A 99% White Party is Bad for Republicans -- and for America

Apr 13, 2012Tim Price

The conservative movement remains beholden to its racist fringe, and that has left progress at a standstill across the political spectrum.

The conservative movement remains beholden to its racist fringe, and that has left progress at a standstill across the political spectrum.

“If planning a trip to a beach or amusement park at some date, find out whether it is likely to be swamped with blacks on that date… Do not act the Good Samaritan to blacks in apparent distress, e.g., on the highway… In a pure meritocracy there would be very low proportions of blacks in cognitively demanding jobs.” These are just a few of the pearls of anti-wisdom offered by conservative pundit John Derbyshire in his instantly infamous essay, “The Talk: Nonblack Version.” Derbyshire’s employers at the National Review were quick to distance themselves from him and his racist manifesto, which was written as a response to the outcry over the hunting and killing of Trayvon Martin.

But as other commentators have pointed out, there’s more to this story. For one thing, “Derb” has been producing openly racist (and homophobic) material for years now without repercussion. So why did the premiere intellectual journal of American conservatives only disassociate itself from a bigot once the very last vestiges of plausible deniability had been stripped away? The answer lies in the fact that the conservative movement, while not racist in and of itself, is beholden to racists who support it. And in order to maintain their support, it appeases them either actively or through sins of omission in ways that alienate other potential supporters and create barriers to real progress on racial justice.

I want to be clear that conservatives are not inherently racists, just as progressives are not by default free of racism. While some conservative policies, such as restricting voting rights, cracking down on undocumented immigrants, and slashing the social safety net may have racially disparate outcomes in practice, there are intellectual and moral arguments for each of these that that have nothing to do with race. Sadly, Republicans often fail to make them because they’re busy sending more coded signals than a third base coach in order to appease the most reactionary elements of their base. And when taken in aggregate, it’s easy to see why minority groups perceive the conservative agenda as actively hostile toward their interests, even if that’s not the intent.

The uneasy alliance between high-minded conservative wonks and unreconstructed racists is a legacy of Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy, which used civil rights as a wedge with white voters to turn the formerly Democratic “Solid South” into staunch Republican territory. But while that approach has continued to reap short-term rewards, it’s a bad bet in the long run. As Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren has noted, “the Republican strategy is basically to be a white party and a white southern party. The time is ticking on that demographic in this country.” With the voting bloc of angry white conservatives from the old Confederacy giving way to the most diverse and progressive generation in history, Republicans risk political extinction if they can’t refurbish their image and adapt their policies accordingly. In this year’s Republican primaries, even states with the largest black populations have registered only 1 to 2 percent black voter participation. And despite the GOP’s hope that it could peel away minority voters who agree with them on social issues, Barack Obama enjoys approval ratings in the high 80s among black voters and retains strong support from Latinos when matched up against his Republican rivals. Yet the conservative base seems stubbornly resistant to change, and to quote Donald Rumsfeld, you go to war with the army you have, not the army you wish you had. Thus, even many moderate and mainstream conservatives are forced to politely clear their throats and look away from all but the most egregious examples of racism among their allies. Without them, they wouldn’t have the votes to win elections.

The right is clearly sensitive to this issue, or it wouldn’t be so bashful when the Derbyshires of the world let their fig leaves drop. But instead of addressing these internal tensions, it tries to turn the tables by accusing progressives of “playing the race card” (i.e. mentioning that racism exists). As Alex Pareene wryly noted, many conservatives seem to operate under the assumption that “accusations of racism are the new racism, and said accusations are invariably politically motivated.” This tendency has been on full display in the case of Trayvon Martin, from labeling President Obama a “race hustler” for extending his sympathies to Martin’s family to the Free-Beacon’s blunt headline, “Registered Dem Killed Trayvon.” Sure, George Zimmerman shot a 17-year-old boy to death, but the real question on everyone’s mind was who he voted for.

While these attempts to turn racism into a partisan issue might help to assuage some guilty consciences, the results are ultimately bad for both conservatives themselves and the country as a whole. The need to keep the racist fringe mollified means that once Republicans are in power, they inevitably set to work implementing discriminatory and divisive laws like the ones mentioned above – even, as my colleagues Bryce Covert and Mike Konczal have pointed out, when their electoral sales pitch is based on promises of fiscal discipline and economic recovery. This also has consequences for their attempts to broaden their base. It’s no shock that outreach toward Latinos has failed when 91 percent of them want progressive immigration reform like the DREAM Act yet it can barely garner single-digit support among congressional Republicans. And on a broader level, it’s impossible to seriously discuss or redress racial inequality and injustice if someone keeps changing the subject.

