Posts Tagged ‘ mitt romney ’

Investigating the Single Mom-Gun Violence Connection (OPINION)

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Over the next few months, the editors of Parents.com will report on hot-button election issues that American families face today, from healthcare to education. In the spirit of offering diverse perspectives on the election, we’ve chosen three moms from across the political spectrum to be guest bloggers on Parents News Now. Each one of them will offer a unique take on the topics that they–and you!–are most passionate about. (Read the entire blog series.)

By Sharon Lerner

Oh, it was good to hear the candidates mention gun violence last night! I feared the subject might get lost amidst the binders full of women.

But, finally, after all those folks — including a six-year-old — were shot in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater; after so many students — including those at Chardon High School in Ohio, at Walpole Elementary School in New Hampshire, at Millard South High School in Omaha, not to mention the kids at Virginia Tech — died, the moment arrived when we can have a serious discussion about how to rein in guns.

Or at least we could have.

Gun control did come up at the town hall style debate last night, thanks to Nina Gonzalez (one of the regular people who guided the debate with questions as good and pointed as those of any professional moderator). Gonzalez asked the president what he would do to keep AK-47s out of the hands of criminals — a fair question, given that Obama had said he wanted to do just that during his last presidential campaign.

Happily, the President went on to give families reason to hope that he might actually put some muscle behind an assault weapons ban in his next term. He said he supported the ban passed under Clinton in 1994, which expired after eight years and made it illegal to sell the military-style weapons now widely available in guns stores and gun shows. Though he didn’t work to reinstate it in his first term, he could in his next.

Banning the guns like the AR-15, the type of rifle that was used to shoot off as many as 50 shots a minute in the Aurora massacre, would be a good first step. (Why exactly does the general public need access to a gun that can carry 100 rounds of ammunition and can shoot bullets that can go through two people?)

But Romney was clear he has no intention of banning assault weapons. Despite the fact that he supported similar legislation as governor of Massachusetts, he now stands — or perhaps, lies — with the National Rifle Association.

The flip-flopping should come as no surprise. But what came out of his mouth next on the topic of gun violence was a shock. In search of a culprit for the numerous shootings that have plagued our country, Romney came up with — not weapons makers, social alienation, or even shoot-em-up video games — but single moms.

Romney said he’s not in favor of “new pieces of legislation on guns and taking guns away and making guns illegal,” agreed with the President about the importance of good schools; and then went on to say this:

“Let me mention another thing — parents. We need moms and dads to raise kids. Wherever possible, the benefit of having two parents in the home. That’s not always possible. Lot of great single moms and single dads. But gosh, to tell our kids, before they have babies, they ought to think about getting married to someone. That’s a great idea.”

Americans should be alarmed about gun violence — parents especially. At least 5,740 children and teens were killed by guns in 2008 and 2009, according to a Children’s Defense Fund report that was put out this year and dedicated to the memory of Trayvon Martin. That number includes 173 preschoolers, double the number of police officers killed in the line of duty.

But single parenthood is not the cause of our problem. And, whether getting married to someone is a “great idea,” it probably won’t affect the number of children gunned down in our country.

In an effort to be charitable, I can imagine that Romney was trying to say that gun violence is linked to urban poverty — and it is. Gun violence hits minority kids hardest, and most of the kids who die from gunshots live in cities.

But his leap to seeing single mothers as the cause of that poverty — and thus, if I understand his bizarre segue correctly — as the cause of gun violence is illogical and downright offensive.

Sure, single mothers’ kids are more likely to live in poverty. But there is plenty of evidence that being poor is what leads to the single parenthood — rather than the other way around. Kathryn Edin, a professor of public policy at Harvard, provides perhaps the best exploration of this relationship in “Promises I Can Keep,” her book on why poor women put motherhood before marriage.

If Romney really wanted to stop gun violence, he could support an assault weapons ban, as he did in Massachusetts. If Romney were really concerned about poverty, there are plenty of good ideas about how to address it directly. But he doesn’t support raising the minimum wage (at least not clearly); his tax plan would help the rich and hurt the poor; he’d weaken social security; and he wants to shrink — rather than expand — the safety net.

