Jobs, jobs, jobs. That is what Republican House Speaker John Boehner said would be priority No. 1 for Republicans after sweeping the House of Representatives and many state legislatures in 2010. This, Republicans said, was why they were elected: People wanted to see changes in the economy fast.
But, apparently, there was one other priority.
Almost immediately after coming into office in 2011, Virginia Republicans set the national stage for vital women’s health issues. House Bill 1 — the first bill Virginia Republicans chose to take on — was a personhood bill, a bill that define life beginning at conception. Not only would the bill have banned abortion, it would also have banned the birth control pill, which sometimes prevents birth by stopping the implantation of a fertilized egg.
An impartial observer might wonder why a personhood bill would be a top Republican priority. After all, the same election that put all these Republicans in power also had a personhood bill overwhelmingly rejected in Mississippi — a state so socially conservative that 46 percent of Mississippi Republicans want to make interracial marriage illegal, according to a recent poll from Public Policy Polling.
Nonetheless, this was the issue Virginia Republicans decided to give serious attention. In an economy with a 9 percent unemployment rate at the time, this was the most important issue to Virginia Republicans.
Ohio wasn’t much luckier with its crop of Republicans. Five months after inauguration, the Ohio House passed its “heartbeat” bill, or H.B. 125. To this day, it’s the most radical anti-abortion bill in the country. Not only would it ban abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected, but the bill makes no exceptions for rape, incest or life-threatening circumstances.
Ohio and Virginia were not alone. Republicans were pushing anti-abortion, anti-contraception bills all around the nation. Pennsylvania, Kansas, Mississippi and Texas all made national headlines with their own bills. In more than 20 states, bills have been introduced to restrict insurance coverage of abortions, according to ABC News. At the federal level, Republicans have made funding for Planned Parenthood a top issue time and time again, and insurance companies covering contraception recently became such a big issue that the White House had to step in.
So much for keeping the government out of health care. The same political party that clamored for small government now couldn’t wait to regulate women’s health care. Apparently, the economy is too much for the government to handle, but every woman’s uterus is fair game.
There has been some backlash. After Virginia tried to pass a bill that would force doctors to give patients seeking abortion a transvaginal ultrasound, women’s health advocates in states across the nation organized protests, leading to governors and state legislatures beginning to back down in their rhetoric. Even Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican who originally supported the transvaginal ultrasound bill, has been downplaying his involvement in Virginia’s anti-abortion, anti-contraception bills.
Now, Mitt Romney, the likely GOP nominee for president, is facing some of the backlash. In a recent Gallup poll, women came out severely against Romney. In the category of women under 50, Obama held 60 percent of voters, while Romney held only 30 percent. That’s right, Obama now leads with women under 50 by a two-to-one margin.
But while that may stop some rhetoric, the bills and laws are still coming forward. The Ohio heartbeat bill is still being pushed by some Republicans in the Ohio Senate, and a personhood initiative could show up in Ohio’s 2012 ballot after a stamp of approval from Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted. Mississippi also plans to reintroduce its personhood initiative in the 2012 ballot, and other states are beginning to pass around petitions for their own initiatives as well.
In the end, one is left to wonder what could stop social conservatives. Public backlash and poor polling don’t seem to be enough to stop the Republican war on women, and in some cases it might have actually emboldened them.
For a full hour Thursday night, Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown and Republican challenger Josh Mandel continued their feisty fight for Ohio’s U.S. Senate seat. For the most part, the debate centered on the candidates’ records and personal attacks, with policy specifics spewing out in between.
Apparently, the barrage of attacks is not what the candidates had in mind before the debate started. Throughout the debate, both candidates asked for substance, not attacks. At one point, Brown said, “I appreciate this clash of ideas. That’s what this debate should be about.” At another point, Mandel said, “We need less attacking, and we need more policy ideas to put people back to work.”
These comments came well into the debate. By that time, Mandel had criticized Brown for “Washington speak” so many times that an exasperated Brown quipped, “I don’t get this. Every answer is about Washington speak.”
Brown also launched his own attacks, which focused on Mandel’s dishonesty on the campaign trail, which previously earned Mandel a “Pants on Fire” crown from Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer, and Mandel, who is also Ohio’s treasurer, missing state treasurer meetings to run for political office.
