Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Daily Meme: FutureSex Scandals/LoveSounds for Hillary

Our theme today is the future, where everyone is looking. To start, House conservatives are thinking that their future might involve a Speaker other than John Boehner. National Journal reports that a group of 40 to 50 Republicans are plotting to oust Boehner right after the November , or at least put the fear of the right into him. Representative Vance McAllister's future is in serious doubt after he was caught on a security camera sucking face with one of his staffers; naturally, he responded to getting caught by firing her. But t he Washington Post has crunched the numbers on sex scandals and found that there have been 14 sex-related scandals since 2000, but only two of the members kept their jobs. So maybe there's a Morning Zoo radio show co-hosted with Anthony Weiner in McAllister's future. We all know that in a few decades, white people will become a minority of Americans, and we'll all sing in perfect harmony. Our old colleague Jamelle Bouie looks to the future of American...

Yes, Being a Woman Makes You Poorer

AP Images/Susan Walsh
S enate Republicans blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act yesterday, a bill that would make it illegal for employers to punish workers for discussing wages and would require them to share pay information with the Employment Opportunity Commission. President Barack Obama has already signed an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from punishing employees who talk about their pay. These two actions were pegged to the somewhat made up holiday called “Equal Pay Day” celebrated Tuesday, and were discussed by many in Washington in merely political terms : evidence of attempts by Democrats to woo women voters and a continuing sign of Republicans' “difficulties” with them. Elsewhere, pundits and writers wanted to discuss whether the pay gap really existed. A few years ago, some conservatives and a few liberals began to attack the much-talked-about fact that women make 77 cents to every man’s dollar as untrue, based largely on the idea that the gap itself was mostly accounted for by...

The Most Expensive Health Care In the World

The high-grade stuff.
As a reader of this web site, you are informed and aware, so you no doubt saw the stories that came out yesterday about the data trove the government just released on what individual doctors bill Medicare. The shocking news was that some have managed to charge the government millions of dollars, including one ophthalmologist, Salomon Melgen, who billed Medicare an incredible $21 million in 2012 alone, and who just happens to be caught up in an investigation of influence peddling with a Democratic senator. But before this story disappears with some head-shaking about scandal and fraud, we should take note of what it teaches us about why we have the most expensive health care system in the world. A lot of people had the same reaction to that detail about the Florida ophthalmologist: How on Earth is it possible for one doctor to bill $21 million to Medicare in one year? The good doctor's answer is that he has a large practice, but the biggest reason comes down to one word: Lucentis. It's...

Why Clinton's Gender Problem Will Not Be Like Obama's Race Problem

Here's an SAT analogy question for you: Barack Obama's 2008 campaign IS TO race as Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign IS TO _______. If you said "gender," you're only half right. I'll get to what I mean in a moment, but this is something Isaac Chotiner raises today at The New Republic : in 2016, we'll get into a similar dynamic we see now, in which "the attacks on Clinton will be seen as sexist by liberals, which in turn will lead to conservatives feeling falsely accused of sexism. You can count on MSNBC, for example, to turn nearly every attack on Clinton into an attack on Republicans for hating women." It's true that there will be an extraordinary amount of sexism directed at Clinton, just as there always has been . But unlike Barack Obama, who spent years planning how to make white people comfortable with his race (which worked for a while , until his victory became a real possibility), Clinton has never tried to make her gender unthreatening. I suppose we could mention the way she...

Daily Meme: Yep, He's Toast

There's nothing so satisfying as a good dose of political schadenfreude, which is being served up on a platter this week by Louisiana Representative Vance McAllister. Grainy images of McAllister locked in a passionate embrace with Melissa Hixon Peacock, a married aide, last December are making the rounds online. Peacock's husband, Heath, is fueling the tabloid-esque furor by making the rounds on cable TV. “I’m just freaking devastated by the whole deal, man. I loved my wife so much. I cannot believe this. I cannot freaking believe it. I feel like I’m going to wake up here in a minute and this is all going to be a bad nightmare,” he told CNN Tuesday . He says that he and his wife, who have a six-year-old son, are getting a divorce. It certainly doesn't help that McAllister, a married father of five who joined Congress last November in a special election, campaigned as a staunch Christian conservative who promised to bring his values to Washington. He made his mark early, by inviting...

