Commentary Politics

In “Onion-Worthy” News, Major GOP Candidates All Pledge To Be Hard On Porn

Michael Hayne

A headline that is surely Onion-worthy, but Romney, Santorum and Gingrich have all decided the issue is important enough to pledge to commit to stricter enforcement of obscenity laws.

A headline that is surely Onion-worthy, but sadly is all too true. In October, right as then Republican front runner Herman Cain was showing his superior morality by denying he had extra-marital affairs or sexually harassed women, Morality In Media (MIM), the “leading national organization opposing pornography and indecency through public education and the application of the law (hateful, sanctimonious, self-loathing prudes who hate the idea of anyone being happy),” launched an effort to get presidential candidates in both major parties to commit to strict enforcement of obscenity laws. After all, what Jenna Jameson does with a banana trumps high unemployment, soaring college tuition costs, corruption, environmental apocalypse, outdated and crumbling infrastructure, external threats and foreign conflicts, Wall Street greed during a time of unprecedented income equality and in the worst economy since the great depression and is all Americans can think about.

Well, it seems Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and Rick Santorum all pledged their commitment to the MIM pledge. That’s right, the serial adulterist was among the three major GOP candidates to agree to proscribing the one last pleasure away from desperate and unemployed Americans.

Former Senator Rick Santorum in a written statement:

Federal obscenity laws should be vigorously enforced. If elected President, I will appoint an Attorney General who will do so.”

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Former Governor Mitt Romney in a written statement:

“(I)t is imperative that we cultivate the promotion of fundamental family values. This can be accomplished with increased parental involvement and enhanced supervision of our children. It includes strict enforcement of our nation’s obscenity laws, as well as the promotion of parental software controls that guard our children from Internet pornography.”

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich in a face-to-face meeting:

When MIM’s Executive Director Dawn Hawkins asked former Speaker Gingrich if he will enforce existing laws that make distribution of hard-core adult pornography illegal, he responded: “Yes, I will appoint an Attorney General who will enforce these laws.”

Just to be clear, they are all running on a platform of LESS government? Oh yeah, that Republican truism only applies to less economic opportunity for the middle class and poor. Evidently, Jesus was much more concerned with what consenting adults chose to do for a profession than such ludicrous and inhumane acts as staying faithful to your dying spouse, looking out for the neediest, and adopting better energy strategies that do not involve pillaging an already exhausted planet with reckless abandon. And lord knows the founding fathers intended elected leaders to inject their warped religious views into the secular sphere of government. And do I even have to mention the irony of vigorously opposing pornography by a group of men who appear readily willing to screw the American electorate in public.

Instead of promoting social and economic polices that seek to strengthen struggling families, including mandating sick leave and parental leave, the GOP candidates would rather focus on ridiculously irrelevant issues that seek to appease a small but influential group of theocratic loons ahead of the South Carolina Primary.

Commentary Politics

A Telling Response: Trump’s Mistreatment of Women Evokes Yawn from GOP Leadership

Jodi Jacobson

Republican leaders have been largely dismissive of Donald Trump's misogynistic track record—which speaks volumes about the party's own treatment of women.

This weekend, the New York Times published the results of interviews with more than 50 people, many of whom attested to the fact that in both private and public life, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump made “unwelcome romantic advances” toward women and exhibited “unsettling workplace conduct over decades.” Translation: He objectified, sexually harassed, and made unwelcome comments and advances toward women with whom he worked, whom he met in social settings, or who participated in his reality show empire. He even, according to one person quoted in the Times, sought assurance that his own daughter was “hot.” Yet GOP leadership has been largely dismissive of Trump’s track record—which speaks volumes about the party’s own feelings on women.

While important in its detail, the Times story is anything but surprising. Trump is a historical treasure trove of misogynistic behavior and has talked about it openly. In an interview with Esquire, for example, Trump stated: “You know, it doesn’t really matter what [the media] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.” He has frequently made derogatory comments about the looks of female politicians, journalists, actresses, and executives: He’s claimed that “flat-chested” women can’t be beautiful and mused about the potential breast size of his infant daughter. He’s suggested that sexual assault in the military is “expected” because men and women are working together and that the thought of someone pumping breast milk is “disgusting.”

Forgive me if I am not shocked that reports indicate he’s no feminist. Female voters know this: Even conservative news outlet National Review fretted about the fact that both Trump and former presidential aspirant Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) are both highly unpopular among female voters, noting that “seven out of ten women (67 percent) have an unfavorable view of Trump, and only 26 percent view him favorably… and [some] polls have his unfavorability ratings among women even higher, at 74 percent.”

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In interviews this weekend, the Times‘ report elicited what was effectively a yawn from Reince Priebus, chair of the Republican National Committee, the guy charged with leading the GOP both in terms of the party’s platform and in helping its candidates across the country get elected. On Sunday, Fox News‘s Chris Wallace asked Priebus whether the reports of Trump’s mistreatment of women bothered him. Priebus responded by asserting that “people just don’t care” about all these stories, although when pressed, he suggested that Trump would have to answer to his own statements.