But Ohioans have seen enough of the attacks in the hundreds of campaign ads that have bombarded the state in the past year. Voters probably want to hear more about how each candidate will affect them, and the candidates gave enough details to get some idea of where each of them will go.
On economic issues, Brown established the key difference between the two candidates’ economic policies: Mandel, like most of his Republican colleagues, believes in the trickle-down theory. The economic theory says when the rich grow, they can create jobs by hiring more employees and expanding businesses. In other words, proponents of the theory believe the success of the rich “trickles down” to the middle class and poor through more job opportunities. Belief in this theory is also why most Republicans call the wealthy “job creators.” Under the trickle-down theory, the wealthy are deregulated and get tax cuts so it’s easier for them to create jobs.
On the other hand, Brown says he supports a middle-out approach, which focuses on policies that target the middle class. That is how sustainable employment and growth are attained, according to Brown. Under the middle-out approach, tax cuts and spending policies target the middle class, and the wealthy own a higher tax burden to support government programs.
Some economists, like left-leaning Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, say the trickle-down theory should have been put to rest with the financial crisis of 2008. After all, deregulation is now credited with being the primary cause of 2008’s economic crisis. In that context, more deregulation seems like a bad idea.
Still, Brown’s contrast to Mandel holds true. Brown has
repeatedly called for higher taxes on the rich. In the debate, he touted his
support for the auto bailout and once again mocked Mandel’s promise to not
raise any taxes. These are policies that do end up benefiting the middle class
more than the wealthy. The auto bailout in particular has been credited with
saving thousands of middle-class jobs.
On the other side, Mandel told debate watchers to go to his website and then offered some quick talking points: simplify the tax code, end Wall Street bailouts and use Ohio’s natural gas and oil resources “in a responsible way.” How Mandel wants to simplify the tax code is the issue. On his website, Mandel says he supports “a flatter, fairer income tax with only one or two brackets, eliminating almost all of the credits, exemptions and loopholes.” A study by five leading economists suggests a flat tax model would greatly benefit the wealthy and actually hurt the well-being of the middle class and poor. That matches with the trickle-down economic theory.
Another suggestion on Mandel’s website says, “Help job creators. Reduce capital gains and corporate taxes, and allow for a small business income deduction.” The small business portion would help some in the middle class, but an analysis from The Washington Post found 80 percent of capital gains incomes benefit 5 percent of Americans and half of all capital gains have gone to the top 0.1 percent of Americans. So a capital gains tax cut would, again, match the trickle-down economic theory.
What all this means is on economic issues the choice of candidates depends mostly on what economic theory a voter believes. Brown believes in focusing economic policies that target the middle class, while Mandel mostly supports policies that generally support what he calls “job creators” — or the wealthy.
On partisanship, both sides once again threw out different ideas. Although he was asked for three ideas, Brown only gave one: fix the filibuster. The filibuster is a U.S. Senate procedure that allows 41 out of 100 senators to indefinitely halt any laws. The only way to break the filibuster is by having a supermajority of 60 senators — a rarity in American politics. Brown said if this rule was removed, a lot more could get done in Congress.
Mandel had different ideas for stopping partisan gridlock in Washington, D.C. He touted his support for No Budget, No Pay, which would require members of Congress to pass a budget in order to get paid. He also expressed his support for term limits, saying lifelong politicians only add to the partisanship in Congress. Then, in a strange twist, Mandel’s last suggestion was to stop bailouts, which has nothing to do with partisanship or gridlock in Congress.
Then came Obamacare. Brown said he was “proud” of his vote and continued supporting the law, citing the millions of Americans it will insure. Meanwhile, Mandel responded to the Obamacare question by saying, “The federal government takeover of health care is not the answer.”
The fact of the matter is Obamacare is not a “government
takeover of health care.” Far from it. The plan doesn’t even have a public
option that would allow Americans to buy into a public, nonprofit insurance
pool — an idea that actually has majority support in the U.S. Instead,
Obamacare is a series of complicated reforms to the health insurance industry.
