If you think Wal-Mart wages are bad in the US, try working for their stores in Mexico. Child grocery baggers at their supermarkets throughout Mexico are paid exactly... nothing. That's right; they receive no pay despite Wal-Mart de Mexico's $1.1 billion in profits last year. Wal-Mart refers to these workers as "volunteer packers" and encourages gratuity from customers. Aside from being a heinous practice, what does this have to do with labor in the U.S.?
As the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) comes up for reauthorization in Congress, the Right is working fervently to quash any expansion of the program. What's wrong with health care for children, you ask? Conservatives know that each successful expansion of SCHIP proves the viability of government health programs. Contrast that to voters' experience in the private health insurance arena and suddenly health care for all gains more public support. So the right-wing is grasping at straws to offer market-based alternatives that would funnel more money into the same failing system.
A recently passed bill in North Carolina will require mental health parity as part of health coverage; an achievement all should applaud. All except the State Policy Network, an alliance of right-wing "think" tanks. They'd rather complain about the cost mental health coverage would lead to, and mock the treatment of such disorders as pyromania of hypochondriasis.
Representatives in the US House introduced a resolution last month to recognize the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia, which barred anti-miscegenation laws. While we can all agree Loving was a good decision, officially commemorating it is part of a "propaganda campaign" by gay "Freedom to Marry" activists who "have no shame" according to the right-wing Traditional Values Coalition.
Oregon made significant progress this year cracking down on predatory lending. But it's important to look back at the opposition these measures ran into. The Chair of the Commerce Committee, through which the bills passed said lobbyists and those within the industry pushed him to drop the bill, unsurprisingly. However, in an unexpected twist, he also received opposition from payday loan customers. It turns out some customers were pressured to voice opposition to the bill, or were lead to believe their loan applications wouldn't be approved if they did not participate. Sadly, we shouldn't be surprised considering the tactics of payday lenders. Hopefully, similar pushes in other states will be watched more closely for undue influence.
One of the lesser mentioned consequences of last month's meltdown in the Montana legislature is its waste of tax dollars. As mentioned earlier, the right-wing leadership in the House was unable to pass a budget, and instead wasted their time threatening to de-fund, completely, the state's Department of Health and Human Services. While no legislative body should rubber stamp legislation just to get it out the door, one also expects the legislature to confront Montana's problems in meaningful ways, not with tantrums and absurd threats. Certainly a session without a budget is a dismal failure, and some stopgap such as a special session must occur. Legislator pay is not great, but the cost of running a session is substantial, as will be a special session. Where's the respect for those tax dollars? The state needs a solution, not more costly grandstanding.
The Supreme Court's recent Gonzalez v. Carhart decision, approving a federal ban on late-term abortion, has set off a wave of anti-abortion action in the states. Already, 31 states with late-term bans --frozen until this month's decision-- have been targeted for restrictive legislation. Missouri and Virginia's laws went back to the courts just days after the ruling. Granted, there have been significant inroads to freer abortion rights in state legislatures, but it seems clear that changes at the federal level are emboldening a new generation of anti-abortion effort.
The American rightwing is a fascinating mixture of bottom-line driven corporations and fierce ideologues interested in advancing their single issues. We single out the pharmaceutical and oil and gas industries, as well as the anti-immigration movement, for this Dispatch, but we could have just as easily highlighted the libertarian gang wreakinghavoc with ballot initiatives this year, the corporate-backed front groups assailing hard-working Americans, the contractors seeking to profit from privatization, or any of a host of other groups engaged in the public debate out of a weird mix of rightwing principles and deeply vested personal interests.
Go to college. Get your degree. Get a good-paying job. That's supposed to be the path to success in America, right? So why are we forcing single mothers to work 30 hours per week on top of attending college and raising a family in order to remain eligible for government assistance? Under new implementation of welfare reform, single mothers are being forced to either shelve hopes of a better life for their families or spend 45-50 hours per week working, neglecting critical time when they should be raising their children. That's a recipe for long-term disaster and it is plainly bad public policy.