But that dodges the question. Priebus is the head of the party and also needs to take responsibility for his nominee’s behavior, as does the party itself. He did not say, “I deplore the remarks Trump has made during the campaign,” or, “as a party, we need to reflect deeply on why our candidates and policies are so deeply unpopular among a group that makes up more than half the U.S. population.”

Priebus said none of that. He just shooed the issues away. The fact he did not even attempt to address the substance of the Times article is the most telling news of all.

The real problem is that it’s the GOP leadership that just doesn’t care. This morning, the Guardian reported that “After a week of make-up meetings with Donald Trump, Republican party leaders have arrived at a new strategy to accommodate their presumptive presidential nominee: ignore his problematic attitude to women, his tax issues and his fluctuating positions on trade, immigration, foreign relations and a host of other topics, and instead embrace the will of Republican voters.”

The reality is that Trump’s “problematic attitude toward women” is not an isolated problem. For the GOP leadership, it is not a problem at all, but the product of their fundamental policies and positions. The GOP has been waging war on women’s fundamental rights for nearly two decades; it’s just gotten more brash and unapologetic about the attitudes underlying the party’s policies. The GOP is full of candidates who think pregnancy resulting from rape is a blessing; who minimize and stigmatize the role of access to contraception and abortion in public health and personal medical outcomes; who demonize and marginalize single mothers; and who won’t pay for basic services to help the poor. The GOP platform is built on policies that seek to deny women access to reproductive and sexual health care, including but not limited to abortion, thereby also denying them the right to self-determination and bodily autonomy. So the fact that both the party leaders and the media spun themselves into a tizzy when Trump suggested he would imprison women who had abortions was all theater. That is GOP policy.

The GOP majority in Congress and in state legislatures continues to deny low-wage workers—the majority of whom are women—living wages, labor protections, and paid family leave. At the state level, Republican governors and legislators have obliterated funding for education, child care, aid to single-parent families, aid to children with disabilities, and basic health-care services. And Trump is far from unique in this election cycle among GOP presidential candidates: Republicans in the running from Ted Cruz on down have used women as objects when it is convenient, with Cruz going so far as to parade his two young daughters on the campaign trail in bright pink dresses, seemingly to underscore their “innocence” and to stoke fear of transgender persons seeking access to the most basic facilities, though many of those are young girls themselves.

It’s not only Donald Trump’s mistreatment of women. It’s that the GOP’s platform is based on sheer misogyny, and the leadership has to ignore it or they’d have to rethink their entire platform and start from scratch.

Roundups Economic Justice

Not All Presidential Candidates Want to Solve Pay Inequality

Ally Boguhn

Pay inequality remains a problem in the United States. A 2014 analysis from the Economic Policy Institute found that men consistently made more than women across wage distributions.

The White House has announced efforts to continue to address the country’s persistent problems with equal pay on the seven-year anniversary of President Obama signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which provided more time for those experiencing pay inequality to file suit against their employers.

In addition to a call on Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, the Obama administration announced that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Department of Labor will publish a proposal to collect data each year from businesses with more than 100 employees, summarizing pay based on gender, race, and ethnicity.

Pay inequality remains a problem in the United States. A 2014 analysis from the Economic Policy Institute found that men consistently made more than women across wage distributions. Although the gender wage gap has narrowed since the 1970s, when women were paid 59 percent of what men were for the same job, research suggests that women are still paid 79 cents for every man’s dollar.

The gap often only widens when race is taken into account—Hispanic and Latina women make 54 percent, American Indian and Alaska Native women make 59 percent, and Black women make 64 percent of what a white man does.  

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But who among the field of 2016 presidential candidates is committed to changing that?

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton has long been a vocal proponent of ending gender pay inequality, having briefly touched on the subject during her 1995 Beijing address, where she famously declared that “women’s rights are human rights.”

While in the U.S. Senate, Clinton co-sponsored the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act itself and introduced the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would have amended the Fair Labor Standards Act to address wage discrimination, in 2005, 2007, and 2009 after the legislation’s original sponsor, Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD), left Congress.

Clinton has come forward with several actions she claims could be taken to help address pay discrimination and inequality, such as an October proposal at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of penalizing workplaces that intimidate or retaliate against employees who discuss wages. Clinton also called for incentives for states to create tougher fair pay laws and for more federal legislation on the issue, according to the Huffington Post.

A Clinton campaign fact sheet notes that the Democratic presidential candidate proposes passing the Paycheck Fairness Act, raising wages for the lowest-paid jobs—disproportionately held by women—and establishing “workplace policies like paid leave and flexible scheduling that allow parents to take care of their obligations at home without sacrificing pay at work” in order to further address pay inequality.