The End of the "Ick Factor"

This hard-core rock-'n-roller knows his scripture. (Flickr/Center for American Progress)
Let it not be said that conservatives have failed to evolve on the question of gay rights. These days, even if you are adamantly opposed to marriage equality, you're required to express a kind of libertarian attitude toward homosexuality itself. Love the sinner, hate the sin? Not anymore. Now it's love the sinner, and as for the sin, well that's none of my business, you do what you like. But this public display of live-and-let-livism is a rather shocking contradiction with the very grounds on which many conservatives base their beliefs about this issue, namely the Old Testament. I give you Mike Huckabee, speaking yesterday at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition: "I'm not against anybody. I'm really not. I'm not a hater. I'm not homophobic," he said. "I honestly don't care what people do personally in their individual lives." Well hold on there! You honestly don't care? But doesn't the Bible condemn the act itself? Yahweh doesn't say, "Whatever you do in the bedroom is none of anybody...

Fetal Abnormalities: The Next Minefield in the Abortion Wars?

AP Images/Steve Helber
I n January, two legislators in Virginia’s House of Delegates introduced a bill that should have been uncontroversial. The bulk of HB 612 created new rules for genetic counselors practicing in the state, who had been unregulated and unlicensed. The roughly 95 genetic counselors already working in the state, screening pregnant women and adults for serious inheritable conditions, favored the law, which they saw as an extra layer of patient protection. The bill was so innocuous that by the time it passed in the House in late February, no one seemed to have noticed that it contained a conscience clause so sweeping that could allow counselors to refuse to provide fetal test results for conditions like Down Syndrome or Tay-Sachs Disease—the information patients came to them for in the first place—if they believed it could cause a woman to terminate her pregnancy. Originally, the bill had only created a loophole for genetic counselors who want to refrain from offering information about...

Thrown to the Lions

There have been many odd and interesting developments in American conservatism in the last few years, but there are few that liberals find more incomprehensible than the belief among many conservative Christians that not only are they currently being oppressed for their religious beliefs, but that today's outrages are but a prelude to a far more vicious and violent crackdown on Christianity that is right around the corner. There's a movie I want to talk about in a moment, but first, I'd like to explore where this is coming from, both from the perspective of the conservative Christians themselves, and the liberals who have such a hard time understanding it. Part of the problem is that the Christians most liberals know are more likely to be liberal Christians (I'll cop to that), so we've never actually sat down with someone who really feels oppressed and explored their thoughts on this issue. Another part is that the idea of Christian oppression gets its most visible airing from the...

Daily Meme: Democrats, Republicans, and What Women Want

The question of how to treat women in the workplace has been tripping up America for years. Dolly Parton probably said it best in her 1980 hit, "9 To 5" : "Workin' 9 to 5/What a way to make a livin'/Barely gettin' by/It's all takin' and no givin' /They just use your mind/And they never give you credit/ It's enough to drive you crazy If you let it." In 1998, Lily Ledbetter sued her longtime employer Goodyear claiming that she had been denied pay raises at her job as a supervisor at a plant because of her sex. She only discovered the pay inequities after receiving an anonymous note. Her case went all the way to the Supreme Court, where she lost, but it inspired the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act which passed in 2009 , signed by President Obama just as he was taking office. With the idea in mind that information is power when it comes to fair pay, today Obama will sign an executive order that bars federal contractors from taking punitive action against employees who share salary information...

What Marijuana Legalization Won't Be in 2016

Flickr/Tha Goodiez
If you're an advocate of marijuana legalization, you've had nothing but good news for some time now, and more keeps coming. Today at that snappy new Vox thing the hip kids put together, there's an article pointing out that although many people predicted a spike in crime once pot became legal in Colorado, statistics from Denver show that crime has actually declined a bit over the last few months compared to the same period in 2013. It's a small period of time, to be sure, but it doesn't look as though there has been an explosion of robberies or any other kind of crime. And with the rapid movement of public opinion in favor of legalization, it would be easy to predict that politicians are going to be changing their positions very soon, or as the Atlantic puts it in an article today, " Weed Is the Sleeper Issue of 2016 ." OK, so we can put that headline down to an overzealous editor; the article itself, which runs through the positions of a number of potential presidential candidates,...