Some progressives might be tempted to say, “So what? Aren’t we trying to discredit conservatives anyway? Let’s just sit back and watch the train wreck.” But in truth, the inability of the conservative movement to escape the racist albatross around its neck is bad for progressives, too. If we’re to be measured by the quality of our opponents, what does it say about us if we win because the other guys got caught e-mailing each other Photoshops of Barack Obama as a witch doctor with a bone through his nose? There’s no reason for progressives to push ourselves to strengthen our arguments or develop bold new solutions to seemingly intractable problems unless there’s an equally powerful, credible, and clear-minded counter-force. Besides, in a two-party system, the other side is going to take the reins of power at least some of the time. When that happens, we want them to be people we can debate in good faith.

This sad state of affairs wasn’t inevitable. For a brief moment, Barack Obama’s victory in 2008 seemed to signal a sea change in America’s eternally fraught racial politics. The last, greatest barrier had been surmounted and a new generation, unburdened by the prejudices of the past, had risen to power, ready to tackle the big issues and debate the questions that really mattered. But the idea of Obama being a “post-racial” president soon degenerated into a punch line as many Republicans, terrified of the new president’s broad appeal, gave in to their darkest impulses. The most high-profile and embarrassing of these efforts was the attempt to cast doubt on Obama’s birth records, which culminated with Donald Trump beclowning himself by basing his entire presidential campaign around an easily debunked conspiracy theory. (Oddly, Trump was not asked to produce any documentation to explain what part of the planet Earth produces vividly orange people with gossamer hair.) Instead of putting the last nail in racism’s coffin, Obama’s historic triumph brought the cranks out of the woodwork, spooked by a premonition of their demise.

But all hope is not lost just because some conservatives continue to write clueless op-eds about how white privilege doesn’t exist because someone who may or may not have been black may or may not have stolen a bike. Even if electoral concerns make the right hesitant to repudiate and cut ties with its more retrograde allies for now, it remains a demographic reality, as Jonathan Chait has written, that the current conservative coalition must either change or die – and conservatives are nothing if not resilient. And if conservatives do manage to join the 21st century and start winning over minority groups, it will mean that elected Democrats will actually have to start working for their votes again. As Bryce Covert has written, “once we find ways to get our representatives to truly represent the diversity of our people, more Sarah Palins and Herman Cains will be a good sign. Progressives won’t have to vote for them, but we’ll know that they come with the territory of greater equality.” Once that happens, and once conservatives start proactively challenging racism in their ranks instead of shouting “I’m rubber; you’re glue!” when called on it, maybe we can finally have an adult conversation about race and move forward as a united country.

Tim Price is the Deputy Editor of Next New Deal.

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Fighting Back Against Sexual Violence on Indian Reservations

Apr 6, 2012Katherine ReillyMarielle DeJong

money-justice-scalesAs part of the 10 Ideas: Social Innovation to End Discrimination series, recognizing that we can't take an out of sight, out of mind approach to the rights and safety of

money-justice-scalesAs part of the 10 Ideas: Social Innovation to End Discrimination series, recognizing that we can't take an out of sight, out of mind approach to the rights and safety of Native American women.

Since its colonial beginnings, the United States has been an active participant in a long history of injustice against Native Americans. Such incidents are often considered to be in the past -- issues of colonial conflict and displacement that no longer exist. Today, Native American rights have fallen off the government's radar and have become less of a concern among policymakers. Americans have limited knowledge of the cultural traditions, governmental policies, and law enforcement guidelines that exist on tribal reservations. Such ignorance not only ignores but perpetuates the continued examples of injustice that are very much present today.

Statistics offer proof of the exceptionally high rates of violent crime on many Native American reservations and that women in particular are frequent victims of such crime. Native American women suffer 2.5 times more violent crime than the national average. One in three Native American women will be raped in her lifetime. Four out of five of the perpetrators are non-Native.

These numbers show a disturbing trend that reveals a clear problem in safety and law enforcement on tribal lands. Criminal investigation and prosecution on tribal lands are lacking, a problem that can be attributed in part to cultural and structural barriers that prevent effective communication between tribal, state, and federal government. Because of limitations on investigation and sentence length, tribes often depend on federal authorities, causing gaps in jurisdiction and miscommunication because both governments represent constituencies with different interests and values. Complicated jurisdiction, institutional problems, and limited resources all contribute to an inefficient law enforcement system, which perpetuates the prevalence of sexual violence on Indian reservations. Alcoholism and poverty only exacerbate these problems, which can no longer be ignored. It is of utmost importance that the criminal justice system be improved to more effectively deter and prosecute perpetrators. It is equally important that preventative policies be adopted to reduce the amount of sexual violence.

Join the conversation about the Roosevelt Institute’s new initiative, Rediscovering Government, led by Senior Fellow Jeff Madrick.