There are way too many reforms to list, but the most basic
effect of Obamacare is that more people will be insured. That’s right, in the
supposed “government takeover of health care,” insurance companies actually gain
more customers. That’s the whole point of the individual mandate and the many
subsidies in Obamacare that try to make insurance affordable for all Americans.
Mandel made another misleading claim when he said Obamacare “stole” from Medicare, with the implication that the cuts hurt seniors utilizing the program. It is true Obamacare cuts Medicare spending, but the cuts target waste and payments to hospitals and insurers. It does not directly cut benefits.
The one area with little disagreement also happened to be the one area with the most misleading: China. It’s not a new trend for politicians to attack China. The Asian country has become the scapegoat for all economic problems in the U.S. But in this election cycle, politicians have brandished a new line to attack China: currency manipulation. This, as Ohioans have likely heard dozens of times, is why jobs are leaving Ohio and why the amount of manufacturing jobs has dropped in the U.S. In fact, if politicians are taken at their word, it’s probably the entire reason the U.S. economy is in a bad spot.
In the Brown-Mandel debate, Brown repeatedly pointed to his currency manipulation bill, which he claims would put an end to Chinese currency manipulation. Mandel also made references to getting tough on China’s currency manipulation.
One problem: China is no longer manipulating its currency. There is no doubt China greatly massaged its currency in the past to gain an unfair advantage, but those days are over, says Joseph Gagnon, an economist focused on trade and currency manipulation. Gagnon argues the problem with currency manipulation is no longer a problem with China; it’s a problem with Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland and Saudi Arabia. If the U.S. wants to crack down on currency manipulation, those countries should be the targets, not China, he argues.
In other words, if currency manipulation is a problem, Mandel was right when he said that countries other than China need to be targeted. To Brown’s credit, his currency manipulation bill targets any country engaging in currency manipulation, not just China. The problem seems to be the misleading campaign rhetoric, not proposed policy.
The debate went on to cover many more issues. Just like the first debate, Brown typically took the liberal position and Mandel typically took the conservative position on social issues like gay rights and abortion. Both touted vague support for small businesses. Each candidate claimed to support military bases in Ohio, although Mandel specified he wants bases in Europe closed down to save money. As far as debates go, the contrast could not be any clearer, and the candidates disagreed on nearly every issue.
The final debate between the two U.S. Senate candidates will take place in Cincinnati on Oct. 25.
UPDATE 11-8-12: An aide to Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls tells CityBeat that the $7 million loan will only go toward moving two of the shelters: the Drop Inn Center and a new women's shelter to be operated by the YWCA. Because the City Gospel Mission requires a religious component to is outreach to the homeless, it cannot receive federal funding. The original story follows below.
City Council on Wednesday signed off on a plan to apply for federal loans to help move three Cincinnati homeless shelters to new locations.
Council members voted with all but one approving the application for $37 million in loans, $7 million of which would move the Washington Park-area shelters.
If the loan is approved, the City Gospel Mission would move to the West End, a new women’s shelter would be build in Mount Auburn and the Drop Inn Center would move to a yet-undetermined location.
Cincinnati had pledged $10 million toward relocating the shelters. The loan would be paid back at $532,000 a year for the next 20 years.
Councilman Chris Smitherman was the sole dissenting voice. He said he supports the homeless, but he is wary of the risks of the loan and the city’s ability to pay it back.
Councilman Chris Seelbach, who said he moved to Over-the-Rhine shortly after the 2001 riots, voted to approve applying for the loan, but also voiced some concern.
“The reason I moved is because I loved it; I fell in love with the diversity of the neighborhood,” he said, noting income diversity as well as racial and ethnic.
“I would hope that we could find a location for the Drop that is in Over-the-Rhine and there isn’t a continued effort to push low income people out of Over-the-Rhine.”
Josh Spring, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, said the shelters the city has now are perfectly adequate and the money could be spent better developing affordable housing and creating jobs to help eliminate homelessness.
“Historically a majority of shelters started between 1982 and 1990 because in that era we cut dollars to housing and employment,” Spring said.
“Shelters were never created to end homelessness. Shelters were created for people to have a safe place once everything else had failed them. We shouldn’t let everything else fail them.”
While the presidential candidates prepared for Wednesday’s debate, Michelle Obama urged Cincinnatians on Tuesday to take advantage of the first day of early voting, before leading a group to the board of elections to cast their ballots.
