Right-wing media misleadingly hyped a congressional hearing to falsely claim that disability fraud is leading to increased claims and depleting the Social Security Disability Trust Fund. However, testimony from a Social Security Administration official at the hearing revealed that fraud is not a major problem in the disability program and demographic changes explain increased disability claims.
The Washington Post's Melinda Henneberger hid the facts behind a defeated Texas bill that sought to ban abortions after 20 weeks, which a majority of Texans opposed and which would have unconstitutionally limited access to safe and legal women's health services.
On June 25, a Democratic filibuster during a special session of the Texas state senate effectively blocked a bill that would have banned all abortions in the state after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The bill included exceptions for cases when the life of the mother was threatened but not for rape or incest, and if it had passed Texas would have some of the strictest abortion restrictions in the country. Governor Rick Perry has called a second special session to take up the bill again, starting July 1.
Henneberger claimed in her Washington Post blog She The People that while she admired Wendy Davis, the Democratic senator who carried out the filibuster, she still supported the bill, in part because more Americans and American women favor than oppose restricting abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy:
Because no matter how many thousands of times abortion rights supporters repeat that the bill's ban on abortions after 20 weeks is anti-woman -- hateful in effect and by design -- that's just the opposite of the way I see it. And it isn't how a majority of Americans, or American women, see it, either:
In a United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll, Americans said they favor a bill like the Texas measure, 48 percent to 44 percent. More than half of politically unaffiliated Americans -- 53 percent -- backed such a bill. And 50 percent of women said they were in favor compared to 46 percent of men.
But a recent poll revealed that in fact a majority of Texans do not support the restrictions on abortion the bill proposed. According to the polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner (GQR), a representative poll conducted June 17 - 19 found that 51 percent of Texans opposed the legislation. 63 percent said the state has enough restrictions on abortion already, and 80 percent did not want the special session to deal with matters of abortion at all. Fifty-two percent of Texans think abortion should be legal in most or all cases, and 74 percent -- including a majority of Republicans and Independents -- say private medical decisions about abortion should not be made by politicians. Fifty-seven percent do not trust the governor or the legislature to make decisions about women's healthcare.
Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) criticized The Wall Street Journal editorial board member James Taranto's "bizarre and deeply out of touch understanding of sexual assault," following Taranto's claim that efforts to address the epidemic of sexual assault in the military constitutes a "war on men."
In a June 17 WSJ column, Taranto dismissed the epidemic of sexual assault in the military, claiming that Sen. McCaskill's efforts to address the growing problem contributed to a "war on men." McCaskill has blocked the promotion of Lt. Gen. Susan J. Helms, who ignored her legal advisors to overturn the ruling of an Air Force jury that found an officer guilty of sexual assault. Taranto blamed the victim of the assault for "recklessness" and claimed that McCaskill's work was an "effort to criminalize male sexuality."
McCaskill responded to Taranto on June 27 in an op-ed at the Daily Beast, writing that he has a "disregard for the severity of sexual assault" and highlighting his "bizarre and deeply out of touch understanding of sexual assault":
Mr. Taranto says that I'm involved in a crusade to "criminalize male sexuality." For decades, from my time as a courtroom prosecutor and throughout my career in public service, I have indeed done my best to criminalize violence. And I have never subscribed to Mr. Taranto's bizarre and deeply out of touch understanding of sexual assault as somehow being a two-way street between a victim and an assailant.
Mr. Taranto's arguments contribute to an environment that purposely places blame in all the wrong places, and has made the current culture and status quo an obstruction to sorely needed change.
My colleagues and I are fighting not to criminalize men, but to bring the cowards who commit sexual assault to justice. And our fight won't stop until we give the brave men and women of our military the resources and justice they deserve.
Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham endorsed the anti-immigrant hate group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) on her radio show, following months of her campaign to kill the bipartisan effort for comprehensive immigration reform.