The Tribal Law and Order Act (TLOA) mandates the coordination of Indian Health Services, the Department of Justice, tribal organizations, and Urban Indian Organizations to set a standard protocol for dealing with sexual assault. It standardizes the treatment of rape and assault victims and the training of tribal police in effective questioning of victims and collection of evidence. The Stand Against Violence and Empower Native Women Act (SAVE Native Women Act) was introduced to Congress on October 31, 2011 and is now cosponsored by 14 U.S. senators. The act aims to further decrease violent crimes against Native American women by strengthening the authority of tribes to hold perpetrators responsible. Currently, tribes do not have jurisdiction if the crime involves a non-Native perpetrator or victim or if the crime does not occur in Indian country. The act is currently being reviewed by the United States Committee on Indian Affairs. Both of these acts are crucial to improving conditions on reservations.

Congress should enact the SAVE Native Women Act, and the Department of Interior and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) should advocate for the reallocation of funds toward programs that prevent and address violent crimes against Native American women. Additionally, officers should be educated in Native American history and culture by law enforcement experts, Native American historians, and community leaders.

The current Basic Police Officer Training Program at the Indian Police Academy is a course designed for U.S. BIA and tribal law enforcement officers. While the training includes Indian country law and "BIA specialized training," the trainees are not specifically taught about Native American cultural traditions or history. A law enforcement training program that encourages both efficient communication and cultural understanding will lead to a justice system that more effectively investigates crimes and prosecutes criminals.

Native American women especially will benefit from a policy that brings justice to those oppressed by race and gender. Additionally, both federal and tribal law enforcement agencies have a stake in the outcome, as it would affect their training procedures and lead to more collaborative communication. Legislators involved in state commissions on Indian affairs or in the Congressional Native American Caucus would likely be supportive of this proposal. This is also an issue of human rights, which impacts all Americans.

Native American people are an integral part of the American population. As such, the United States has a responsibility to protect the livelihood of American Indians while still respecting their independence and self-determination. The United States must adopt and implement policies that facilitate the creation and continuation of safe environments for Native American Women. Not doing so would jeopardize the American ideal of security and equality for all. The Tribal Law and Order Act and the SAVE Native Women Act are both steps in the right direction. State, tribal, and federal governments should all take steps to ensure that Native Women are protected under the law and should work to both reduce and prevent sexual violence on reservations. Finally, the American public should continue to be aware and educated about the lifeways of the people around them. During a time when women's health issues are being constantly debated by presidential candidates, Americans must be aware of the criminal injustices and health dangers that threaten Native American women every day.

Marielle DeJong is a freshman at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill studying American Indian studies. Katherine Reilly is a freshman at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill studying journalism and political science. Both are members of the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network.

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How We Can End DOMA's Unfair Tax Burden on Same-Sex Couples

Apr 5, 2012

money-justice-scalesAs part of the 10 Ideas: Social Innovation to End Discrimination series, a proposal to adjust wages for same-sex couples to reduce inequity in the tax code and undermine

money-justice-scalesAs part of the 10 Ideas: Social Innovation to End Discrimination series, a proposal to adjust wages for same-sex couples to reduce inequity in the tax code and undermine DOMA.

While media reports characterize the United States as increasingly hospitable to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people, lived experience clearly speaks to the discrimination, isolation, and dehumanization faced by queer folks. Unfortunately, LGBTQ people in the United States face discrimination on a regular basis, often in the workplace, in public spaces, or in relation to their own government. As the LGBTQ movement builds upon successes, it is important that it continues to ground itself in the personal experiences of queer people. A recurring trend in their stories is widespread discrimination under federal law, in many cases due to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

LGBTQ activists have understood the discriminatory nature of DOMA since President Clinton signed it into law in 1996. It contains a passage that defined marriage as "only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, [where] the word 'spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or wife," and an addendum that says individual states are not required to recognize same-sex marriages accepted in other states. As a result, DOMA has been a prominent target of state-led efforts to permit same-sex marriages in individual states, whether legislatively or judicially.

Yet LGBTQ activists have thus far ignored a major impact of DOMA on same-sex couples: Internal Revenue Service (IRS) policy whereby health care benefits transferred by employees to domestic partners (within those organizations that recognize domestic partnerships) are taxed as income. While the abolition of this practice may seem like a trivial point in the grand scheme of the LGBTQ movement, it holds promise as a way to gradually undermine DOMA as well as improve the lives of the conservative estimate of 901,997 U.S. same-sex couples by saving them, on average, $1,609 a year in comparison to identical heterosexual couples.

The most common way progressive organizations are combating this unjust tax is by "grossing up" the wages of employees in same-sex partnerships. This involves increasing employees' pre-tax salaries in order to account for the value of the tax on shared benefits as well as a possible shift in income bracket triggered by that practice.

