Michael-In-Norfolk - Coming Out in Mid-Life
Thoughts on Life, Love, Politics, Hypocrisy and Coming Out in Mid-Life
Thursday, March 23, 2023
Republicans’ Stunning Misogyny and Ignorance
The Florida GOP is on a truly stunning tear of misogyny, ignorance, homophobia and censorship, culminating in a bill that just passed the Florida House that would bar young girls from discussing menstruation, including their own menstrual periods, in school. Fifty three years since Judy Blume wrote “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret,” some Republican legislators still seem less comfortable with puberty and sexuality than pre-teen girls . . .
The Florida bill states that education around sex, reproduction and sexuality cannot begin until 6th grade. On Wednesday, when Florida state Rep. Ashley Gantt, a Democrat, asked her Republican colleague who sponsored the legislation, state Rep. Stan McClain, if the bill means that girls who get their periods before sixth grade couldn’t discuss that in school, he said yes.
“So if little girls experience their menstrual cycle in fifth grade or fourth grade,” she asked, “will that prohibit conversations from them since they are in the grade lower than sixth grade?” “It would,” McClain said.
Half of American girls get their first period before their 12th birthday. And girls who menstruate early are also more likely to be sexually active at a younger age.
In Florida, those girls – who arguably need the most support as their bodies develop earlier than those of their peers – are being told by people in power that they have to keep their mouths shut about what they’re experiencing. If the bill passes the full legislature, Florida would be legislating shame.
This isn’t an isolated decision. Florida Republicans are legislating shame around adult women’s bodies, too, as they attack abortion rights (it’s an interesting and telling strategy to cut off information about sexuality and reproduction, which we know can increase rates of unintended pregnancy, while also beginning to limit abortion access). Republicans are legislating shame when they declare many beloved and important books to be “obscene” or inappropriate because those books contain LGBT characters, or information about American history and racism. Florida Republicans are legislating shame when they ban transgender teenagers, their parents and their doctors from collaborating on the best medical care to keep them safe and healthy.
In practical terms, limiting the information that young people can access about their own bodies may mean higher rates of unsafe sex and the related rises of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases – states that have historically mandated abstinence-only curriculum, for example, have seen higher teen pregnancy rates than those that taught comprehensive sex ed.
Limiting the discussion in schools about the realities of maturing bodies doesn’t make young people less curious. It just sends the message that normal curiosity is deviant and dangerous; that women and girls are less valuable and worthy of basic dignity than others; and that honesty about one’s body is unacceptable.
These are not good values to impart to our young people. And it’s especially rich that Florida Republicans are also spending significant time obsessing over the biology of kids who are trans or nonbinary – proposing legislation that requires, for example, that teachers refer to students only by the pronouns that match their birth sex, and that would ban gender-affirming care for teens – while being apparently so fearful of female biology that they pass legislation banning young girls from discussing it.
These efforts are not happening in a vacuum, and they are not doing much at all to protect children. Children, like all of us, do not benefit from an ethos of stigma and shame. They do not grow in darkness; they wither. They are not safer in silence; they simply lack the language to describe what they’re experiencing, thinking and wondering. That can open up potential for abuse.
Most girls and women menstruate, or will menstruate once they mature; this is not a sexualized fact and should not be a source of shame. It is a fact of life. That Republicans in Florida choose to shroud this reality and to force young people into silence says very little about any inherent shame in menstruation or living in a female body. It says everything about the legislators’ fears and anxieties about girls and women knowing themselves, their sexuality and having knowledge itself. And it’s that sad and narrow view – not menstruation – that should be treated as shameful.
As noted, the GOP's faux concern and hypocrisy about "protecting children" extends to a new embrace of child labor. Here are excerpts from the Washington Post (mote how children are deemed the chattel property of their parents):
“A self-supporting and self-respecting democracy can plead no justification for the existence of child labor,” wrote Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1937, as he sent the legislation known as the Fair Labor Standards Act to Congress. With the bill, which also established a national minimum wage, lawmakers condemned the ghastly practice of children toiling on factory floors to the past.
But American child labor is making a comeback. Underage children are operating fryers in restaurant kitchens and assembling parts at auto plants. Last month, when the New York Times published a blockbuster expose on how some of the nation’s most prominent companies depend on subcontractors who illegally employ migrant children, it brought attention to an ongoing horror. The Economic Policy Institute recently crunched Labor Department data and discovered an almost 300 percent increase in child labor violations since 2015.
But whether children should work more hours in dangerous jobs appears to be settling in as a partisan issue. Republicans in statehouses nationwide are racing to make it easier for companies to hire youngsters. This isn’t just an attempt, as proponents claim, to address post-pandemic worker shortages while freeing teens to earn pocket money. It is part of an ongoing campaign to roll back worker protections.