During a commercial break between segments on The Laura Ingraham Show on June 20, a recording played of Ingraham endorsing FAIR, claiming that immigration reform was "a declaration of war on American workers and taxpayers" and that FAIR fought "for true reform that puts the future of America first":
INGRAHAM: I want you to know there's an organization fighting to restore integrity to our immigration system and to make sure that your voice is heard. I'm talking about the Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR. FAIR works for strong border security and enforcement to stop illegal immigration, and FAIR leads the fight to make sure that we don't just keep importing more and more foreign labor to replace American workers, who want and need jobs. Right now, special interests are giving us phony promises of enforcement, while they're working hard to make sure millions get amnesty. They don't care about the rule of law or the American worker, that's not their priority. Listen, amnesty is not immigration reform. It's a declaration of war on American workers and taxpayers. But you can help FAIR fight for true reform that puts the future of America first. Go to FAIRus.org. Let's retake control of the immigration debate. Get involved and make a difference at FAIRus.org.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has designated FAIR as an anti-immigrant hate group, writing "FAIR leaders have ties to white supremacist groups and eugenicists and have made many racist statements. Its advertisements have been rejected because of racist content." FAIR has promoted people who made violent threats against immigrants, has known ties to the nativist leader John Tanton, and has received money from white supremacist groups. The group's founder and president Dan Stein also published an error-ridden piece for Politico in April urging Republicans to "walk away" from a deal on comprehensive immigration reform legislation.
Ingraham's on-air endorsement of FAIR follows months of her campaigning against the bipartisan effort to reform immigration policy. In March, while guest-hosting for host Bill O'Reilly on his Fox News show, Ingraham let FAIR spokesman Bob Dane deny that the anti-immigrant organization is a hate group while demonizing the Southern Poverty Law Center. She has hosted a nativist group director on her radio show to push debunked immigration myths, argued that a "two-tiered" class system for undocumented immigrants "sits better" with her than comprehensive reform, claimed that immigration reform will "destroy American sovereignty," and has promoted smears against Latinos. Ingraham has also promised to campaign against congressional Republicans who support comprehensive immigration reform.
The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto dismissed the epidemic of sexual assault in the military, claiming that efforts to address the growing problem contributed to a "war on men" and an "effort to criminalize male sexuality."
In May, the Department of Defense released its "Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military," which found that up to 26,000 service members may have been the victim of some form of sexual assault last year, up from an estimated 19,000 in 2010. The report also found that 62 percent of victims who reported their assault faced retaliation as a result. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel responded to the report by calling the assaults "a despicable crime" that is "a threat to the safety and the welfare of our people," and General Martin Dempsey affirmed that sexual assaults constitute a "crisis" in the military.
In an effort to address this longstanding problem, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) has blocked the promotion of Lt. Gen. Susan J. Helms, who granted clemency to an officer found guilty of sexual assault, in an effort to obtain more information about why the officer was effectively pardoned. As The Washington Post reported, an Air Force jury found the officer guilty of sexually assaulting a female lieutenant in the back seat of a car, and sentenced him to 60 days behind bars, a loss of pay, and dismissal from the Air Force.
Helms' decision to effectively pardon the officer "ignored the recommendations of [her] legal advisers and overruled a jury's findings -- without publicly revealing why." The Post explained that McCaskill has not placed a permanent hold on the promotion, but is "blocking Helms's nomination until she receives more information about the general's decision."*
Taranto, a member of the Journal's editorial board, dismissed these facts to claim that McCaskill's effort to address the growing problem of sexual assault in the military was a "war on men" and a "political campaign" that showed "signs of becoming an effort to criminalize male sexuality." He also claimed that the female lieutenant who reported that she had been assaulted acted just as "recklessly" as the accused attacker, apparently by doing nothing more than getting into the same vehicle as him.
But McCaskill is not trying to re-litigate the case; she is trying to determine why Helms ignored her legal advisers and overturned a jury of five Air Force officers. As the Post explained, advocacy groups charge that "any decision to overrule a jury's verdict for no apparent reason has a powerful dampening effect," contributing to a culture in which the majority of sexual assaults in the military remain unreported.