So instead of taking on the gun industry or the roots of inequality, he blamed single moms. It was a strange tack — and one that not only did nothing to help solve our nation’s gun violence crisis, it managed to offend a huge chunk of the voting public.

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Moms Know Romney is Right: It’s Time for Big Bird to Fly By Himself (OPINION)

Friday, October 12th, 2012

Over the next few months, the editors of Parents.com will report on hot-button election issues that American families face today, from healthcare to education. In the spirit of offering diverse perspectives on the election, we’ve chosen three moms from across the political spectrum to be guest bloggers on Parents News Now. Each one of them will offer a unique take on the topics that they–and you!–are most passionate about. (Read the entire blog series.)

By Nancy French

In the first debate between Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama, the GOP nominee ruffled some feathers by saying that he’d cut the budget by eliminating non-essential costs, like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  Because the debate moderator, Jim Lehrer, is employed by PBS, Romney added:

“I’m sorry Jim. I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I’m going to stop other things,” he said. “I like PBS, I like Big Bird, I actually like you too.”

I’m sure moms everywhere have seen the clip a dozen times.  As soon as Romney said those words, the social media universe exploded. Immediately, a fake Twitter account for Big Bird was set up.  The first tweet was, “WTF, Mitt Romney?” and another was, “Yo Mitt Romney, Sesame Street is brought to you today by the letters F & U!”  Celebrities also chimed in. In one of the 17,000 tweets per minute, Whoopi Goldberg lamented that Romney wanted to “kill Big Bird.”  Calls were made for a “Million Muppet March” on Washington.  A photoshopped picture of a forlorn Big Bird sitting on the Sesame stoop holding a “Will Work for Food” sign flew into inboxes across America. The next day, the President, still reeling from the previous night’s debate debacle, made fun of Romney for “getting tough on Big Bird.”  Even PBS sent out their own press release, which read, “Elimination of funding would have virtually no impact on the nation’s debt. Yet the loss to the American public would be devastating.”

More than anyone else, moms have affection in our heart for lovable Elmo, the mysterious Snuffleupagus, and even the garbage-dwelling Oscar the Grouch.  But would a change in funding be “devastating?”  PBS’s self-importance is a little much for Americans who are struggling to pay the bills and find work.

So why does the government subsidize this show anyway?

The Public Broadcasting Act was passed in 1967 to address the paucity of quality children’s programming.  Now, however, moms know television is brimming with vibrant, entertaining, and educational offerings.  Is Gordon more educational, for example, than Nickelodeon’s Dora the Explorer?  Does Maria provide more diversity than the Disney Channel’s Doc McStuffins? Are the Sesame Street writers more clever than the ones who create the hilarious Phineas and Ferb?  Children’s television has come a long way since everyone had platform shoes, bell bottoms, and pet rocks. Sesame Street is no longer the only game in town, so is it really so vital to the republic?  If so, couldn’t this important cultural institution thrive by itself?  Michelle Malkin addressed this issue in National Review:

According to the 990 tax form all nonprofits are required to file, Sesame Workshop president and CEO Gary Knell received $956,513 — nearly a million dollars — in compensation in 2008. And, from 2003 to 2006, Sesame Street made more than $211 million from toy and consumer product sales.”

Moms might not know these specific figures, nor do we precisely know how many Sesame Street books, stuffed animals, and lunchboxes we have in our homes at this moment.  But we do know this show created the “Tickle Me Elmo” mall riots and that the show can survive without us reaching into our own pockets.  (After the debate, the new unfortunate name for the formerly in-demand doll is “Subsidize Me Elmo.”)

Even the President realizes that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is bloated beyond reason.  His Bowles-Simpson deficit-reduction commission said “the current CPB funding level is the highest it has ever been.”  Malkin writes, “Doing away with the appropriation would save nearly $500 million in 2015 alone. Over ten years, those savings would total $5 billion (or roughly ten Solyndras). In these tough times, that’s more than chump change and child’s play.”

