Commentary, News

Fight for paid leave making inroads (modest ones anyway) in Congress

Stephanie Carson over at Women Advance has a somewhat encouraging post today about the ongoing fight for modern paid leave laws. As Carson notes, the idea being discussed today (paid leave that could be taken in lieu of Social Security benefits) is fraught with problems, but at least they’re talking about the issue.

Congress takes up paid leave today

By Stephanie Carson

If you’ve ever needed to take leave to care for your children, it’s time to pay attention to what’s happening in Washington today. The Senate Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on Social Security, Pensions and Family Policy will hold a hearing on a proposal that could give parents the ability to take paid family leave.

On the table, is an approach that would allow parents to defer their Social Security payments to cover parental leave. A bill including this framework is expected to be introduced later this week by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) later this week.

While on its surface, it seems like the proposal could be a step forward in our country’s efforts to catch up with the western world, many have concerns over the ramifications. Specifically, it forces parents to choose time with their child over financial security in retirement. Beyond that, the amount covered for paid leave would equal 45% of wages, an amount insufficient for many people to access the leave.

As a woman, I have mixed emotions about the legislation. When I had my first daughter, I worked at a news outlet that allowed us to take short term disability to cover our maternity leave. (The fact that I actually got paid because having a baby was a “disability” still goads me.) But I couldn’t take it until I spent my entire vacation time first. My daughter was born in April. That meant for the first year of her life, I didn’t even have the days to take Christmas off to be with her.

If someone had offered me the ability to defer my Social Security benefits, I would have taken it. However, I was one of the lucky women whose husband had a high-paying job and we could have lived on half my salary for a few months, particularly if you consider the child care savings as well.

But I was an anomaly. Most families can’t afford it, and it seems to me that this is another proposal that would benefit high wage earning families, and ignore the families in need of the support.

There’s another proposal on the table proposed by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). The FAMILY Act would create paid family leave and medical leave financed through higher payroll taxes. Her bill would cover two-thirds of wages for 12 weeks.

But regardless, I’m happy our Congress is talking about this, even if their proposal isn’t exactly what we’d like to see on the books. They’re laying the groundwork and I have a hunch after November, there will be a new army of leaders ready to finish the job.

If you want to get involved in the effort, you can join the NC Families Care Coalition, which Women AdvaNCe is a proud partner of.

Commentary, News

Opposition to controversial Sinclair Broadcasting’s latest expansion mounts

Washington, DC-based political news site The Hill reports that there is growing opposition to the proposed expansion of the controversial right-wing media company, Sinclair Broadcasting. This is from a story posted yesterday afternoon entitled “Groups join petition to delay Sinclair-Tribune merger review”:

“A growing number of groups are urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to delay its review of Sinclair Broadcast Group’s merger with Tribune Media, while a court weighs a recent agency move that would ease the deal’s approval.

The organizations joining the effort include the National Hispanic Media Coalition, the conservative outlet Newsmax and the telecom trade group NTCA — The Rural Broadband Association.

The groups joined a petition first filed in June by Public Knowledge and Common Cause to the FCC. That petition asked the agency to hold off on the Sinclair-Tribune proceeding while the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals reviews the FCC’s order allowing broadcasters to buy up more local television stations….

Critics say that the $3.9 billion deal would give the company too much power over the local news market.

The opposition that has formed against the deal has created an unlikely alliance consisting of left-wing consumer groups, right-wing media outlets and cable companies, all worried about media consolidation.”

Meanwhile, a variety of groups are calling directly on their members and supporters to register their opposition to the merger directly with the FCC. This is from an alert posted by the ACLU that features a direct connection to the FCC comment page:

“If the merger succeeds, it would create the largest TV broadcasting conglomerate in United States history. Sinclair would control some 200 stations broadcasting throughout most of the country – and with that comes full, stranglehold-like control of the information we can access.

Earlier this year, a viral video from Deadspin exposed the way Sinclair repeatedly injects politically-charged segments into local news, which otherwise typically avoid ideological punditry. It shows local broadcasters reading a script imposed on them by a giant, nationwide conglomerate to convey a political message about – ironically – the importance of apolitical coverage and local control.

But this isn’t about Sinclair’s political ideology. The problem is that Sinclair’s attempt to acquire Tribune Media would virtually guarantee limits on the views that local news stations could express.

The First Amendment is supposed to give us the right to free speech and a free press. A news station being forced by the mega-corporation that owns it to parrot the same messages violates these freedoms. There’s nothing free about a scripted press – and there’s nothing free about a public with no other option for local news.”

Last month, Think Progress ran a disturbing story in which it explored directives from Sinclair headquarters that all of the company’s stations run a propaganda piece on the crisis involving immigrant children by Boris Epshteyn, a Sinclair spokesperson and former Trump staffer.

Commentary

More details on Kavanaugh’s frightening record on church-state issues

If you still harbor any doubts about the kind of threat Brett Kavanaugh poses to some basic American freedoms, be sure to check out Andrew Seidel’s article at Think Progress entitled “How Kavanaugh will use religion to turn back the clock: Trump’s Supreme Court pick will be motivated by ideology, not reason. And his record proves it.” As Seidel explains:

“President Donald Trump’s latest pick for the Supreme Court, Judge Brett Kavanaugh — a Catholic, whose appointment preserves the Catholic majority on the Supreme Court — will shift the high court dramatically to the right, most noticeably when it comes to religion.