However, Clinton has faced criticism after the Washington Free Beacon reported that Clinton did not pay her Senate staff members equally. Clinton’s campaign argued that the site relied on an “incomplete, and therefore inaccurate set of numbers” that did not take into account employees who did not work in the office for an entire fiscal year.

Bernie Sanders

Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) has been a strong proponent of equal pay efforts, frequently bringing up the topic on the campaign trail and explaining how it disproportionately impacts women of color.

Sanders applauded efforts to address wage inequality in a series of tweets honoring the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act’s anniversary, writing that doing so is “especially important for women of color who face a pay gulf, not a gap.”

Sanders voted for the Paycheck Fairness Act, releasing a statement decrying Republicans’ efforts to block the measure.

Sanders included equal pay as a key component of his economic agenda.

Martin O’Malley

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley rounds out the Democratic presidential field with more support for ending the wage gap. In April 2014, O’Malley penned a blog post for the Huffington Post touting his record on the matter, which includes signing the Maryland Lilly Ledbetter Civil Rights Restoration Act and calling for more to be done to reach pay equality.

Donald Trump

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump told MSNBC’s Morning Joe in August that men and women deserve equal pay for equal work. Trump said he would conduct an economic review before implementing federal policies on pay equity, should he be elected.

“Women should have absolute access to capital,” Trump told hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough. “If they do the same job, they should get the same pay.”

But by November, the controversial figure had dismissed the gender pay gap entirely, attributing pay disparities to performance differences during a convention in New Hampshire. Although he noted that he “respect[s] women incredibly,” he went on to blame women for the pay disparities they face, telling an audience member that “you’re gonna make the same if you do as good a job.”  

Ted Cruz

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has dismissed the need for equal pay measures, claiming that wage equality is already enforced in the law and that efforts to address the pay gap are nothing more than a political ploy by Democrats. “They’ve written these bills because they know that they won’t pass and they’re doing it just to score political points,” Cruz claimed in a 2014 interview on Fox News. “This has nothing to do with equal pay for equal work. That’s been the law for decades.”

Although he went on to agree that women still “have a long way to go” to achieve equality in the workplace, Cruz asserted that federal measures to address that shouldn’t move forward.

Cruz solidified his opposition to federal equal pay measures by voting to block the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Marco Rubio

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has been an outspoken opponent to the Lilly Ledbetter Act, claiming it is “nothing but an effort to help trial lawyers collect their fees and file lawsuits.”

When asked by a representative of Make It Work about pay inequality during a November campaign event, Rubio dismissed the need for such legislation, saying “it’s already illegal” for women to be paid differently than men.

After being pushed to answer for his Senate votes against the Paycheck Fairness Act, Rubio claimed that “all it really did is just help lawyers sue.”

Rand Paul

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has consistently voted against equal pay legislation. Speaking about the Paycheck Fairness Act in 2012, Paul bizarrely claimed equal pay legislation was a step towards the United States becoming the Soviet Union.

“In the Soviet Union, the Politburo decided the price of bread, and they either had no bread or too much bread. So setting prices or wages by the government is always a bad idea,” Paul said. “The minute you set up a fairness czar to determine what wages are, you give away freedom.”

John Kasich

During an October appearance before the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Ohio Gov. John Kasich faced questions about why women in his state still faced wage inequality. “Well, a lot of it is based on experience,” Kasich said, according to ThinkProgress. “A lot of different factors go into it. It’s all tied up in skills. Do you not have the skills to be able to compete?”

When pressed about whether he was suggesting that women were “less skilled” than men, Kasich denied the accusation and noted that he had women helping to run his presidential campaign.

Kasich this month acknowledged that the gender pay gap exists, but claimed family leave policies were hurting efforts to address it. “When women take maternity leave or time to be with the children, then what happens is they fall behind on the experience level, which means that the pay becomes a differential,” Kasich said, despite evidence that paid family leave policies could help fight against pay inequality.

An investigation conducted by Ohio’s Dayton Daily News in 2014 found that Kasich’s office had the highest gender pay gap among statewide officeholders, paying women an average of $9.81 less per hour than men, although Kasich’s office claimed the analysis didn’t take into account staff from other state agencies.

Chris Christie

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s office in 2012 released a statement committing to taking action on equal pay and announcing that the governor had signed legislation “creating a statewide notice requirement for employers to directly and routinely advise their employees of the right to be free from pay and benefits discrimination.”

“Everyone in the workplace—whether the employer or employee—needs to be on notice that, as with all forms of bias, compensation discrimination due to gender is illegal and has no place in our modern workforce,” Christie’s statement said. “Too often, women’s value and contributions in the workplace have been undermined and shortchanged merely because of their gender. I fully endorse the Legislature’s efforts in this regard, and that is why I signed this sensible, preventative measure into law.”

Christie has since been less enthusiastic about pushing through related measures, vetoing two equal pay billsone of which he claimed was just “senseless bureaucracy”and signing another only after recommending changes be made to it.