To make matter worse, President Obama released an official campaign ad mocking Romney’s promise to eliminate funding to PBS.  He also sent out a campaign fundraiser telling voters that Romney “wanted to kill Big Bird.” 

But the public didn’t respond like he anticipated. On Twitter, people said they wished Obama was as serious about protecting our embassies as he is about protecting Big Bird.  Then, Romney said, “You have to scratch your head when the President spends the last week talking about saving Big Bird,” he said. ”I actually think we need to have a President who talks about saving the American people and saving good jobs.”  Worst of all, Sesame Street asked the President to take down his ad.  This prompted a Drudge headline with a photo of Big Bird saying, “Leave Me Alone, Obama!” and a NY Post cover of Big Bird in the Oval Office over the headline “Cheep Shot!” To top it all off, the Washington Post said his fundraising letter was incredibly misleading by writing, “How did ‘I love Big Bird’ turn into ‘kill Big Bird’? Only through a spin machine going on hyper drive.”

Recently my four-year-old asked me if we could get her face painted with silver glittery paint at a high school football game. 

“I don’t have a dollar,” I said, realizing I’d spent all I had at the concession stand.  She looked at me with huge tears in her eyes, unable to understand why she couldn’t have her face painted like her friends.

It’s a hard lesson. But since Sesame Street prides itself to teaching lessons to children,  PBS and the President should use this momentous occasion in history — when America has a national debt of over $16 trillion — to teach children a lesson about money.  When it runs out, you stop spending. 

As much as we love you, Big Bird, it’s time to fly by yourself.

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How Mitt and Ann Romney Helped Me Get Through My Husband’s Deployment (OPINION)

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Over the next few months, the editors of Parents.com will report on hot-button election issues that American families face today, from healthcare to education. In the spirit of offering diverse perspectives on the election, we’ve chosen three moms from across the political spectrum to be guest bloggers on Parents News Now. Each one of them will offer a unique take on the topics that they–and you!–are most passionate about. (Read the entire blog series.)

By Nancy French

In 2007, I was in Boston playing a very small part in trying to help Mitt win the GOP primary.  My husband, a constitutional attorney and captain in the U.S. Army Reserves, and I had started Evangelicals for Mitt the year before and — through a series of coincidences and opportunities — I ended up helping Ann Romney on a writing project.

In my normal life, I was a work-from-home mother of two, so life consisted of car lines, lunchboxes, and afternoon volleyball games.  But during the 2008 Presidential campaign, I spent time with Mitt and Ann, rode on their campaign bus, heard dozens of speeches, and saw the machinery of a modern Presidential campaign from the inside. Once, the dissonance between my normal life and my campaign existence was vividly illustrated when we were driving down the interstate in a bus, while CNN sped right beside us, a cameraman hanging out the window trying to get a shot of Ann as we drove about 70 mph.

That’s when I got a call from my husband, who had just opened a letter from the Army.  “You need to come home,” he said, with an edge in his voice.  He had just learned he was going to Iraq with the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment and would be stationed about ten miles from Iran.

Of course, everything changed.  Ann called me immediately after I got home to see how I was handling the news. When I was on the campaign trail with her, I’d been inspired by her as a mother –- she’d successfully raised five boys with a busy husband who’d traveled a great deal.  Though she would never compare her situation with a family going through a deployment, she did offer encouragement about how I could have a stable, peaceful family even in his absence.  I admired her strength and poise, and even began using her buttermilk pancake recipe with the family as we prepared for his departure.

One day, right before David left, we got a package from Boston with a beautiful brass compass inside.  On the back, a very touching message was engraved: “May your journeys always bring you back home.”  There was also a handwritten note from Gov. Romney:  “Thank you for your selfless service to our nation.  Your family represents what is good about America.  We are honored to call you friends. God be with you.”

The deployment didn’t make politics recede into the background of life… suddenly, it seemed so much more pertinent.  The very morning David left, he grabbed a pen and scribbled out a quick note to Gov. Romney.  “I hope when I return I won’t shake your hand as a friend but will rather salute you as my Commander-in-Chief.”