Surprisingly, the bulk of action already taken to combat these inequitable practices has occurred within the corporate sphere. Tech start-ups and investment houses in particular, including Google, Facebook, Apple, Barclays, and Goldman Sachs, all gross up domestic partners' wages. Meanwhile, Bowdoin College, Syracuse University, Yale University, and Columbia University (as well as its affiliate Barnard College) are the only institutions of higher education to have adopted similar policies. In a promising move, the municipality of Cambridge, Massachusetts also now grosses up.

Join the conversation about the Roosevelt Institute’s new initiative, Rediscovering Government, led by Senior Fellow Jeff Madrick.

Unfortunately, action by local, state, and federal government to mirror corporate practices lags far behind their private sector counterparts. There is a glimmer of hope, though, in a bill introduced by Senator Charles Schumer named The Tax Parity for Health Plan Beneficiaries Act of 2011 or Senate Bill 1171. However, despite being introduced July 1, 2011, the Congressional Research Service reports no action on the bill save for being referred to committee.

As states like Maryland, Washington, and New York continue to legalize same-sex marriage, we must remember that same-sex couples under federal law remain subject to the unfortunate impacts of the DOMA. Moreover, those organizations, universities, and corporations that provide domestic partner benefits for same-sex couples do not unilaterally "solve" the problem of unfair treatment experienced by LGBTQ people at the hands of their government.

By removing the unfair tax burden currently enforced by the IRS, LGBTQ activists can make using health care, filing tax returns, and pursuing employment that much easier for same-sex couples. Moreover, they can strategically undermine the strength of the DOMA. By highlighting the ways in which it financially isolates certain types of partnerships, queer advocates may be able to appeal to a wider political base and subsequently build power among fiscal voters.

Essentially, progressives across the United States ought to see the growing nongovernmental movement toward grossing up as a way to clarify their values in the national discourse. They can amplify the experiences of marginalized same-sex couples through listening tours and personal storytelling events. Using Senator Schumer's bill as a template, organizations that recognize domestic partnerships can join a coalition of at least 80 businesses committed to tax equity in order to place pressure on elected officials. Once this issue attracts more supporters -- particularly among employee LGBTQ affinity groups -- a critical mass will be able to force changes in Congress, change that (hopefully) will lead to the eventual repeal of DOMA.

Providing equitable tax structures for the transfer of health care benefits between domestic partners moves the cause forward, signals pragmatic solidarity between the queer and allied communities, and demonstrates the collective power of the progressive community. Additionally, it demonstrates that a wide body of people supports equity within the federal tax code over antiquated policy.

While the rhetoric around marriage equality has no doubt inspired wide swaths of the American public to support the struggle of LGBTQ folks, it's important that we express the meta-level concern that marriage is only one of the rights denied to queer people. Contextualizing same-sex marriage within a larger struggle for national nondiscrimination policies, visitation rights, care for homeless queer youth, anti-bullying work, as well as tax equity reflects the very real daily struggles of identifying (or being perceived as) LGBTQ in the United States.

Erik Lampmann is a Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network member and a sophomore at the University of Richmond studying philosophy, politics, economics, and law.

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Bryce Covert: Women Have Changed, but the Workplace Hasn't

Apr 3, 2012Tim Price

In the latest episode of the Roosevelt Institute's Bloggingheads series, "Fireside Chats," ND2.0 Editor Bryce Covert talks to The Atlantic's Derek Thompson about the ongoing challenges for women in the workplace. In particular, they ask why women are still struggling to close the wage gap despite earning more degrees than men and participating in equal numbers. In the clip below, Bryce says the problem is that legal support for working women and men isn't there. She argues that "the workplace still looks as if someone is taking care of the children, but they're not," and "we don't have the policies in place to deal with the way our workforce looks now."

In the latest episode of the Roosevelt Institute's Bloggingheads series, "Fireside Chats," ND2.0 Editor Bryce Covert talks to The Atlantic's Derek Thompson about the ongoing challenges for women in the workplace. In particular, they ask why women are still struggling to close the wage gap despite earning more degrees than men and participating in equal numbers. In the clip below, Bryce says the problem is that legal support for working women and men isn't there. She argues that "the workplace still looks as if someone is taking care of the children, but they're not," and "we don't have the policies in place to deal with the way our workforce looks now."

Bryce notes that while explicit legal barriers to women attaining parity in the workplace have been removed, the U.S. has failed to institute work-family policies like flex time, paternity leave, and day care that have put men and women on more equal footing in Europe. In other words, the problem isn't that women need to change, but that "I don't think the workforce has changed enough to accommodate them." She adds that while "there's a lot to celebrate and the change has been so dramatic and so fast," she is wary of "assuming that this is just a trajectory we're on" and "if we just sort of let things play out then equality will be reached."

