Posts Tagged ‘ presidential election ’

Obama’s Re-Election: What it Means for Health Care Reform

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

After a hard-won fight in numerous battleground states, incumbent candidate Barack Obama defeated former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in yesterday’s presidential election. How will Obama’s second term affect families? For one thing, the President’s re-election eliminates the possibility of a full repeal of his healthcare reform law, Reuters reports.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), which was passed in 2010 and upheld by the Supreme Court in June 2012, aims to offer benefits to 30 million uninsured Americans by 2014. Under the ACA, states will participate in insurance exchange programs, and families will have access to immunizations, pre- and post-natal care such as folic acid supplements, and preventive screenings such as mammograms without co-pays or out-of-pocket costs. The controversial reform is still facing approximately two dozen lawsuits, many of which seek to overturn a mandate requiring church-affiliated institutions to cover the cost of employees’ contraceptives.

Governor Romney vowed to repeal the act if elected. Now, “There’s sort of an immediate acceptance that this law will stay in place in some meaningful way,” explained Chris Jennings, a top healthcare adviser to former Democratic President Bill Clinton. “It’s sort of like a big barrier has been removed.”

To learn more about the Affordable Care Act, read our exclusive interview with Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

Image: Map with stethoscope via Shutterstock

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Skipping School for Democracy (OPINION)

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

The editors of have been reporting 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 chose three moms from across the political spectrum to be guest bloggers on Parents News Now. Each one of them offered a unique take on the topics that they–and you!–are most passionate about. (Read the entire blog series.)

By Nancy French

“My eye itches,” eight-year-old Camille said one morning as she rolled out of bed.

“Scratch it,” I said without looking at her. It was a cool March morning, and my husband and I were headed out of town for the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Memphis, where we were “working” the first Presidential straw poll of the 2008 season. Even though it was two years before the election, I’d spent the last few months trying to get people to vote for Mitt Romney. No, not Matt.  Mitt. And yes, he’s from Massachusetts. People hadn’t heard of him, so I’d tried my best to persuade them to vote for him instead of any of a number of southern politicians.

“But it hurts,” she protested. I put down a bag of buttons that read “Romney – Yankee Governor with Southern Values,” and looked at her. Her eye was swollen shut.

My stomach sank. Pink eye? I’d planned to take the kids to school, and the babysitter would pick them up afterwards. I didn’t have childcare during the school hours, and I couldn’t send her to school looking like she’d been hit in the eye.

“Well, I guess you’re both coming with us,” I said, as I dropped medicine in her eye.

The next day, my husband and I found ourselves standing in a convention center, handing out tee shirts, pamphlets, and talking to anyone who’d listen about the guy we hoped would be the next President of the United States. “Mitt,” I’d say. “Like a glove.” The kids happily played behind our table, laughing and putting Romney stickers on their faces.

“Want to help me hand these out?” I asked my six-year-old Austin, who dutifully stood at a busy intersection near the main hall and handed out buttons. Because it was the first straw poll of that election cycle, the press corps was out in full force, and soon Newsweek had a camera on him.

“Who are you supporting, young man?” the reporter asked.

“Mitt Romney,” Austin nervously responded.

“Are you skipping school to do this?”

“Yes, he is,” I interrupted, “but Romney believes in education.”

That was when my kids were thrust into the political realm in which our family has lived in for the past seven years. In an amazing upset, Gov. Romney came in second place in that straw poll, causing a media frenzy. Other straw polls followed, and this time we made sure the kids were with us. They skipped school to help us work the 2007 Values Voter Conference straw poll in Washington, DC (which Romney won), and the next 2010 Southern Republican Leadership Conference (which Romney won), and the 2012 Conservative Political Action Committee (which Romney won). We also created an organization called Evangelicals for Mitt, and our Romney advocacy work has appeared in almost every major news publication, including the New York Times, USA Today, NPR, and FoxNews. At every turn, the children were with us — with a bag full of buttons ready to distribute.

Since we began our Romney effort, our family moved two times, went through a deployment when my husband went to Iraq, and adopted a daughter from Africa. Yet, all of this went on against the constant backdrop of a single goal: getting Mitt Romney into the White House.

