A New Year’s Resolution: Time to Speak Up

January 1, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

As we go into a new year, I have a resolution. I’m going to speak up more when men do things that make me uneasy.

Take the other day, for example.

I really like my neighbor. I also have no interest in dating him. It’s nothing against him, really. But I don’t know him well, and I’m not interested in dating anyone at the moment. (Men don’t believe that when I say it, but it’s true. And that isn’t some female code for “try harder.”)

I ran into my neighbor while coming home, and we stopped to chat. Before we parted, he touched the back of my neck and kind of massaged it for a second.

Not knowing what that meant, or what to do about it, I did nothing. I pretended it didn’t happen. Denial works, right?

A few days later I ran into him again. Again we chatted, and he massaged my neck for a second or two again. What?

Seriously, I would never, ever do that to someone I wasn’t dating. Why is he doing that?

He isn’t being aggressive, exactly. My neck isn’t an erogenous zone. He isn’t doing anything else. And I want to be friends with this guy. He’s a nice guy.

I don’t look forward to the awkward conversation when I tell him to knock it off. I don’t want to harm our friendship. That’s why I’ve said nothing.

But the truth is, this was how it started with the first man who sexually assaulted me back in college. It started out with just some unwanted touching. In that case, he held my hand.

There were more red flags with the guy in college. I’d yank my hand away, he’d take it again. Rinse, repeat.

Ultimately that escalated to an actual assault.

The perpetrator is now a pediatric neurologist. With the #MeToo movement, I’ve considered telling his employer. But is it worth ruining someone’s career because he assaulted me nearly two decades ago? I don’t know.

But I do know I’m going to have to speak up to my neck-rubbing neighbor.

Most men aren’t rapists. But when women don’t tell men that their behavior makes women uncomfortable, the sad truth is that men may think what they’ve done is okay — even though it’s positive consent they should be looking for.

Why don’t we speak up? Often men become defensive. Some think that they’re the arbiters of whether they’ve made us feel uncomfortable or unsafe. That’s ridiculous. If a woman says she feels uncomfortable, then that’s how she feels.

I know I’m not the only woman who will start speaking out more, but men need to listen when we do.

And please, guys, be more conscious of your actions. Don’t call a woman you aren’t dating names like “sweetie.” And don’t assume we want any touch other than a handshake — even when we’re too uncomfortable to say otherwise.

And when we do tell you what we don’t like, listen. If you feel yourself getting defensive, work through your feelings, and then listen. Don’t verbally attack someone for having the courage to tell you the truth.

Stop using your sexual conquest of women as a measure of your manhood. Women are people, not objects. The only “game” you need is to act like a human being and treat us like humans too.

OtherWords columnist Jill Richardson is the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It. Distribute

Stop Talking About ‘Winners and Losers’ from Corporate Tax Cuts

November 17, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Republicans have pushed a huge corporate tax cut bill through Congress. You might’ve seen a lot of coverage trying to sort out “who wins” and “who loses.”

All that misses the point.

The driving motivation behind this bill, rhetoric and packaging aside, is to deliver a whopping $1 trillion tax cut for a few hundred badly behaved global corporations — and another half a trillion to expand tax breaks and loopholes for multi-millionaires and billionaires.

Serving the Middle Class ... To the 1 percent. (Khalil Bendib / OtherWords.org)

Serving the Middle Class … To the 1 percent.
(Khalil Bendib / OtherWords.org)

All the other features of proposed tax legislation are either bribes (“sweeteners”) to help pass the bill or “pay fors” to offset their cost.

The news media has been talking about “winners and losers” like this were some sort of high-minded tax reform process with legitimate trade-offs, as in 1986.

But this isn’t tax reform. This is a money grab by powerful corporate interests.

tax bill-middle class-GOP.

The key question isn’t who wins and loses, but whether we should undertake any of these trade-offs to give massive tax breaks to companies like Apple, Nike, Pfizer, and General Electric — companies whose loyalty to U.S. communities and workers is historically abysmal.

These companies have been dodging their taxes for decades while small businesses and ordinary taxpayers pick up their slack to care for our veterans, maintain our infrastructure, and educate the next generation.

Apple alone is holding $250 billion in offshore subsidiaries to reduce their taxes.

For wealthy individuals, the proposed House tax bill eliminates the federal estate tax, which is paid exclusively by families with over $11 million, mostly residing in coastal states.

It eliminates the Alternative Minimum Tax, a provision that ensures that wealthy taxpayers chip in at least a few dollars after gaming all their possible deductions.

And while the top tax rate on high earners remains roughly the same, Congress is proposing to open up a “pass through loophole” that will enable wealthy people and their tax accountants to convert their income to be taxed at a lower tax rate.