“I’ve got news for you: Here in Ohio it’s already Election Day. Early voting starts today,” Obama told a crowd of 6,800 inside the Duke Energy Convention Center. She urged everyone to reach out and encourage their friends to vote after they had cast their own ballots.
“Twitter them. Tweet them. What do you do? It’s tweeting, right? Tweet them,” she joked to the crowd.
Earlier in the morning, the campaign of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney kicked off its “Commit to Mitt Early Vote Express” statewide bus tour in downtown Cincinnati.
The tour started in Hamilton County before moving through Butler County and is scheduled to end the day in Preble County.
The bus is scheduled to make its way through every region of Ohio during the early voting period and will serve as a mobile campaign headquarters, dispensing voter contact materials and featuring Romney campaign surrogates, according to a news release.
At the convention center, Michelle Obama avoided some of the direct attacks employed by her husband or the Romney campaign, but used her 30-minute speech to counter some of the criticisms from the GOP nominee, recapping some of her convention speech.
“Our families weren’t asking for much,” Michelle said of her own and Barack’s families. “They didn’t begrudge anyone else’s success, you know, they didn’t mind if others had much more than they did, in fact they admired it. That’s why they pushed us to succeed.”
Her comment seemed to come in response to an attack that the Romney campaign levied against Barack Obama after his infamous “you didn’t build that” comment, where the GOP candidate argues that Obama and Democrats are fostering enmity among the middle class by stoking jealousy of rich, successful Americans like Mitt Romney.
“Our families believed also that when you work hard and have done well and finally walk through that doorway of opportunity, you don’t slam it shut behind you,” Michelle Obama continued.
“No, you reach back and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed. You see, that’s how Barack and I and so many of you were raised. … We learned that the truth matters – you don’t take shortcuts, you don’t game the system, you don’t play by your own set of rules.”
She went on to say that Americans are part of something bigger than themselves and obligated to give back to others, counter to the Republicans’ narrative of the individual pulled up by his or her own bootstraps.
Danielle Henderson, 40, a teacher’s assistant from Cincinnati, said she was a fan of the first lady’s and joked that she wanted to know if Michelle was running for president in 2016.
“Behind every good man is a good woman,” Henderson said. “Honestly, a woman is a backbone of the family.”
She said she thought the first family was a good model for the rest of the country.
Henderson’s mother-in-law Barbara joked that she was excited to see what the first lady was going to wear.
“I see trends she sets trickle down to other politicians’ wives,” she joked.
He might not be the incumbent, but Brad Wenstrup said details contained in the latest campaign finance reports show he has more grassroots support among the GOP faithful than U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Miami Township).
Wenstrup is challenging Schmidt in the March 6 Republican primary for the right to be the party’s candidate for the Ohio 2nd Congressional District seat in November.
An error in how voters update their address online caused
updated registration records to be delivered late to Ohio’s election
officials. With about a week left in Ohio’s voting process, the late delivery might have caused the Hamilton County Board of
Elections to mistakenly reject some eligible voters because officials did not
have the voters’ current addresses.
Amy Searcy, director of elections at the board, says it’s unclear how many registered voters were affected, but 2,129 updated registration records were sent from Ohio Secretary of State John Husted’s office. She says the number could end up varying since some of the records are duplicates.
Across the state, an unknown number of ballots were
mistakenly rejected as 33,000 registration records were sent late on
Monday and Tuesday. Cleveland's The Plain Dealer reported 71 voters were mistakenly rejected in Cuyahoga County.
Matt McClellan, Husted’s spokesperson, said Husted’s offices were previously unaware of the data, which is why it wasn’t requested before the glitch was detected by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV).
The glitch caused the BMV to not properly send online address changes to Husted’s office, says Joe Andrews, communications director at the Ohio Department of Public Safety, which oversees the BMV. He added, “As soon as we discovered it, we fixed it. And I think that, in cooperation with the secretary of state’s office, the problem has been remedied.”
In a directive detailing the delay, Husted touted the benefits of the catch.
“While the timing is unfortunate, we are extremely pleased that the data from this new system can be sent electronically and will require minimal data entry,” he wrote. “Additionally, the new system has the potential to help reduce provisional ballots significantly.”