Instead of sheltering the children from politics, we decided to let them fully engage in the process. At first, this was difficult, and I occasionally had to yank them out of speeches — for example, when Ron Paul talked about abortion or Newt Gingrich spoke about gay marriage. After all, they didn’t need to learn about these topics before memorizing their multiplication tables. But over the years we explained the issues. Just as naturally as shooting basketball in the backyard, we discussed immigration, contraception, terrorism, and education reform. We taught them how the government works… and sometimes doesn’t. Some parents choose not to “indoctrinate” their children about issues of faith and politics. However, we believe it’s our responsibility to transfer our values to our children and to help them think critically about the issues of our time. Democracy, after all, demands engagement.

Over the past few years, they’ve learned not only about politics, but about the world. They’ve witnessed events in person, only to read mischaracterized accounts in major newspapers. They’ve seen their parents maligned in the mainstream media and even in some conservative publications. They’ve experienced little victories, and crushing defeats. My daughter now is taller than I am, borrows my clothes, and can eloquently explain the difference between Romneycare and Obamacare in four easy steps. My son, who was terrified of the Newsweek reporter, has since happily appeared on CBS News. And our newly-adopted daughter fell immediately into our fast-paced political lives. When I took her to an event close to Christmas, she leapt into Gov. Romney’s arms. As a photographer snapped a photo, I was almost overcome. She’d recently been an orphan in one of the poorest countries in the world…now she was being embraced by someone who might soon be President of the most powerful nation on Earth.

What a country!

As I wrote this, my husband and I were on a flight to Boston to the official election night celebration of the Romney/Ryan ticket. The children were in the row behind us, chatting anxiously, playing on their iPhones. Though we thought we were going to a victory party instead of a disappointing concession speech, we’re thankful we’ve done this together, as a family. And by the way, if the headmaster of Zion Christian Academy is reading this, the kids will be back to school on Thursday.

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Mister Rogers Wouldn’t Approve of Obama’s Lena Dunham Ad (OPINION)

Monday, October 29th, 2012

Over the next few months, the editors of 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

Call it the Mister Rogers Effect: Moms want their kids to grow up in a neighborhood where the adults are virtuous. Whether it’s the baker, the postman, the mayor, or even the President, we want our children to have role models who are kind, generous, truthful. The kind of people your children could safely emulate.

During the most recent debate, some of us sat down with our children to see President Barack Obama and his challenger Mitt Romney discuss foreign policy. They disagreed on many things, particularly on Romney’s auto bailout position. For a few uncomfortable minutes, one accused the other of lying, until Romney suggested people at home should simply look it up. They did. For the days following the debate, Romney’s 2008 editorial about how he’d handle the Detroit automakers was the most-read story on the NYT’s website. So, who was telling the truth? Romney was deemed more accurate, but his success in this particular exchange is hardly earth shattering. What is significant is that voters, rather Americans, are realizing the President is not who we hoped he was.

“Here’s what upset me last night, this playing fast and loose with facts,” David Letterman said on his show. “Now, I don’t care whether you’re Republican or Democrat, you want your president to be telling the truth… And so when we found out today or soon thereafter that, in fact, President Obama was not telling the truth about what was excerpted from that op-ed piece, I felt discouraged.”

“Discouraged” is a far cry from the sunny optimism that at one time characterized Americans. Even those who disagreed with the president’s politics were a little misty eyed at seeing the first black man to sit in the Oval Office. When my husband and I later adopted a toddler from Africa, part of me was delighted by the fact that she was immigrating to a country with an African-American leader. But since those moments of hope, something strange happened.  Obama—and consequently, our neighborhood—somehow managed to get smaller, more crass, more cynical.

The most recent example is when his campaign released an ad featuring hipster Lena Dunham comparing voting to Obama to surrendering one’s virginity:

“Your first time shouldn’t be with just anybody. You want to do it with a great guy… someone who really cares about and understands women…  It’s super uncool to be out and about and someone says ‘did you vote?’ and [you reply] ‘no, I didn’t feel—I wasn’t ready.’ ” The Weekly Standard wrote, “The President of the United States running a campaign ad implying that young women who don’t let themselves get pressured into sex are ‘super uncool’ is more than enough to make any normal person’s head explode.” Of course, Twitter did erupt. “Is it too much to ask that the President’s campaign ads be workplace safe?” someone tweeted. Parody ads popped up. But the damage was done. The President had released an ad mocking sexual purity, just to win votes among the college age demographic.

We wanted him to be great. To inspire. To soar. Instead he became smaller, almost bent on taking us down with him.