We should avoid distracting debates over whether to reform one provision or another, such as the home mortgage interest deduction. The real estate industry understands the score. “These corporations are getting a major tax cut, and it’s getting paid for by the equity in American homes,” said Jerry Howard, chief executive of the National Association of Home Builders.

Reforming the home mortgage interest deduction makes a lot of sense — the current tax break mostly benefits the already wealthy and fails to expand homeownership. But we shouldn’t restructure housing tax incentives to pay for a massive tax cut for billionaires and badly behaved global corporations.

Nor should we eliminate the deductibility of student debt, eliminate the deduction for state and local taxes, or require families with catastrophic health expenses to pay more to reduce taxes on big drug companies and Jeff Bezos of Amazon. This tax bill would do all of those things.

The good news is people aren’t falling for the marketing baloney that this tax cut will help the middle class. Fewer than 30 percent of voters support these tax cuts, and solid majorities believe that the wealthy and global corporations should pay more taxes, not less.

But this won’t stop Republicans who care more about their campaign contributors than they do about voters.

If the GOP majority in Congress were responsive to voters, they’d invest in updating our aging infrastructure and in skills-based education, as we did after World War Two. Instead of saddling the next generation with tens of thousands in student debt, real leaders would be figuring out how to lift up tomorrow’s workers and entrepreneurs, just as we did in previous generations.

Under this tax plan, small business and ordinary taxpayers will be the big losers. That’s the only score that matters.

 

Chuck Collins directs the Program on Inequality at the Institute for Policy Studies and co-edits Inequality.org. Distributed by OtherWords.org

Gun Control Shouldn’t Be This Hard

November 16, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Before the gun lobby or its sycophants in Congress bring out their usual talking points for why we can’t ever have common sense gun reform, I’d like to shoot one of them down. No pun intended.

We just saw what happens when a bad guy with a gun is met by a good guy with a gun. In Sutherland Springs, Texas, when a mass shooter attacked churchgoers, he was eventually confronted by another armed civilian.

But before the good guy got there with his gun, 26 people were fatally wounded.

A Well-Regulated Militia Actually, hold the regulation please. (Khalil Bendib / OtherWords.org)

A Well-Regulated Militia – Actually, hold the regulation please.
(Khalil Bendib / OtherWords.org)

 

I’ve already heard discussions about fixing the problem by having more people bring guns to church, as the attorney general of Texas recently suggested.

What about other ways to prevent gun deaths? How about any solution other than “more guns”?

Every time I hear discussions about one reform or another — universal background checks, banning high capacity magazines, banning assault rifles, etc. — I hear the exact same talking point: Criminals can get around those rules.

You could ban assault rifles, or the high capacity magazines that allow people intent on mass murder to shoot more bullets before they need to stop to reload. Perhaps some criminals would just get them illegally.

Not all mass shootings could have been prevented by background checks. For example, the Sandy Hook shooter stole guns from his mother, who legally acquired them. Background checks wouldn’t have stopped him.

Here’s the thing: These hypothetical arguments don’t need to be hypothetical. We can study them and make an informed choice.

Which reforms will simultaneously preserve freedom for hunters, gun enthusiasts, and other law abiding citizens who want to own firearms while also keeping guns out of the hands of criminals?

If there’s any will at all to reduce the death toll from guns in this country — more than 33,000 deaths a year — no doubt the country that sent a man to the moon can figure out how to do it without violating citizens’ rights.

Furthermore, just because a law may not prevent all shootings doesn’t mean it won’t prevent some shootings.

I’ve even heard a gun advocate say that regulation won’t work because it would only stop people who are too stupid to get around them from obtaining a gun.

You know what? That sounds good to me. If we can prevent every single shooting perpetrated by a stupid person, I’m for it. That’s still fewer people dying overall. It won’t get us down to zero, but refusing to do anything just because it’s a partial solution is ridiculous.

Each little bit of progress we make is a human life saved. It’s an entire family whose lives aren’t torn apart and changed forever. It’s two fewer grieving parents and four fewer grieving grandparents. It’s more children who grow up with their parents alive.

I don’t have a stake in which method we use to reduce gun violence so long as we pick something that works. It would be nice if law-abiding gun enthusiasts would help.

So let’s actually look at the data to find out how it can best be done. In fact, let’s lift the congressional ban that’s prevented the Centers for Disease Control from examining a lot of that data for the last 20 years.

Preferably before another year passes and another 33,000 Americans are dead.

OtherWords columnist Jill Richardson is the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It. Distributed by OtherWords.org.

 

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