Join the conversation about the Roosevelt Institute’s new initiative, Rediscovering Government, led by Senior Fellow Jeff Madrick.

In addition to these long-term trends, Bryce and Derek discuss the fallout from the gendered recession and recovery, with Bryce noting that "it's been a pretty slow, painful recovery" for everyone, "but women started backsliding. Their unemployment rate is now higher than it was the beginning of the recovery." And while the fact that women dominate many growth sectors would seem to work in their favor, Bryce says they're still stuck in "service sector jobs which tend to be low pay, low benefits, unstable," and "if that's where the growth is I'm not sure if that's a good sign for them or anyone." Even the fact that they're attaining more college degrees doesn't necessarily give them the upper hand, since "even when women are earning these degrees, at every educational level, they're still earning less than men."

For more, watch the full video below and check out Bryce's recent article at The Nation on where women stand in the post-"mancession" economy.

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Millennials Are on the Frontlines of Social Innovation to End Discrimination

Apr 3, 2012May Mgbolu

money-justice-scalesYoung people have long been involved in social justice movements, and today's Millennials continue that legacy by tackling today's issues.

money-justice-scalesYoung people have long been involved in social justice movements, and today's Millennials continue that legacy by tackling today's issues.

The quest for equal justice has sparked movements and empowered youth across the nation for decades. Reports of racism, discrimination, sexual harassment, disenfranchisement, and LGBTQ hate crimes continue to appear in our workplaces, schools, and neighborhoods. Today, Millennials continue to engage in equal justice policy and are committed to tackling the structural barriers and institutional inequities that prevent the full realization of equal opportunity and rights in the United States.

Youth have long been on the frontlines in of the social justice movement, actively participating in redefining civil liberties, inspiring progressive politics, and mobilizing young people across the country in an effort to end social injustices. The Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network continues that legacy through our 10 Ideas for Equal Justice publication.

For Millennials to shape the future we will inherit, we must effectively voice our needs and priorities and assert ourselves in all conversations involving equal justice. While some policymakers express concern about the future of equality in America, few have effectively addressed the harsh conditions that shape people's lives. Millennials must continue to focus on the policies that exclude some and marginalize others. For example, the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Right Act of 1965 once outlawed discriminatory practices and made great strides in America, but today these laws exclude millions of marginalized Americans through criminal history checks or other determinants.

The failure of our current policies to address the importance of equality highlights the need for Millennials' vision and impact. While equal justice is both one of America's firmly embedded principles and widely disputed topics at all political levels, Millennials remain on the frontline, challenging congressional debates and policies on immigration, LGBTQ rights, criminal justice, and various topics that represent a threat to the advancement of equality in America.

Join the conversation about the Roosevelt Institute’s new initiative, Rediscovering Government, led by Senior Fellow Jeff Madrick.

Readers and politicians will hear from Millennials motivated to solve the problems of yesterday and promote the progress of all people in the future. This year's 10 Ideas of Equal Justice represent some of the most innovative ideas being put forward to end discrimination and advance equal justice across the nation. These proposals represent the urgency of restoring progressive values and principles that once aimed to confront unfair practices and standards in America, while focusing on future obstacles and trends.

Marielle DeJong and Katherine Reilly, students from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, are challenging the communication between tribal and federal law enforcement and their practices in investigations in order to address the unprecedented rates of violent crimes and sexual assaults on Native American women. They outline policies necessary to effectively combat the assault on Native America women and restore justice on tribal lands for all victims.

Emily Apple, a student at Hunter College, proposes a plan to bridge the poverty gap for vulnerable communities in New York City by making healthy food accessible to all. She insists that all New York residents should have an agricultural community garden within a one-mile radius of their homes where they can purchase low-cost fresh fruits and vegetables. She writes that all communities have the right to healthy, affordable food, and aims to eliminate disparities and inequities by encouraging large community garden programs to participate and the usage of EBT cards.

Erik Lampmann, a student at the University of Richmond, exposes the tax inequities between same-sex couples and heterosexual couples. Lampmann is interested in encouraging employers to change their LBGTQ priorities to include the absorption of an added tax on transfer of health benefits among domestic partners while advocating for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage act (DOMA). Thus far, 80 businesses have committed to "tax equity" to place pressure on officials to legislate for the repeal of DOMA.

Although these are a just few of the many Millennial voices featured in the publication of 10 Ideas of Equal Justice, Millennial across the country continue to be deeply involved in developing social innovation to end discrimination. Students are addressing structural and institutionalized inequities, social norms, and unjust practices in our society in order to create equal opportunities and uphold basic human rights for all.

May Mgbolu is the Senior Fellow for Equal Justice at the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network and a senior at the University of Arizona.