Recently, a friend’s first grader was assigned a biography of the president for Great Americans Day. “How bad would it be for me to ask my child to switch books?” the mom asked me. There was a time in the very recent past when I would’ve responded with a gentle reprimand. “Come on,” I would’ve said. “He’s our President, he’s a good man, he’s accomplished a great deal.”

Rather, that’s how I would’ve answered it. She happened to ask me six weeks after extremists murdered four American diplomats in Libya, and the President had still not told us what really happened. In the second debate, when Obama defended his lack of military response to the attack, his focus was all on semantics. He parsed his words, he covered his legacy. It was tragic and disappointing, because we wanted justice. We wanted to understand. We wanted honesty. We didn’t want a President to assign blame, before heading off to Las Vegas for a fundraiser.

In fact, it was Fred Rogers who said, “You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are.”

Moms know this: a complex world requires nuanced responses to terrible events, but we want our leaders to be honest, courageous, and responsible. We are raising children to become adults, to build families, to create businesses, to serve this country in uniform. Sadly, none of us really live in Mister Rogers’ neighborhood, with its astroturf lawns and closets full of perfectly pressed sweaters. Life is complicated and dangerous and sometimes scary. We want leaders who rise above it and illustrate how to navigate the complexities of this world with as much virtue and grace as possible.

The problem with this campaign season is not that moms are realizing Obama is not the President we wanted him to be. Much more tragically, he’s not the man we wanted him to be.

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Obama Campaign Launches ‘Parents For Obama’ Website

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

This post was written by Parents Deputy Editor Diane Debrovner.

Obama for America has introduced Parents for Obama, a new website and organizing tool to help tell President Obama’s story to mothers and fathers. The site outlines his past accomplishments for families—including stats and facts about health care, education, tax cuts, and the environment—along with blog posts from parents about why they are a Parent for Obama.

Parents for Obama also introduced a new video from the First Lady about what it’s like to be a parent in the White House and why she and the President are fighting for parents and families in this election.

Parents can use the site’s Dashboard tool to get involved with the campaign, and to connect with other parents in their community or around the country. There are opportunities to host a house party, attend local events, and make calls to discuss the issues with undecided voters. The campaign appreciates the fact that many moms are still undecided, and that they are looking to other women like them in order to decide how to vote in November.

Be sure to follow our own three Moms Decide guest bloggers, who will be offering their diverse views on the election and the issues that matter most to them and their families.

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The Workers Who Didn’t Matter in Mitt Romney’s World (OPINION)

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Over the next few months, the editors of 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

“Do you have to cheat to be rich?”

The question came from the chocolate-smeared lips of my six-year-old son, Sam, as we licked fudgesicles at the end of another steamy day.

In the simplest sense, the answer is no, of course. But you can forgive a child–or an adult, for that matter– for having such a thought in this particular election cycle.

After all, the Republican presidential candidate has made oodles of money doing something that–at best–is unclear, and–at worst–seems exactly like cheating. (I say oodles, not because I’m too lazy to look up the details of his fortune, but because Romney has refused to release the tax returns which would give us the figure–estimated to be anywhere between $150 and $250 million.)

His dad, George Romney, ran a car company. I get that. American Motors made money by turning metal into automobiles. Mitt, our would-be president, ran a company called Bain Capital, a “private equity firm” (already I’m on shakier ground) that bought and sold other companies.

How do you make money when you don’t actually create anything? The standard answer is that you “eliminate inefficiencies.” But what does that actually mean? And how does it affect companies’ employees and their families?

To find out, I called Cindy Hewitt, who was the HR manager at Dade Behring, a company that Bain formed from another company it acquired in 1994, in part by laying off some 850 of its employees in Florida three years later–and sold in 1999 at a profit of $242 million.

The Dade Behring factory, which made pills and blood testing devices, was on the banks of the Miami River in Florida across the street from a small cluster of houses where many of the workers lived. Hewitt describes the place as “a working class community, nothing fancy,” that was nonetheless remarkably close-knit and stable:

“What made this incredibly unique was the fact that so many people within that community worked there, walking to work across the street every day. Multiple generations, extended families were employed by the plant.”

Unfortunately Hewitthad to give the people of this small, river-bank community the devastating news that they’d lost their jobs when Bain closed the plant in November of 1997.