Of course, that didn’t happen.  When Gov. Romney dropped out of the race back in 2008 during a Washington, DC speech, I wasn’t there. I felt oddly bereft as I sat in front of the television trying to process the announcement.  “You see, kids,” I said, trying to put on a cheerful face, “we lost this one, but we’ll have another shot at it in 2012.”  I don’t think they quite grasped what I was going through.

But then, I got a call from the Romneys. As they were winding down from the fast tempo of the campaign season, they invited me to come to their home in Utah for some skiing.  Faster than I could say, “Mom and Dad, the kids are coming for a visit,” I headed out west, where I stayed with Mitt, Ann, Ann’s brother Rod, and his wife Cindy in the Romney’s home.  They even spent a day teaching this southerner how to ski at Deer Valley. I was terrible and uncoordinated, and  — in one inglorious moment –- even stopped myself from a bad fall by tackling Gov. Romney.  After seeing my incredible lack of talent, Ann stopped on the side of a steep slope and joked.  “It’s quite possible that you are in more physical danger right now than David,” she said.

Sometimes the media tries to portray the Romneys as uncaring, but nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, Ann talked about this unfair characterization in her recent speech at the Republican National Convention.  “Mitt does not like to talk about how he has helped others because he sees it as a privilege,” she said.  “Not a political talking point.  We are no different than the millions of Americans who quietly help their neighbors, their churches, and their communities.”

Though Gov. Romney doesn’t brag about the kindness he shows to others, the stories are leaking out.  For example, people are learning of this story of how Mitt helped organize co-workers at Bain Capital to find the teenage daughter of his friend Robert Gay. And they’re hearing, for the first time, the story of how Mitt developed a friendship with a 14 year old dying of Hodgkin’s disease, and even helped him write a will to make sure the right people received his prized possessions after he died.  And when Mitt sold their beautiful Utah home I visited to a couple from Florida, there’s even a story about how Mitt showed up to make sure the new owners knew how to use their appliances.

In other words, the kindness they showed me during my husband’s deployment isn’t unique or even nationally significant.  However, I happen to think a successful Presidency is about policies, yes, but it’s also about character.  That’s why it’s important that Mitt Romney’s incredible resume and economic skills are only matched by his willingness to serve others… even when it doesn’t benefit him, even when the cameras aren’t there to record it, and even when it means he’ll be tackled by an uncoordinated soldier’s wife on the side of the mountain.

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Who Needs a Husband When Obama’s in the White House? (OPINION)

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

Over the next few months, the editors of Parents.com will report on hot-button election issues that American families face today, from healthcare to education. In the spirit of offering diverse perspectives on the election, we’ve chosen three moms from across the political spectrum to be guest bloggers on Parents News Now. Each one of them will offer a unique take on the topics that they–and you!–are most passionate about. (Read the entire blog series.)

By Suzanne Venker

Like most girls, my 12-year-old daughter has dreams. She wants to be a writer, for one thing. She also loves animals and is concerned about the environment, so perhaps she’ll focus her literary pursuits on those topics. More than anything, however, my daughter wants to get married and have a family. And she plans to stay home when that day comes.

It may sound strange to you that she’s already thinking about this, but it’s only because her mother writes a lot about this subject so she hears an earful on a regular basis. But really, my daughter is no different from most girls. Wanting to build a nest is a most natural female desire. Only in the past few decades has this goal been eschewed by our culture.

The modern woman is not raised to focus on marriage and motherhood. She’s raised to focus exclusively on an education and career, as if these endeavors are the sole barometer of a successful life. But most women want to marry and should thus be supported and encouraged to do so. That’s what I’m doing for my daughter. Unfortunately, America is not.

Indeed, President Obama isn’t the least bit interested in policies that strengthen marriage or make it easier for mothers (or just parents in general) to stay home and take care of their children. His focus is on “empowering” women by helping them live lives independent of men and the traditional family. Referring to women’s ability to make their own healthcare decisions, Obama said during a campaign event in Colorado that Romney wants to “take us back to the policies more suited to the 1950s than the 21st century.”