The Department of Defense report on sexual assault found that while 26,000 service members said they were assaulted last year, only about 11 percent of those cases were reported. The findings listed several reasons why individuals did not report the assault to a military authority, including that they "did not want anyone to know," "felt uncomfortable making a report," and "thought they would not be believed." The report also noted that concerns about "negative scrutiny by others" keeps many victims from reporting their assaults.
Taranto's dismissal of the victim's accounts and his insistence that they were equally responsible for the reported assault is a form of victim-blaming -- the very type of stigmatization that the Department identified as encouraging victims to remain silent about their assault.
While speaking out against the growing epidemic of sexual assaults, Defense Secretary Hagel noted that the Department of Defense should "establish an environment of dignity and respect, where sexual assault is not tolerated, condoned or ignored." But Taranto's victim-blaming approach -- and insistence that efforts to address this growing problem are attacks on men and male sexuality -- is a perfect example of the rhetoric that contributes to the very culture and environment the DOD seeks to eliminate.
UPDATE: Taranto doubled down on his claim that the effort to reduce sexual assaults in the military is leading to a "war on men" on The Wall Street Journal's webshow Opinion Journal Live.
A Wall Street Journal op-ed advocated for police around the country to use New York City's "stop-and-frisk" policy as a model, which has no proven evidence of reducing crime rates and has historically targeted racial minorities.
Stop-and-frisk, the controversial policy which allows police officers to stop and search individuals they consider to be suspicious, is currently under review in the case Floyd v. New York. The New York Police Department has conducted more than four million stops since 2002, and according to a New York Times editorial, a federal judge "noted that nearly 90 percent of the time the police found no criminal behavior." The suit charges the NYPD with illegally detaining these individuals "not because of suspicious behavior but because of their race."
In her Journal op-ed, Heather Mac Donald disputed these charges, claiming that stop-and-frisk policies in New York have "helped the city achieve an astonishing drop in violent crime" and should be New York's "most valued export" along with other NYPD policies to the rest of the nation. She claimed that stop-and-frisks overwhelmingly targeted blacks and Hispanics because "the preponderance of crime perpetrators, and victims, in New York are also minorities," and concluded the crime rate would increase nationwide if the policy were overturned.
But there is no evidence that stop-and-frisk has decreased crime in New York City. New York Magazine noted that while stop-and-frisks have "skyrocketed" in the past decade, non-fatal shootings in the city have remained steady. Stop-and-frisk has done little to identify illegal firearms, as a New York Times editorial noted, as "guns were seized in only 0.15 percent of all stops." And the New York Civil Liberties Union similarly explained that while total violent crime fell in New York City by 29 percent from 2001 to 2010, cities that did not have stop-and-frisk policies saw even larger violent crime declines in the same time period, by as much as "59 percent in Los Angeles, 56 percent in New Orleans, 49 percent in Dallas, and 37 percent in Baltimore."
In fact, the drop in violence in New York City is part of a trend that preceded widespread use of stop-and-frisk. As the Times reported, New York's sharpest drop in homicides came before 2002, the year stop-and-frisks started rising in New York. Forbes magazine provided the following graph, showing that "the number of murders decreased sharply between 1990 and 1998," while then remaining relatively steady during the period that stop-and-frisks increased dramatically:
The National Review editorial board used the murder conviction of Kermit Gosnell to push for an abortion ban it acknowledges to be unconstitutional that would outlaw all abortions after 20 weeks, even in cases when the health of the mother is at risk.
Gosnell was convicted on May 13 for murdering three infants while breaking Pennsylvania abortion laws and preforming procedures that bore no resemblance to legal women's health services. Despite these facts, right-wing media have repeatedly sought to use Gosnell's violent acts to attack legal and safe abortion procedures in the United States.