Outdated registration records are one of the major reasons voters cast provisional ballots, which are ballots given to voters whose eligibility is unclear. In 2008, nearly 205,000 provisional ballots were cast and about 40,000 — about 20 percent — were rejected for varying reasons. Recently, a federal judge blocked an Ohio law that led to 14,000 of those rejections. Husted followed up that ruling with an appeal and a request for an emergency stay.
Tim Burke, chairman of the county Board of Elections and county Democratic Party, expressed mixed feelings about the caught error.
“Obviously, you hate like hell to have the secretary of state’s office, which had promised to have a very efficient election, popping something like that on us seven days out,” he says. “Having said that, I’m glad at least once they recognized that these names are out there they moved to get them to us so that we can do our best to ensure that these folks are not disenfranchised because of some administrative glitch.”
He says the board will contact any mistakenly rejected voters.
President Barack Obama has canceled scheduled Wednesday appearances in Cincinnati and Akron to coordinate recovery efforts in the wake of super storm Sandy, the White House announced Tuesday.
Obama was scheduled to highlight his second-term agenda from economic growth and the middle class, according to a news release. The release promised a “concrete and specific plan for the next four years.” Both Obama and his Republican rival Mitt Romney have been vague on details of exactly what they would do if elected next Tuesday.
Vice President Joe Biden had also canceled Tuesday appearances in Wooster and Gambier, Ohio, “due to local preparations and response efforts” for the storm.
Meanwhile Romney campaigned Tuesday morning near Dayton, where his campaign collected supplies and donation to be sent to storm-affected areas of New Jersey.
According to emails and phone calls received by WWVA-AM West
Virginia talk show host David Blomquist, miners said they were told that
attendance at the Romney event would be mandatory and unpaid.
As first reported by The Plain Dealer in Cleveland on Tuesday, mine owner Murray Energy Chief Financial Officer Rob Moore told Blomquist that managers “communicated to our workforce that the attendance at the Romney event was mandatory, but no one was forced to attend.” He said that people who did now show up to the event, which organizers say drew 1,500 miners and family members, were not penalized for their absence.
Blomquist said during the radio show that current and former
employees had called and emailed him saying they feel they were forced to go,
had to take off a day without pay and a roll call was taken, which caused some
employees to believe they would lose their jobs if they didn’t show up.
“Just for the record, if we did not go, we knew what would happen,” Blomquist read from an email he had received. “It is wrong what we were made to do because of the outcome if we don’t.”
The Columbus Dispatch reported that Murray Energy Corp.
founder Robert Murray attended the Tuesday breakfast hosted by the Ohio delegation to the Republican National Convention. Murray told the newspaper that the decision to
close the mine was made at the request of the Secret Service.
Murray disputed the report that miners weren’t paid for the day, saying they were compensated for the hours they spend underground, from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. The mine was re-opened for a second shift at 4 p.m.
“They were all there voluntarily,” Murray said of the miners
who attended the Romney event, which was also attended by Republican U.S.
Senator Rob Portman and Ohio Treasurer and Senate candidate Josh Mandel.
“You don’t pay people to go voluntarily to a political event. If I would’ve paid them you would be saying you want it the other way. This is all a bunch of nonsense,” Murray told The Dispatch. Federal law prohibits the paying of private employees to attend a political event.
Murray blames layoffs at some of his mines on Obama’s
policies. His companies have had a history of environmental and safety violations,
and its Political Action Committee has held fundraisers for and donated to
Romney’s Ohio campaign spokesman disputed that the Secret Service had the mine shut down, telling The Dispatch in an email that “It was Murray Energy’s decision to close the Century Mine, not the campaign’s or the Secret Services.” His comment echoes what Murray CFO Moore said on the radio show, that management wanted to attend the event and they couldn’t have miners underground without management present.
For his part, radio host Blomquist took issue with the fact that
the miners lost out on a full eight hours of pay because of a political event.
“My whole point is that nobody should be pressured into attending anyone’s political event,” he told The Plain Dealer. “If they shut the mine down, why should they lose a day’s pay? There are some guys that just want to go to work, feed their family and go home.”