In Arkansas, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders has signed legislation doing away with regulations demanding 14- and 15-year-old teens receive a work permit before taking on paid employment. A bill in Ohio seeks to allow 14- and 15-year-olds to work until 9 p.m. during the school year, in defiance of federal law. In Minnesota, a Republican legislator introduced legislation to let the construction industry recruit 16- and 17-year-old workers. In Iowa, a bill in the state’s House of Representatives would make it easier to employ 14-year-olds in the meatpacking industry.
[N]ot a single Republican has signed onto legislation recently introduced by Senate Democrats that would significantly increase the fines on companies for violations of child labor laws, from the maximum of $5,000 per violation up to $132,270 for routine violations, and from $15,138 to $601,150 when children are seriously injured or killed on the job.
In addition to claiming expanded paid work for teens is a win-win for employers and financially needy children, advocates are draping their appeals in the language of parental rights. That’s right — the same logic that dictates parents should be able to protect vulnerable teens by blocking controversial library books, sex ed and the full racial history of the United States. Requiring work permits for children under 16 “steps in front of parents’ decision-making process,” said the Arkansas state representative who spearheaded the successful measure there.
That’s disingenuous. “The party that is so concerned about children and what they are hearing and reading in schools, they are the same party that is pushing all these bills,” says Judy Conti, director of government affairs for the National Employment Law Project.
In reality, all this family talk is there to obscure the bottom line. “Child labor allows business owners to reduce average wages, while pretending they’re just providing opportunities,” says historian Erik M. Conway, co-author of the book “The Big Myth: How American Business Taught Us to Loathe Government and Love the Free Market.”
The hypocrisy and misogyny of today's GOP appears to be limitless.
Wednesday, March 22, 2023
How Big a Deal Is the Banking Mess?
[A]s everyone knows, Silicon Valley Bank — not a huge institution, but an integral part of the tech industry’s financial ecosystem — has been taken over by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation after facing a classic bank run. Signature Bank soon followed; First Republic Bank is under severe pressure. Swiss authorities have arranged a takeover of Credit Suisse, a major bank, by its rival UBS. And everyone is wondering what other land mines may be about to go off.
There will and should be many inquests into how and why these banks managed to get into so much trouble. In the case of S.V.B. it appears that regulators had known for some time that the bank was a problem case, but for some reason didn’t or couldn’t rein it in.
But the more pressing question is forward-looking. How much does the banking mess change economic conditions? How much should it change economic policy?
Some commentators — mainly, as far as I can tell, cryptocurrency enthusiasts — are issuing apocalyptic warnings about hyperinflation and the imminent collapse of the dollar. But that’s almost certainly the opposite of the truth. When depositors pull their money out of banks, the effect is disinflationary, even deflationary. That’s certainly what happened in the early years of the Great Depression . . .
The savings-and-loan crisis of the 1980s wasn’t a Depression-level event, largely because depositors were generally insured, so they were made whole (at taxpayers’ immense expense) despite huge industry losses. Even so, the crisis may have curbed business lending, especially in the commercial real estate industry, contributing to the 1990-91 recession.
And the financial crisis of 2008 — which was functionally a bank run even though the crisis centered on “shadow banks” rather than traditional depository institutions — was also disinflationary and helped bring on the worst economic slump since the Great Depression.
So how does the current mess compare? It will definitely impose a drag on the economy. But how big a drag? And how much should it change policy, in particular the interest rate decisions of the Federal Reserve?
The answer is simple: Nobody knows.
Here’s what we do know: Depositors don’t seem to be demanding cash and putting it under their mattresses. They are, however, moving funds out of small and medium-size banks, to some extent into big banks, and to some extent into money market funds
Both types of institution are likely to do less business lending than the smaller banks now under pressure. Big banks are more tightly regulated than smaller banks, required to have more capital (the excess of assets over liabilities) and more liquidity (a higher proportion of their assets devoted to investments that can readily be converted into cash).
Add in the likelihood that even banks that haven’t experienced a run on their deposits will become much more cautious, and we’re probably looking at a serious reduction in credit. In effect, banking turmoil will act a lot like a rate hike by the Fed.
But how big an effective rate hike? I’m seeing smart, well-informed people produce numbers that are all over the place.
However, the direction of the shock seems clear. I wrote a couple of weeks ago that the Fed is creeping its way through a dense data fog, trying to steer between the Scylla of inflation if it tightens too little and the Charybdis of recession if it tightens too much
But clearly the risk of recession has gone up and the risk of inflation has gone down. So it makes sense for the Fed to steer somewhat to the left.