A June 11 National Review editorial took these efforts further by using the Gosnell conviction to promote legislation that would severely limit access to safe, life-saving procedures. The editorial board hyped a bill introduced to the House Judiciary Committee by Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) that seeks to ban abortions performed after the 20th week of pregnancy. The bill does not provide exceptions to the ban in cases when the health of the mother is at risk, or in cases of rape or incest, and only permits abortions in cases where the life of the mother is threatened. The National Review acknowledged that "the bill is at odds with current Supreme Court jurisprudence," but urged Congress to "fight" for it anyway, claiming the Gosnell conviction revealed current abortion laws are immoral.
The National Review's endorsement of Franks' bill by linking it to the Gosnell murders ignores the realities of legal abortion in the United States. As Media Matters has previously noted, the Supreme Court has become increasingly anti-choice, repeatedly limiting the rights of women to terminate pregnancies. Currently, the Supreme Court has ruled that abortions are "legal so long as the fetus isn't 'viable,' which is usually around 24 weeks," and abortions performed after that point are already severely restricted by law. The vast majority of states prohibit abortions after fetal viability or 24 weeks, and just a few provide an exception when the life of the mother is threatened or in cases of rape or incest. Abortions after week 21 are extremely rare, making up only about 1 percent of all abortions, and are very safe. A medical study published in 2012 concluded that "[l]egal induced abortion is markedly safer than childbirth. The risk of death associated with childbirth is approximately 14 times higher than that with abortion."
As Salon's Irin Carmon noted, many women went to Gosnell's clinic "because they felt they had no alternative." The Gosnell case revealed the need for women to have access to safe, affordable, and legal abortion services -- the same services that Franks' bill seeks to unconstitutionally limit and outlaw. Right-wing media's support for this legislation and continued demonization of abortion puts women's legal right to protect their health under threat.
Right-wing media have urged Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) to abandon comprehensive immigration reform efforts in their continued effort to thwart the Senate's attempt to overhaul the nation's immigration system.
The Wall Street Journal encouraged Republican obstructionism by calling on the GOP to filibuster President Obama's nominees for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia circuit, ignoring that historic levels of GOP obstructionism have caused judicial emergencies and falsely claiming that Obama is trying to "pack" the court.
On June 4, Obama nominated Cornelia Pillard, Patricia Millett, and Robert Wilkins to fill vacancies on the D.C. Circuit. In his June 4 remarks announcing the nominations, Obama highlighted that Republicans have routinely blocked his nominees to the court in the past, and asked that the Senate give his current nominees an "up or down vote" without partisan obstruction. If Republicans filibuster these current nominees, Senate Democrats may move to change filibuster rules in order to allow a simple majority to confirm nominees.
Despite these remarks, a June 5 Journal editorial urged Republicans to obstruct Obama's most recent nominations, claiming that Democrats were bluffing in their response to the filibuster and falsely stating that the President sought to "pack a court that is often considered the second most important in the country."
But as Media Matters has noted, filling vacant seats is nothing like court packing, which seeks to change the total number of seats on the court. The D.C. Circuit currently has several of its judgeships vacant, resulting in judicial emergencies as the vacancies leave the court skewed towards the Republicans on the bench. The resulting decisions have been unsurprisingly hostile to progressive legislation and policy supported by Democratic presidents.
Furthermore, the Journal itself has previously reported on the negative effects of the rampant GOP obstructionism that has prevented the administration from addressing these judicial emergencies. The Journal's Washington Bureau Chief Gerald F. Seib detailed how GOP obstructionism made the Senate "an embarrassment to itself" that "increasingly infects the rest of government with its paralysis."
In fact, according to Dr. Sheldon Goldman, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts who focuses on judicial nominations, "the level of obstruction of Obama circuit court nominees during the last Congress was unprecedented." The Washington Post's Greg Sargent explained Goldman's research:
Goldman calculates his Index of Obstruction and Delay by adding together the number of unconfirmed nominations, plus the number of nominations that took more than 180 days to confirm (not including nominations towards the end of a given Congress) and dividing that by the total number of nominations. During the last Congress, Goldman calculates, the Index of Obstruction and Delay for Obama circuit court nominations was 0.9524.