The implication is that women in the fifties were an oppressed bunch. Not only were wives caged in their homes, women were forced to bear children they didn’t want. The President even said in 2008 that if his daughters made a “mistake,” he wouldn’t want them to be “punished with a baby.” To be truly empowered, women must be liberated from the home. Domesticity undermines female empowerment.

Which is why Obama and his team have come up with a new plan for women — one that supplants the need for marriage. In a strange attempt to woo female voters, Obama presents “The Life of Julia,” a timeline of sorts that demonstrates how Obama’s policies help women throughout the course of their lifetimes, and how a vote for Mitt Romney would change women’s trajectory.

“The Life of Julia” is a fantastic illustration of the point I made in my last post about Obama’s commitment to the “it takes a village” mantra. It offers cradle to grave entitlements for every phase of a woman’s life, from childcare through retirement. In Obama’s pretend world, he — not husbands or the family unit — provides women with the opportunity for a good life.

What does this good life look like? At age three, Julia enrolls in a Head Start program so she can join “thousands of students across the country who will start kindergarten ready to learn and succeed.” After all, everyone knows proper childrearing requires professionals. If children aren’t exposed to “early childhood education,” the child is at a distinct loss when entering kindergarten.

That the Head Start initiative has done next to nothing to improve elementary education is beside the point. According to the executive summary of Head Start Research (July 2010), “the advantages children gained during their Head Start and age 4 years yielded only a few statistically significant differences in outcomes at the end of first grade for the sample as a whole.” Facts like these are ignored because the assumption is that Head Start is a good thing and gives children a leg up in preparation for kindergarten.

Jump to age 18, and Julia’s family becomes eligible for the Opportunity Tax Credit. The government wants to pay for Julia to go to college because everyone’s entitled to a college degree and should pursue one. That America is in desperate need of folks who’ve mastered a blue-collar trade is irrelevant. According to the Obama administration, to be a “someone” you have to go to college.

And during college, women are never encouraged to plan for, or even think about, marriage and motherhood and how this desire will factor in to a woman’s career goals. Indeed, the traditional family is so reviled by this administration that in “The Life of Julia” Julia never marries. There is no wedding and no husband in Julia’s life.

But don’t worry — that doesn’t mean Julia can’t satiate her maternal desire. At the age of twenty-seven, she simply “decides” to have a child. And throughout her pregnancy (we’re given no information on how Julia gets pregnant because, naturally, that isn’t relevant), Julia benefits from “maternal checkups, prenatal care, and free screenings under health care reform.” Who needs hubby’s health care benefits when Obama’s in office?

Interestingly, Julia’s story omits what happens between the years her baby is born and the year he or she starts kindergarten. Who will rock the cradle when Julia’s at work? And what if Julia decides she wants to stay home with her baby? Oops, too bad. No hubby, no choice.

The message to women is clear. Under an Obama presidency, women are “liberated” from home, husbands, and children. As cultural commentator Heather MacDonald wrote, “The single mother has become the cornerstone of Democratic politics.”

Indeed she has — “The Life of Julia” is proof of that.

Now all Mitt Romney needs is a campaign strategy showing the ways in which the federal government can strengthen marriage.

For starters, we need more policies like the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), passed by Congress in 1996 and signed by Bill Clinton. It doesn’t just protect state marriage laws, it protects the 1,138 federal laws that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) says depend on the traditional definition of marriage.

The marriage penalty, on the other hand, should be eliminated. Married couples shouldn’t have to pay higher taxes than single people and  cohabiting couples do.

Finally, I’d like to see at-home mothers get the same tax break working mothers do. The child-care tax credit offers parents a federal tax credit of up to 35 percent of the cost of daycare, which essentially awards mothers for not staying home with their children. It should be the reverse.

If it were, my daughter would feel support from someone other than me.