Workers on the Edge

AP Images/Amy Sancetta
O ne of the most significant contributing causes of the widening inequality and insecurity in the American workforce is the accelerating shift to what economists call contingent employment. That means any form of employment that is not a standard payroll job with a regular paycheck. It can take the form of temps, contract workers, part time jobs, or jobs with irregular hours. A study by the GAO found that fully one-third of the U.S. workforce, or 42.6 million workers, was contingent, meaning in a work arrangement that is “not long-term, year-round, full-time employment with a single employer. “ It is a common myth that the shift to precarious, irregular employment reflects either the structure of the new, digital economy or the preferences of workers themselves. But in reality, most contingent work is the result of efforts by employers to undermine wages, job protections and worker bargaining power. Work that could be (and once was) standard payroll employment is turned into...

Beyond Corruption

AP Images/Mark Lennihan
T here was a time in our history, thankfully long past now, when bribery was common and money's slithery movement through the passages of American government was all but invisible, save for the occasional scandal that would burst forth into public consciousness. Today, we know much more about who's getting what from whom. Members of Congress have to declare their assets, lobbyists have to register and disclose their activities, and contributions are reported and tracked. Whatever you think about the current campaign finance system, it's much more transparent than it once was. But if outright bribery is rare, should we say that the system is good enough? It's a question we have to answer as we move into a new phase of the debate over money in politics. In the wake of last week's Supreme Court decision in McCutcheon v. F.E.C. , many liberals are nervous that the Court's conservative majority is poised to remove all limits on how much can be donated to candidates and parties. For their...

Daily Meme: Must. Kill. Obamacare.

Despite the invincible conviction on the right that Obamacare is a disaster and that Americans are losing their health insurance, a newly released Gallup poll shows the number of people without insurance has declined to 15.6 percent—its lowest level since 2008. The rate of uninsured dropped among all age groups, but the Affordable Care Act has made a significant dent in the number of poor and minority Americans without insurance. As Joan McCarter at Daily Kos points ou t , the Gallup numbers are key to undermining the Republican talking point that most of those signing up on the insurance exchanges already had health insurance. The GOP's response? Must. Kill. Obamacare —also the party's strategy for winning the midterms . Fox News contributor Juan Williams says while that may have worked in 2010, it's no surefire bet this time—and Republicans have no Plan B. The question, writes The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn, is not whether Obamacare is making a difference. "The question is how big...

Daily Meme: A Rough Week for Democracy

Once, long ago, lawmakers from both parties worked together to pass campaign finance reform legislation. It was a simpler time, albeit with terrorist attacks and wars in the Middle East and a presidential administration bent on giving tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans, and in 2002, Democratic Senator Russ Feingold Republican Senator John McCain (remember him?) saw their efforts to decrease the role of money in politics turned into law, adding to an overall campaign finance regulations. But since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. FEC decision, which allowed corporations to spend unlimited amounts on independent political advertising, and the rise of super PACS, the whole system has been wobbling. On Wednesday , another vestige of the system fell to First Amendment claims. McCutcheon v. FEC knocked down the total limits on individual campaign donations. While there are still caps on how much donors can give to a campaign or party, they can now give to as many...

How Should Liberals Feel About the Mozilla CEO Getting Pushed Out Over Marriage Equality?

By now you may have heard the story of Brendan Eich, who was named the CEO of the Mozilla corporation, which runs the Firefox web browser, then resigned ten days later after it was revealed that he donated $1,000 to the campaign for California's Proposition 8, which outlawed same-sex marriage in the state and was later overturned. Eich's resignation came after the company came under pressure from many directions, including the dating site OKCupid, which put a message on its site asking its users not to use Firefox. This is something of a dilemma for liberals: on one hand, we support marriage equality, but on the other, we also support freedom of thought and don't generally think people should be hounded from their jobs because of their beliefs on contentious issues. So where should you come down? In order to decide, there are a few questions you need to ask, some of which are easier to answer than others: What kind of an employee was Brendan Eich? This question, which may be the most...

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