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We Still Aren’t Meeting the Needs of Female Veterans

Mar 29, 2012Lily Roberts

world-hand-200As part of the 10 Ideas: A Defense Strategy for the Global Generation series, a recognition of the need to improve the care of our women who serve.

world-hand-200As part of the 10 Ideas: A Defense Strategy for the Global Generation series, a recognition of the need to improve the care of our women who serve.

Upon his retirement in January, General Peter Chiarelli, the vice chief of the U.S. Army, told reporters that prohibiting women from serving in combat was anachronistic. Female soldiers, he claimed, were essentially already seeing combat. "I have felt for the longest period of time that on a nonlinear battlefield there are no safe jobs," he said. "Everyone is in a situation where they are, in fact, in harm's way. There is this mistaken belief that somehow that through prohibiting women in combat jobs we can protect them. I would rather have standards that we apply across the board."

Chiarelli's comments come at a time when the implications of the roles women play in the U.S. military affect more veterans and families than ever. Over the past decades, women have joined branches of the military at higher rates than ever before, comprising 14.6 percent of active duty forces. On top of this, women comprise 13 percent of the veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation New Dawn.

While official policy mandates that women do not serve in combat roles in the U.S. military, women still suffer from physical and psychological injury. In 2009 and 2010, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), hypertension, and depression were the three conditions diagnosed most frequently among female veterans. In addition, approximately one in five women seen by Veterans Administration (VA) hospitals respond "yes" when screened for military sexual trauma (assault or harassment experienced while in the military).

While significant cuts to the VA budget in 2009 slowed programming in 2010 and 2011, the prioritization of female veteran health care was increased in 2010 with the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act. The Act created the first comprehensive study in recent years of barriers to health care for female veterans, designed pilot programming for group therapy for female veterans no longer on active duty, and created a two-year pilot program to assess the feasibility of offering childcare to veterans.

Join the conversation about the Roosevelt Institute’s new initiative, Rediscovering Government, led by Senior Fellow Jeff Madrick.

In addition, in early February the military began slightly easing restrictions on the roles female soldiers can play in combat zones. About 14,000 combat positions will now be open to women, although 283,000 positions, nearly all of them in the Army and Marine Corps, will remain closed.

These numbers, however, don't reflect the reality of American military service, in which even those in "non-combat" roles may find themselves embroiled in violent confrontations. And while there have been recent improvements in services, not all of the needs of women who have served in the military are being met.

It is vital that the VA adapt to meet the needs of the increasing numbers of female veterans. While VA services in recent years have increased their emphasis on mental health, logistical aspects of many hospitals can make accessing care challenging for patients, particularly for women. An important example is that women may be barred from group therapy sessions dealing with issues of PTSD because spots are reserved for those who saw combat. Even female veterans decorated for their performance in combat may be prohibited from group therapy for this reason. While appeals processes exist, they are slow and unknown to many veterans. Making these groups available to all veterans diagnosed with PTSD will increase the speed with which veterans access group therapy services.

VA hospitals may also not be physically laid out to provide comfortable access to mental health services. Creating specific exam rooms and separate clinic entrances for women attempting to access female health services (i.e. gynecological services) or mental health services may prevent the harassment and discomfort they experience when they must walk through wards of physical care services full of older, largely male veterans. In addition to the provision of childcare, these minor policy changes will make health care more accessible to female veterans and will ease their search for treatment.

The simplest solution to gaining access to therapy for all those facing post-combat trauma would be for the military to acknowledge that women deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan have already experienced combat, regardless of official policy. The VA should amend therapy eligibility to include all patients diagnosed with "combat-related" PTSD, which would include female veterans whose combat experience is unofficial. Individual hospitals should create separate waiting rooms, entrances, and exam rooms for female veterans, particularly when their diagnosis may be more sensitive (i.e. mental health services or sexual trauma). No veteran should face harassment or roadblocks in his or her search for treatment.

Lily Roberts is a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she is the coordinator of the Eleanor Roosevelt Policy Initiative for the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network.

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Ellen Chesler: Contraception Sparked an Economic Revolution for Women

Mar 26, 2012

Think that the controversy over birth control is a purely social issue? Think again. In last week's episode of "Fireside Chats" on Bloggingheads, Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Ellen Chesler and author and writer Michelle Goldberg discussed the economic impacts of birth control. "If you are a working woman in America today, government protection of your right to have contraception covered by your insurance carrier...is crticial to your economic well-being and the economic well-being of your family," Ellen says.

Think that the controversy over birth control is a purely social issue? Think again. In last week's episode of "Fireside Chats" on Bloggingheads, Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Ellen Chesler and author and writer Michelle Goldberg discussed the economic impacts of birth control. "If you are a working woman in America today, government protection of your right to have contraception covered by your insurance carrier...is crticial to your economic well-being and the economic well-being of your family," Ellen says.