"That's the highest that's ever been recorded," he tells me. "In this last Congress it approached total obstruction or delay."
By contrast, during the 108th Congress, from 2003-2004 - which is the most comparable, because George W. Bush was president and Republican controlled the Senate, meaning Dems had to use procedural tactics available to the minority to block nominations -- the Index of Obstruction and Delay for Bush circuit court nominations was far lower, at 0.6176.
On Obama's district court nominations during the 112th Congress, Goldman's Index of Obstruction and Delay was a high 0.8716, he says. Nothing in Bush's years comes even close, he adds.
Sexist comments made on Fox News following the report that a record number of women earn more than their spouses hides the realities of the research, which reveals continued class and gender inequality for women.
Pew Research's May 29 study, which found that mothers are the primary or sole breadwinner in a record 40 percent of all American households with children, sparked backlash at Fox News, with several Fox contributors claiming the research revealed the breakdown of American society. Fox News contributor Erick Erickson claimed the rise in female breadwinners was contrary to the natural order and was "tearing us apart," and later doubled-down on his remarks on his blog and radio show, claiming that women who believe "they can have it all" are the "crux of the problem."
The sexism in Erickson's comments has been denounced, even by his own female coworkers at Fox News. The inflammatory rhetoric, however, also serves to hide the facts behind the research: that income inequality and class division are still deeply-rooted problems in America, revealing once again the need for equal pay and a strong social safety net.
What the study highlighted, and what Erickson and his fellow Fox News commentators ignored, is the persistent class divide among mothers. According to the data, married mothers who earned more than their husbands were "disproportionally white and college educated." The single mothers, on the other hand, were "more likely to be black or Hispanic, and less likely to have a college degree." They also made significantly less: single mothers in the study had a median income of $23,000, about a quarter of the median income of couples with a female primary earner. If those single mothers were never married, their median income dropped to $17,400, hovering near the poverty threshold.
Furthermore, though more women may be "breadwinners," women still earn significantly less than men. The report showed that 75 percent of husbands still make more than their wives. In fact, women's wages decreased in 2012, causing the gender-wage gap to widen with women earning only 80.9 percent of what men earned, or about $163 dollars less per week. If men are earning less in their households, as Slate's Amanda Marcotte noted, this means "less money overall for the average American home":
What's really hurting Americans isn't female equality, but growing income inequality between the rich and everyone else. Pitting men against women is simply a distraction from the real economic issues facing us all.
Economist Heidi Hartmann, president of the Institute for Women's Policy Research, estimates that if the gender-wage gap were closed, it would grow the U.S. economy by at least three to four percentage points. And as Senator Elizabeth Warren highlighted earlier this year, a recent study showed that flat minimum wage growth over the past 40 years has coincided with increased inequality across a number of indicators. Had the minimum wage grown at the same rate as productivity, workers would currently be making about $22 an hour. Whether men or women are winning the bread seems less important when overall income inequality in the U.S. is getting worse. As The Huffington Post reported, the poor are getting poorer while the rich "just keep getting richer," largely thanks to low tax rates for higher earners and cuts to the social safety net.
Closing the gender-wage gap and providing access for mothers to basic necessities like childcare and family planning services, particularly the lower-income single mothers highlighted in the Pew research, would help the economy. The Center for American Progress found that low-income families can spend an average of 52.7 percent of their income on childcare expenses, and in spite of their rising status as "breadwinners," women still spend "more than twice as much time as men providing primary care to children." Studies show that providing these mothers with affordable access to universal preschool and paid family and medical leave would increase employment and help the economy. And research from the Guttmacher Institute shows that providing women with access to affordable contraception increases workforce participation, economic stability, and children's well-being.
But Fox doesn't want to talk about the benefits to women and families that come from access to equal pay, family planning, or childcare, which is why they turn to demonizing these programs and fearmongering about the dissolution of society instead. The sexist reactions serve to remove reason and fact from the real issue at hand: that women are still unequal, both in the home and the workforce, and fearmongering will only allow that inequality to remain.