to lose. Remember how nuts all the Obama people went when Hillary refused to concede? How suicidal the Republicans were when Obama was knocking them dead in Europe while McCain was tooling around in a golf cart with the president’s father? We still have nearly two months to go. The people who haven’t decided who they want to vote for by now aren’t going to make up their minds until the last minute. Just chill for a few weeks until the debates start and let the Sarah Palin thing play itself out.

And as for the national polls Collins also noted:

If the Obama brain trust seems relatively serene compared with its seething base, it’s because they live in the Electoral College world, where the presidential race only takes place in a third of the country. They don’t care about national polls — a concept as quaint as measuring one’s wealth by caribou pelts. They worry about the undecided vote in Minnesota and Ohio and run their TV ads (about the economy) in places like Colorado and Michigan and Florida. If you live in California or New York or Texas, you don’t really have much of a feel for their level of effort because as far as they’re concerned, you’ve already voted.





“They Call Themselves Mavericks”

9 09 2008

Finally, an ad with some real teeth.