As Ellen points out, women had worked before birth control became widely available, "but they worked episodically until the 1970s and '80s, early in their lives before marriage or once their children were grown." Then things began to change, and the change came rapidly. It was in the '80s, she notes, "relatively recently in history, that in the United States Census more women indentified as workers than homemakers." Now that's the predominant family model. Yet this revolution didn't happen all by itself. "Contraception is a sine qua non of this economic revolution," she says.

Check out the new special issue of The Nation, guest-edited by Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Jeff Madrick.

Now that the revolution is here, what is the outlook for the future? Ellen is optimistic. "I think 80 percent of the country is comfortable with these long-term structural changes in the basic organization of families," she says. "But 20 percent of the country is not, and they form the base of the Republican Party now." Yet she points out that polling shows strong support among young people. "The future is really with us," she concludes.

Watch the entire video below for a discussion of Romney's changing position on birth control, whether the left should thank the GOP for going after contraception, and why Planned Parenthood is so important:


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It Can Get Better Now: Improving the School Climate for LGBT Students

Mar 23, 2012Jessica Morris

classroom 309As part of the 10 Ideas: A Millennial Lesson Plan for Education series, a proposed law that would make schools a safe place to learn for students of all orientations.

classroom 309As part of the 10 Ideas: A Millennial Lesson Plan for Education series, a proposed law that would make schools a safe place to learn for students of all orientations.

Two years ago, Constance McMillen, a lesbian student, was told she couldn't take her girlfriend to her high school's prom and wear a tuxedo. After U.S. District Court Judge Glen H. Davidson ruled that the Itawamba County School District violated the First Amendment at the court hearing, outraged parents organized a secret prom without sending an invitation to Constance. She ended up transferring to another high school. On July 20th, 2010, the school district settled by paying her $35,000 and agreeing to implement a non-discrimination policy that would include sexual orientation.

This story immediately spread like wildfire to the Facebook community, as well as to major news networks including CNN and USA Today. People furiously questioned the level of protection lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students actually have in public schools. Along with the bullying Constance faced from the students, the school board members aggravated homophobic discrimination by keeping her from attending the prom due to her sexual orientation. How could this happen? Currently only 11 states, including DC, protect LGBT youth in public schools. This means that in 39 states, LGBT students are not protected from harassment.

Homophobic harassment, especially from peers, is often present in schools. In a Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) study from 2009, 84.6 percent of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed. Over 60 percent of these students felt unsafe in school because of their sexual orientation, while 39.9 percent felt unsafe because of their gender expression. A majority, 63.7 percent, reported being verbally harassed, while 27.2 percent reported being physically harassed and 12.5 percent reported being physically assaulted at school because of their gender expression. This is a call for reforming policies in the education system nationally. These students need support.

The It Gets Better project is a collaboration of videos from celebrities, young people, and even politicians, including the president, telling LGBT youth that their lives will get better and that suicide is not the answer. Though these tearful, uplifting videos provide a sense of community and positive messages for LGBT teens, they cannot promise actual protection. A national law prohibiting the discrimination of LGBT teens can fulfill that promise.

Check out the new special issue of The Nation, guest-edited by Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Jeff Madrick.

The Student Non-Discrimination Act can help assuage homophobic and transphobic harassment in school and forbid schools from discriminating against LGBT students. It was introduced in the 111th Congress in 2010, but was rejected. Now it has been referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions after being introduced in the Senate by Senator Al Franken and in the House by Representative Jared Polis and cosponsored by 152 members of Congress. It forces federal departments and agencies to curtail any financial assistance for public schools that prevent students from participating in programs because of their sexual preference or gender identity, or those that condone homophobic and transphobic harassment.

In addition to the enforcements this bill would provide, workshops on sensitivity to homophobia should be required for all public school teachers and administrative staff. Through these workshops, teachers and staff members will have the resources to combat homophobic and transphobic behavior in and outside of the classroom. There are already examples of successful programs for these kinds of trainings. The Rochester school district and the New York City Department of Education have a program called "Respect for All," hosted by GLSEN, and the American Civil Liberties Union has "Making Schools Safe." GLSEN's survey reports that the grade point average of students who were more frequently harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender expression was almost half a grade lower than for students were less often harassed. These developmental trainings, which take place prior to the beginning of the school year, will not only boost morale, but they can lead to higher test scores.