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How Paul Ryan–and My Six-Year-Old–Clarified that the Election is All About Fairness (OPINION)

Monday, August 13th, 2012

Over the next few months, the editors of Parents.com will report on hot-button election issues that American families face today, from healthcare to education. In the spirit of offering diverse perspectives on the election, we’ve chosen three moms from across the political spectrum to be guest bloggers on Parents News Now. Each one of them will offer a unique take on the topics that they–and you!–are most passionate about. (Read the entire blog series.)


By Sharon Lerner

“Parents do cry,” I heard my older son telling his little brother the other day.

“They do?” The littler one looked skeptical.

“Mom cried when we saw a guy asleep outside.”

A brief silence followed in which two little boys pondered the disturbing thought of grown-ups in tears.

For the record, I do not cry every time I see a homeless person. I’d be extremely dehydrated if I did. The reason I cried was the conversation my son and I had about this particular homeless man, who was sacked out on a bench along our route to the camp bus-stop. Sam wanted to know why he was sleeping outside, and when I explained that he didn’t have anywhere else to go, he asked why we didn’t just invite him to our house. That was what made me cry.

What got me was his simple, straightforward sense that it was wrong for someone to be without privacy and protection from the bugs and heat and noise when his own cozy bedroom, with a fan and ample room for a sleeping bag, was just steps away. With his unadulterated (pun intended) sense of right and wrong, he saw that we could solve the problem and thus concluded that we should. D’oh!

It’s more complicated than that, of course. There are liability laws, safety concerns, and our own privacy to think about. Plus, as I tried to explain, our offering a single person a place to sleep won’t solve the larger problems of homelessness or inequality. But Sam wasn’t buying any of that. At just six-years-old, he can’t understand the practical challenges and limitations of inviting random strangers into your home.

Still, if he’s fuzzy on the practicalities, his impulse to help is right–as is his sense that there is something very wrong with a world in which one person can spend his day happily munching granola bars and playing tether-ball while another struggles to survive. Kids instinctively know such unfairness is intolerable.

Having lived in New York City my entire adult life, I have a pretty thick buffer against human desperation. Yet, lately the pure, fresh sting of wrongness has pierced my protective armor. Some of my increased sensitivity–the tears, at least– can be explained by watching my child try to make sense of the world, and seeing his simple desire to make things right.

But another part of it is that the whole matter of the haves and have-nots is getting worse. I’ve long felt that there is both more zany wealth–and desperate poverty–than when I was a kid, but it’s been hard to put my finger on how much of this is just my own impression. This is why, perhaps, I found myself staring at an image on David Leonhardt’s blog the other night.

For those who feel like looking at a graph of income inequality (and I totally understand if you don’t), I’m talking about the second image down, which shows a series of increasingly large and angry-looking upside-down Vs. Turns out that census numbers confirm–and precisely calibrate–my sense that there’s a growing gap between the richest of the rich and everyone else. In the last 15 years, the income of the top .01 percent has gone haywire, almost quadrupling.

Meanwhile, earnings of the middle and bottom fifths of the country have barely budged, making for a huge and widening gap. In 2007, the after-tax income of the top 1 percent were 75 times greater than the bottom fifth of households, compared to 1980, when they were only 8 times greater.

If there were any lingering questions before this weekend about which candidate would close that gap – or at least get it moving in the other direction – there are none now that Romney has chosen Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate.

Ryan, the architect of the Republican budget in the House, has proposed a $4.3 trillion dollar tax cut to the wealthiest, while eliminating tax deductions for things like mortgage interest and health premiums that would benefit the middle class. He’s also planned to cut spending on children, education, the elderly, and the disabled.

Scarily for me and anyone else who has a parent or in-law near retirement age, Ryan has also vowed to turn Medicare into a voucher program, a move that could increase elderly people’s health costs by thousands of dollars.

A Romney-Ryan ticket would make our country even more starkly divided than it already is. And, for Sam–and this mother, who would like to remain hydrated and composed all the way to the bus-stop–that’s a very bad thing.

Read more opinions from Sharon Lerner.

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