What this probably means in practice is that the Fed should pause its rate hikes until there’s more clarity about both the inflation picture and the effects of the banking mess — and it should be clear that that’s what it is doing.
There doesn’t seem to be much danger that the Fed will lose its inflation-fighting credibility if it takes time to get its bearings. Inflation expectations are looking very well anchored
Should the Fed go further and actually cut rates? Even though I’m generally a monetary dove, I wouldn’t call for an actual cut, at least just yet. Among other things, that might convey a sense of panic.
And even though the wave of bank problems has shocked almost everyone, panic doesn’t seem like the right response.
For what it’s worth — and these may be famous last words — I’m actually somewhat reassured by the way policymakers have been responding to the current wave of banking problems. . . . we’re talking about conventional banks that can be and have been seized by the F.D.I.C., protecting depositors without letting shareholders off the hook.
The upshot is that so far, at least, this doesn’t look like a full-blown financial crisis. Stay tuned, though.
Tuesday, March 21, 2023
Will Indictment Harm Donald Trump?
Prominent Republicans disagree about a lot these days, but on one point they have found consensus: Getting charged with a crime would be great news for Donald Trump.
After the former president predicted that he will be arrested in Manhattan tomorrow—a forecast that seems questionable, though an indictment from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg does seem to be imminent—conventional wisdom quickly developed on the right that Trump would be the big winner.
At National Review, Rich Lowry announced, “It’s going to be very bad for the country and good politically—at least in the short term and perhaps for the duration—for Donald J. Trump.” (Lowry didn’t bother to offer any basis for this claim.)
The former Trump spokesperson Taylor Budowich, now running a pro-Trump super PAC called MAGA Inc., said in a statement that an indictment “will not only serve to coalesce President Trump’s support, but it will become the single largest in-kind contribution to a federal campaign in political history.”
Other Republican contenders for president didn’t make predictions quite so firm, but they either hastened to criticize Bragg or kept their mouth shut, both indications that they see this as a moment of strength for Trump, rather than a good opening to bury their own daggers in a weakened rival’s back.
“You are about to increase the odds that Donald Trump will win another four years in the White House,” he wrote in italics on his Substack. “You could in fact be increasing his chances of winning dramatically, maybe even decisively.”
But don’t dismiss Halperin’s prediction because he’s a washed-up source of conventional wisdom who’s been badly wrong in the past. Dismiss it because it makes so little sense in light of what we know now. Politics is contingent and volatile, which means that any prediction about what will happen is worth the pixels it’s printed on.
But the assumption that Trump will profit seems to spring from hubris (among his allies) and self-protective fear (on the part of his critics and rivals). They are operating on a shared, obsolete conclusion that nothing can ever harm the former president. For a long time, this made sense. . . . Trump won the 2016 presidential election and then embarked on an even more scandal-ridden administration. Yet he seemed to chug away, indifferent to bad press. A narrative of Trumpian invincibility developed as an antidote to callow, wish-casting predictions of walls closing in on Trump.
Caution is understandable, but we know enough now to realize that although Trump is exceptionally resilient, he’s also not invulnerable. In 2018, after he decided to frame the midterm elections as a referendum on him personally, Democrats won big in House and governor elections. In 2020, the House impeached him; when the Senate did not vote to convict, some observers took this as proof that he couldn’t be stopped. But it did damage Trump, and later that year, he lost his reelection bid narrowly but decisively, losing the popular vote for the second time. After his extended attempt to overturn the 2020 election, voters once again punished candidates flying his banner and rallying around his causes in the 2022 midterms.
What charges against Trump are certain to do is inflame his most devoted supporters. They will be furious that anyone would dare try to hold Trump accountable, view it as an act of political persecution, and make a great deal of noise about it. But no one should mistake the vociferousness of this group for size. They’ve always been noisy. They’ve always been a minority: As I wrote in November, we now have multiple demonstrations that an anti-MAGA majority exists among American voters.
[A] consensus has developed among legal analysts that the Manhattan case is the weakest and strangest of the several criminal investigations into Trump. . . . . A case would appear to hinge on some tenuous legal theories, and Trump might well beat the rap. But any suggestion that he’s delighted by this fight is belied not only by his irate response but by common sense. Trump doesn’t want to discuss the underlying facts of this case—there’s a reason, after all, that Cohen paid Daniels six figures to buy her silence in the first place. Beyond that, several other probes—which look from the outside to be more perilous to Trump—are still on deck, regardless of the outcome in Manhattan.
“Look, at the end, being indicted never helps anybody,” former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a lonely dissident from the GOP consensus, said on ABC News yesterday. Trump could be the Republican nominee in 2024, or even win the White House back, but if so, it will probably be despite any criminal case against him, not because of it.