A few days ago, I read an article on the Huffington Post introducing a program called "Stories Project: NOW" from GLSEN Greater Cincinnati. It focuses on ensuring the safety of LGBT students by offering training to create a better climate in their schools. A teacher in the video critiqued a staff member for being unsupportive and sending ignorant messages to a LGBT student:

"I was recently talking to a student who said, 'When I went to my guidance counselor to talk about why I was being bullied, the guidance counselor repeatedly said, 'well what can you do to change the situation?'' The idea that a student should be changing their behavior because they're being bullied is a problem and that doesn't come from the students, that comes from the adults."

Why should LGBT students wait to have their lives get better? They should be protected from being bullied either from fellow students or staff members now. Policies should be implemented immediately to ensure the safety of our youth and so that the stories of them taking their lives can end.

Jessica Morris is a Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network member and a first -year student at Mount Holyoke College. She majors in politics and minors in law and public policy.

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Dorian Warren: Why Resetting the Agenda is No Easy Task

Mar 14, 2012Tim Price

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren appeared on MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry along with Shelby Knox of Change.org on Saturday to discuss why Republicans are so good at setting the political agenda and why it may have backfired on them recently. In the video below, Dorian notes that on the right, "all it takes is one big fat guy with a microphone spouting off to set the agenda, but it takes thousands of people to come together for us to reset the agenda. That's the reality of grassroots politics."

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren appeared on MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry along with Shelby Knox of Change.org on Saturday to discuss why Republicans are so good at setting the political agenda and why it may have backfired on them recently. In the video below, Dorian notes that on the right, "all it takes is one big fat guy with a microphone spouting off to set the agenda, but it takes thousands of people to come together for us to reset the agenda. That's the reality of grassroots politics."

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Dorian argues that over the last 40 years, "Republicans have been better at all three faces of power" -- not just setting the agenda, but coercing people through the use of tools like Super PACs and influencing ideas with their free market rhetoric. But he notes that while dominant ideologies and institutions might seem too big or entrenched to change, "we always have to challenge reigning ideas that are oppressive" and "challenge those in power who are setting the agenda which is not in our interest." He cites the Occupy movement as one example of ordinary Americans coming together to take on titans like Bank of America.

Of course, as Republicans have learned all too well through their attempt to exhume the long-buried contraception debate, "you never know when you're agenda-setting what the backlash might be."

For more, check out Dorian's take on how rules are shaping the GOP primaries, the forgotten plight of the 99ers, and the cultural impact of the Notorious B.I.G. (Hey, even the AARP misses him.)

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Is a She-covery Really in Sight?

Mar 12, 2012Mike Konczal

One key data adjustment makes women's supposed job gains in recent months all but disappear.

One key data adjustment makes women's supposed job gains in recent months all but disappear.

New Deal 2.0 editor Bryce Covert had an excellent summary of gender and the recovery over at The Nation, "One Mancession Later, Are Women Really Victors in the New Economy?" Trying to figure out why women's job growth have been lagging in 2010-2011 has been a bit of an industry in the econoblogosphere, and Covert brings together the debate.

But is this changing? David Leonhardt has a post up at Economix, "Has the He-covery Become a She-covery?," which features the following argument and graph:

For nearly all of 2010 and 2011, job growth was stronger for men than for women, causing Catherine Rampell and others to refer to the recovery as a “he-covery.” But in the last few months, the trend has turned around: since December, job growth has been significantly stronger for women than men...

But there's a slight problem with how that data is shown in the graph above. That graph is from the household survey. In the release of the December jobs numbers, there was a big change in the employment numbers as a result of the annual benchmarking process and the updating of seasonal adjustment factors:

Effective with data for January 2012, updated population estimates which reflect the results of Census 2010 have been used in the household survey. Population estimates for the household survey are developed by the U.S. Census Bureau. Each year, the Census Bureau updates the estimates to reflect new information and assumptions about the growth of the population during the decade... In accordance with usual practice, BLS will not revise the official household survey estimates for December 2011 and earlier months... The adjustment increased the estimated size of the civilian noninstitutional population in December by 1,510,000, the civilian labor force by 258,000, employment by 216,000, unemployment by 42,000, and persons not in the labor force by 1,252,000.

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Employment went up 216,000 as a result of these changes, and those extra employed people were all put in the month the changes occurred instead of smoothed across the year ("in accordance with usual practices" above). What it doesn't say is that while employment was adjusted up 216,000, men were adjusted down 368,000 jobs and women were adjusted up 584,000. So December showed women gaining 584,000 jobs as a result of statistical population adjustments that, in reality, should have been smoothed across a longer time frame.

I was happy to see this, as I had spent some time last fall trying to figure out why the household numbers were so different from the business survey when divided out by gender, and this helped bring them back in sync. But this is what is pushing up the six-month average in the graph above, not a sudden rush of actual job growth for women.

Instead of looking at the household survey, a look at the business survey shows that men are always gaining more jobs since the recovery took off:

Mike Konczal is a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute.

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