TPM Cafe: Opinion

What do a handful of businesses, bosses and bureaucrats have in common? Fierce and unrelenting opposition to the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) birth control benefit.

The ACA established minimum standards for health insurance to ensure that individuals can get the health care they need to lead healthy and productive lives. Contraception was included in that coverage. What should be uncontroversial and common sense has met swift opposition from a small minority since the law pulled out of the station in 2010. And on March 25, that train arrives at the Supreme Court.

Read More →

It’s an enduring mystery: The U.S. spends more per pupil on education than all but four countries in the world. And yet our teenagers perform unimpressively on the most respected international test of critical thinking. They score below average for the developed world in math and average in reading and science, a pattern that hasn’t changed in over a decade.

We all have our theories about why this might be: Maybe our country is much too big to compare to South Korea, too diverse to compare to Finland. Maybe our teachers’ unions are too powerful … or perhaps our education budgets too anemic?

Read More →

If you ever visit the New Jersey State House in Trenton, something to keep in mind is that there is plenty of free parking. And, of course, this being New Jersey, you’ll never be far from a highway if you need to make a quick getaway.

I learned this in 2002 when I made the rookie mistake of paying for metered parking on West State Street. It seemed like a great spot. New Jersey’s capital isn’t situated on a bucolic hill evocative of the country’s idealized pastoral origins; it’s on a street, and you can’t miss it. The architect who designed the facade was doing his best to keep up with the City Beauty movement of the early 1900s, so it looks nothing like the 19th century Federal and Greek Revival row houses and brownstones just down the block that are today used as lobbyists’ offices.

With the exception of school tours, the building is ordinarily very quiet. Despite the fact that the 120 members of the state assembly and senate are paid $49,000 per year, serving in New Jersey’s legislature is considered to be a part-time gig. Most members have other jobs; many are lawyers and until recently many actually held another elected office. This meant you could be a mayor and state senator and hold down yet another job, all at the same time – something you don’t find in many non-feudal modern states. (The state outlawed the practice of plural office-holding a few years ago. And the only plural officeholders who now remain were grandfathered in as part of the rule change.) Because of this, unless one of the legislative houses is in session, the capital can feel deserted even on a business day; everyone has somewhere better to be.

Read More →

“Macabre” seems somehow inadequate to describe what’s been going on in Texas. “Horrifying,” “insulting,” and “beyond Kafkaesque” also fall short.

For the past seven weeks, a hospital in Fort Worth has refused to take a brain-dead woman off of the machines that are keeping her body alive. This is despite the fact that keeping Marlise Munoz on life support violates the wishes of her husband, parents and Munoz herself. The hospital is continuing these measures because Munoz was 14 weeks pregnant at the time that she collapsed in her home from what is thought to be a blood clot in her lungs.

Read More →

Just six decades ago, American higher education was almost exclusively reserved for upper class women. Today, middle class and low-income students can go to college, although keeping college affordable is a major challenge. But women have made major inroads. During the academic year 2012-13, women constituted a remarkable 57 percent of all U.S. college students. If we are going to keep college affordable to everyone, we need to understand how we got here. Federal government policies and programs led the way in creating these huge changes in access to college.

Read More →

Extended unemployment insurance (UI) lapsed at the end of 2013, despite an unemployment rate that seems to be going down more because of labor market dropouts than an actual increase in the number of jobs. The best option would have been to extend unemployment insurance as part of the budget deal that averted another shutdown; now, Congress is left to try and figure out a way to pass a stand-alone extension. It hasn’t gone well so far.

Senate Democrats’ attempts to pass an extension of UI benefits for the long-term unemployed crashed into a Republican filibuster. Across the building in the Republican-controlled House, there doesn’t even seem to be a cursory effort to extend UI.

Read More →

This month we celebrate two important anniversaries: On Jan. 8, our country observed the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty and today we celebrate the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case that legalized abortion in the United States. However, this month also saw the first hearing of the year by a subcommittee of the House of Representatives on a bill called the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.” At first glance, these events may seem entirely unrelated, but they are actually intimately intertwined.

They are connected in the lives of women like Erica,* a young woman in Pennsylvania who found herself pregnant with few resources. Already the mother of a preschool-aged child, she had been dis-enrolled from welfare when she could not get to a work training session because of a public transportation strike. While trying to get re-enrolled, she was evicted from her apartment because she couldn’t afford to pay rent. Although she received health insurance through Medicaid, that program excludes coverage for abortion care in all but the most limited circumstances. Lacking money to pay for an abortion, she told a counselor, “I’m thinking of ways I can fall or what I can do to end this pregnancy [myself].”

Read More →

Politicians in the U.S. House of Representatives have already made it clear that—once again—one of their top priorities for the new year will be to continue their relentless assault on women’s health and rights.

In one of its first acts of 2014, the House Judiciary Committee considered H.R. 7, the so-called “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” the true purpose of which is to deny insurance coverage of abortion care to women across the United States — and the effect of which would be felt disproportionately by women hit hardest by difficult economic circumstances.

Read More →

While a Super Bowl winner will soon be crowned, a shadow of a controversial settlement will hang over this match-up. Last week federal judge Anita Brody denied the preliminary approval of a $765 million settlement between the National Football League (NFL) and nearly 4,500 former players over concussion claims. Brody's denial while certainly about sufficiency of evidence, her primary concern was to ensure that players were compensated now and in the long term.

This is a story about science, sports, corporations and power. This is a lawsuit about money, accountability and risk -- ultimately matters that will impact the future of the NFL. Missing is the recognition that crucial to unearthing the nature and extent of the concussion cover-up in football was women: a female doctor armed with science, wives of the players and a female judge on the bench.

Read More →

It’s often instructive when serious political analysts — those not engaged in spin, or airy generalizations, or in the snail’s-eye search for “game change” events — have a serious difference of opinion. That’s how I’d characterize political scientist John Sides’ critique of his Washington Post colleague Dan Balz’s assessment of the positioning of the two major parties going into the 2016 presidential election cycle.

Read More →
Want to contribute to TPM Cafe? Email ideas for your pieces to us at talk@talkingpointsmemo.com
Want to contribute to TPM Cafe? Email ideas for your pieces to us at talk@talkingpointsmemo.com

TPMLivewire