According to their Judicial Common Space scores (a method of measuring justices on a left to right, liberal to conservative scale), Kavanaugh is more conservative than Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, meaning he’s more conservative that even the late Justice Scalia. This seismic shift to the right will perhaps be most obvious on matters of the separation of state and church. Ensuring the secular character of the government is not a panacea, but it’s pretty close and it touches on a host of progressive issues including reproductive rights, the environment, immigration, health care, education, and so much more.

Two of Kavanaugh’s recent opinions illustrate the damage he’s likely to cause. Last year, he wrote a glowering dissent arguing that forcing a 17-year-old immigrant to continue to carry her pregnancy was not an ‘undue burden.’ Two years before that, he wrote another dissent arguing that filling out a five-blank form is a ‘substantial burden‘ on the religion of a Catholic group called Priests for Life, one of the countless groups seeking to undermine the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate.

After detailing several other Kavanaugh judicial opinions (and actions that he took before becoming a judge) in which he did his utmost to break down the wall between church and state (perhaps most notably, defending public school-sponsored prayer), the article concludes this way:

“The conservative social positions religion takes in the culture war are costly. Religion, and especially conservative religion, is losing ground in this nation. It’s losing ground and the debate on religious discrimination, marriage equality, abortion rights, and countless other issues. While support for Trump among white evangelical Christians is at an all-time high, poll after poll show people leaving the churches and the ranks of nonreligious Americans swelling. Barna, a religious polling outfit, recently found that 21 percent of young Americans are either atheist or agnostic.

That is why the religious right has long sought to capture the Supreme Court. By doing so, it can block progress in U.S. jurisprudence for decades. By putting people, like Kavanaugh, who think that tradition trumps the Constitution, on the court, the religious right not only stops time, but can even turn back the clock.”

Commentary, News

Did Trump cut a deal with Kennedy?

It’s not the crazy conspiracy theory that some have alleged — i.e. that Anthony Kennedy’s resignation was somehow tied to his son’s employment at Deutsche Bank, which has been involved in laundering Russian cash and loaning the Trump campaign money. As the Washington Post explained last week, mere coincidence is not he same as real evidence on that front.

That said, Think Progress does present some persuasive evidence today that Trump and Kennedy did make a deal over his resignation. This is from “White House doesn’t deny report Trump made secret deal with Kennedy over retirement, replacement: It’s not supposed to work like this.”:

“During an CNN interview on Tuesday morning, White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah did not deny an NBC report that outgoing Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy ‘received assurances’ from President Trump that if he retired, Judge Brett Kavanaugh — one of Kennedy’s former clerks — would be nominated to be his replacement.

Asked repeatedly if some sort of deal between Trump and Kennedy was struck before Kennedy announced his retirement, Shah dodged, saying things like ‘I’m not going to read out private conversations that Justice Kennedy had with either members of the White House or the president,’ and, ‘Justice Kennedy can speak for himself.’ But what Shah didn’t do is deny that the NBC report is accurate.

If NBC’s report is true, it means Kennedy would effectively have been given control over a SCOTUS seat for 60 years — the 30 years he served, and the 30 or so the 53-year-old Kavanaugh will likely serve on the court if confirmed.”

The story goes on to discuss the fact that Kavanaugh previously wrote an article in which he argued that sitting presidents are largely above the law.

All in all, it’s increasingly apparent why Trump picked Kavanaugh — namely, that he’s his kind of guy.

Commentary

NARAL Pro-Choice NC: The Kavanaugh nomination must be resisted

As this morning’s edition of the Weekly Briefing argues, the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court must be resisted. In area after area, a Justice Kavanaugh would transform a conservative Supreme Court into a truly reactionary Supreme Court.

If there is an area of law in which this change would be most clearly crystallized, however, it’s obviously around the issue of reproductive freedom. As Tara Romano of NARAL Pro-Choice NC explained in statement last night:

“After near constant promises that he would only appoint Supreme Court nominees that would overturn and gut Roe v. Wade and criminalize abortion, President Trump has held true to that promise with the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh recently argued that a young woman, despite meeting all of Texas’ burdensome requirements to obtain an abortion, should not be able to do so. He has also been a long-time conservative activist working to elect anti-choice politicians.

We have to assume that Kavanaugh was chosen because he lives up to Trump’s litmus test and will be a vote to end Roe v. Wade, criminalize abortion and punish women. If this is not the case, it is up to Judge Kavanaugh to prove to the American people that he will not be a rubber stamp for the President’s agenda and will proactively protect abortion access. Now is the time for Senators Burr and Tillis to stand up for the personal liberty of all to make the reproductive health decisions that are right for them. It’s also time for them to accurately represent the 7 in 10 North Carolinians who support safe and legal abortion access.”

President Trump himself has promised over and over again to appoint Supreme Court justices who will work to overturn Roe v. Wade, criminalizing patients and medical professionals in the process. During the first year with another Trump Supreme Court pick – Neil Gorsuch – we have already seen court decisions that disregard established precedent, and demonstrate an inclination to roll back hard fought civil, reproductive and workers’ rights. We have little reason to believe this nominee won’t follow the same activist path.”

Stay tuned to NC Policy Watch for further updates on the battle over the Kavanaugh nomination.