“Usually, if someone gets laid off, others in the family can help each other out,” says Hewitt,“ who was familiar with the ways of the corporate world, having previously worked at Pepsi and Exxon. “But here, because multiple members within families lost their jobs, there weren’t those resources. There were families where multiple aunts and uncles and parents all worked at the plant.”

Adding to the pain of losing well-paying jobs with decent benefits was the indifference with which the company handled the transition.  Hewitt says the factory work came with health insurance and paid in the $15- to $20-an-hour range.

In September of 1997, before she had any idea the plant would close, Hewitt’s bosses told her to bring over roughly a dozen skilled workers from a similar plant that was closing in Puerto Rico. The workers didn’t initially want to come, she told me, and specifically worried about what might happen if they lost their new jobs in Florida.

Hewitt relayed their concerns to her higher-ups and was assured that there was absolutely no discussion of closing the facility. Yet, 60 days after they moved to Miami, these workers had their fears confirmed when they learned that the plant’s demise was imminent. This was in November, after school was underway, and half of them had brought their children with them.

Dade Behring had paid the Puerto Rican employees’ moving costs, which Hewitt estimates were about $10,000 each. As part of their contract, they had signed agreements that stipulated that the workers would repay these costs if they left the company before a certain amount of time had passed. Hewitt says most of the recruits from Puerto Rico asked to be released from their agreement before the plant closed so that they could return to their home to seek new jobs and restart their lives there.

“The only decent thing to do would be to release these employees from their relocation agreement,” says Hewitt. But, despite the fact that Dade Behring was terminating their employment, the company threatened to collect the money from the employees if they left before the plant closed, and even threatened to go after them legally if they didn’t pay it, according to Hewitt, who describes the workers’ experience as particularly gut-wrenching.

“They had just gone through the plant closure in Puerto Rico and they come over here for what they believe is a continuing career only to find they have to go through the same horrific experience,” she says. “All they asked was don’t make us pay you back the thousands of dollars for relocation.”

Perhaps these moving costs are some of the inefficiencies that Bain specialized in eliminating. Still, it’s hard to see how a company would fight so hard to get $120,000 (to use Hewitt’s estimates) from workers whose lives–and children’s lives–they themselves had thrown into chaos. Had they made just this one concession toward decency, Bain would still have walked away with $241,880,000.

But, at least at Dade, executives didn’t seem particularly concerned with decency or worker’s feelings, as evidenced by another incident Hewitt described to me. This one took place after the announcement of the plant’s closing, while workers were putting in mandatory overtime despite facing imminent job loss. It was a somber period, according to Hewitt:

“They know their job is ending,” she says. “They understand that it’s unlikely that they’re going to find anything that will remotely sustain their families the way this job has. They also recognize they’re going to have a harder time competing with workers in their twenties. But they’re still working many hours.”

And yet, one day during this awful time, the workers– “people who are working their butts off, whose lives are in total disarray,” Hewitt says–were treated to an extra helping of humiliation. As they made their way from the plant’s production area to the break room, they passed by the executive suites where, through the glass wall that separated them, they could see their bosses practicing their golf strokes.

Hewitt remembers 20-or-so workers with their faces pressed against the glass wall, staring, open-mouthed as the men on the other side casually swung putters.

Romney has responded to some of the criticism around Dade Behring (which is just one of seven companies that went bankrupt after being taken over by Bain in the Romney era) by noting that he left Bain in 1999, which was two years after the plant’s closing and the same year as the $242 million payout to the private equity firm.

But, in light of the news that Bain filed documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission listing Romney as the chief executive and chairman of Bain until 2002, that defense seems pretty crumbly. (Romney responded to that revelation by explaining that, despite being “the owner of an entity that is filing that information,” he had no role in running the company.)

For Hewitt, the Dade Behring affair was traumatic enough to drive her from the corporate world. Days after seeing her co-workers stare at their golf-playing bosses, she quit. I reached her at an animal shelter, where she now tends to feral cats and enjoys the feeling that she can “make a difference.”

For me, the sordid story of what happened to this small community in Florida is enough to convince me that, whether he broke the law or not, Romney is indeed a cheater in the sense that I think Sam meant it: someone who does the wrong thing to make money.

You don’t have to cheat to be rich, I’m going to tell Sam when he’s old enough to understand. But it appears that Romney did. And someone like that should never be President.

Read more opinions from Sharon Lerner.

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